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Karolina KulachJul 23, 2019 4:20:00 AM5 min read

International shipping: how to reduce delivery times for your buyers

Long delivery times are one of the top challenges of international ecommerce shipping. When parcels travel across borders and through customs, the risk of shipment delays is pretty high.

If you send goods abroad and deliver your parcels to external parcel forwarding hubs, this has many advantages, e.g. in terms of cost and efficiency. On the other hand, this can also make your customer wait longer for their order. It adds a few extra days to the delivery time and requires printing extra labels.

Shipping directly from your fulfilment centers, however, doesn’t prolong the total delivery time. This is very important for international ecommerce brands who make customer experience their priority. Sending parcels abroad already takes longer than domestic deliveries so any extra delays can frustrate your foreign customers and earn you bad reviews.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • the basic terms related to international ecommerce shipping
  • how to reduce delivery times for your customers and minimize the risk of any extra or unexpected delays
  • how to improve your customer experience, using your existing workflow and couriers.

Summary of basic terms related to international shipping

Due to the increase of cross-border trading in recent years, international ecommerce shipping is a familiar concept for many online retailers. Below are some of the terms related to international shipping:

Commercial invoice: a proof of ownership. It’s a document prepared by the exporter / freight forwarder for the foreign buyer. It includes information, such as the description of goods, address of shipper and seller and delivery and payment terms.

Customs: the government service responsible for assessing import & export duties and transit-related laws & regulations in a given country.

De minimis value: the threshold from which the imported goods are subject to duties.

Duty: a payment / tax.

Fulfilment center: a place where incoming orders are received from affiliated locations or stores. A fulfilment center’s role is to process and fill such orders. It can work independently of specific companies.

International shipping: how to reduce delivery times for your buyers

Due to the increase of cross-border trading in recent years, international ecommerce shipping is a familiar concept for many online retailers.

HS: the Harmonized System (HS) was created to make it easier to apply import taxes & duties, control regulated goods, implement trade agreements and collect trade statistics.

HS classification code: the code describes basic product parameters to calculate customs duties & taxes. Every imported or exported item is assigned an HS classification code. A typical code consists of 6 digits that point to the product category/type.

INCOTERMS: international commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to help remove uncertainties arising from different interpretation of the rules in different countries. INCOTERMS are commonly used to facilitate domestic & international trade by helping merchants to understand each other.

Free trade zone: a government-designated port for duty-free entry of non-prohibited goods.

Tariff: a duty / tax on goods transported from one customs area to another. Tariffs raise the end price of imported goods.

Total landed cost (TLC): the total price of a product or shipment once it has arrived at a buyer’s doorstep. It includes the purchase price, freight, customs, duties, taxes, insurance and any other costs up to the port of destination.

The impact of international delivery times on ecommerce retailers & customer experience

Ecommerce fulfillment demands are driven by increasing consumer expectations. Hence, ensuring great customer experience and continuously striving for speed and efficiency are of great importance for international ecommerce retailers.

Even though online buyers should be more understanding when waiting for international deliveries, their expectations are still similar to those of your native customers. They often expect instant gratification and will want their parcels to arrive as immediately as possible.

As international deliveries take longer as a rule, retailers should try to minimize the risk of any (unexpected) delivery delays

In terms of international orders, it can take up to one month for the order to arrive, which can be distressing and disappointing for your customers.

For this reason, shorter international shipping times are an important factor in improving customer experience. This can be achieved, for example, by avoiding sending goods to additional transitional addresses/hubs and by ensuring correct customs documentation.

Any inaccurate or confusing information, for example wrong HS codes, may require extra inspections or holding the goods.

International shipping challenges for online retailers

Most ecommerce retailers feel confident about delivering goods on local markets. Unfortunately, their experience and expertise often fall short when they sell goods across borders.

By failing to ensure customs compliance or not managing international shipping efficiently, retailers increase the risk of delivery delays and customers’ frustration.

Smooth customs clearance and shipping directly from your fulfilment centers should help you keep delivery times as short as possible.

Can you manage your international shipping end-to-end all by yourself?

It’s possible to manage your international shipping all by yourself, without any external solution that provides tax & duties calculation and customs support. However, you can expect large overhead costs and potential delivery delays.

Further, sorting out customs documentation in-house requires investing some money and also vigilance on your part. Thus, you’ll need to put more focus on customs compliance in your business strategy.

If you don’t want managing shipping to become a large part of your business strategy and expenditures, consider an automatic solution.

International shipping: how to reduce delivery times for your buyers

If you don’t want managing shipping to become a large part of your business strategy and expenditures, consider an automatic solution.

Direct shipping from your fulfilment centers with Webinterpret

Webinterpret offers a service that allows ecommerce brands to deliver goods directly from their fulfilment centers. It eliminates extra processing steps by generating all the required customs documents and shipping labels on site. Retailers can use their existing couriers and fulfillment processes.

Shipping international orders directly with Webinterpret:

  • reduces international delivery time and cost
  • enhances your customers’ experience and improves your brand image
  • integrates seamlessly with your existing workflow (no need for new couriers or contracts).

Accurate customs documentation will be generated hassle-free for you. Your shipping processes will stay as you wish and you’ll be able to use your preferred couriers, shipping goods from your fulfilment centers.

This will have a positive impact on your international delivery times and your customers’ satisfaction.

In a nutshell

Increasing consumer expectations have a big impact on international ecommerce shipping. For this reason, retailers need to continuously strive for speed and efficiency and ensure positive customer experience.

International deliveries take longer as a rule so the risk of any (unexpected) delivery delays should be minimized, e.g. by avoiding sending goods to additional transitional addresses/hubs.

It’s worth considering ecommerce shipping solutions that allow retailers to ship their goods abroad in the smoothest and quickest way.


Karolina Kulach

Karolina Kulach is a content marketer and non-fiction writer, specialising in global ecommerce and online sales trends. Educated in Linguistics (MA) and Business Studies (BA Hons). A well-travelled individual with international education & work experience gained in London, Scotland, Poland and Germany. In her spare time buzzing with creative content ideas, including funky rhyming poems.