Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First we'll take the post office then the world - Global shipping 101

If you want to increase your market, you have to offer international shipping to your online customers. That is a must in cases such as mine, shipping from the middle east, but also for US residents. After all, what is the use of an online market if it is not made global?

I see many sellers are asking about international shipping, trying to gather as much information as possible while they consider adding this service to their online shops. I hope my experience can help not only Israeli sellers, but sellers worldwide.

So, this is what I've learned about international shipping:
  1. Use bundles
    Ship as much as you can in bundles (using padded envelopes in different sizes) as opposed to boxes. Boxes cost more to ship.
  2. Be responsible
    Use registered mail to provide excellent customer service. Save the receipts (bearing the tracking numbers) in an orderly fashion and make notes of expected delivery dates. This will enable you to rescue "lost" packages, and be proactive with your customers.
  3. Canada??
    The most expensive country to ship to is Canada. I have no idea why that is.
  4. Peace dude!
    Make sure you are not trying to ship to an enemy country (happened to me only once, with Malaysia of all places..).
  5. Express shipping prices
    Express shipping (EMS) to the UK costs 1/3 more than express shipping the US and rest of Europe. That is not the case for regular registered air mail. Again - I have no idea why that is.
  6. Offering express shipping on Etsy
    You are not allowed to sell an express shipping item. Instead, you are requested to advise your customers you offer this service on your Shop Policy Shipping section and instruct customers to convo you for details and pricing. Then you should either edit your item price before they purchase, or send them a money request via PayPal (or whatever service you use).
I think that's it! If you have something to add, please comment.

Pinky shops both online and offline.


Linda said...


I'm in UK and 90% of my sales are International. Tagging with International is useful.

It used to infuriate me when a seller would announce, "Free shipping" and when asked, "Do you mean to Europe and Australia etc?" they would say, "Oh no, I only ship to America."
Their reasons were not ones I warmed to; being unwilling to fill in paperwork, being unwilling to go to a post office, being unwilling to trust international post services.
There is very little paperwork, with any package over letter size all UK sellers have to go to the post office and I have never had any misfortune posting anywhere in the world.
I gave up pointing out Etsy was an international site and one needed to post internationally.

WildernessCat said...

What do you mean by "enemy countries"? If I want to send a letter to, say, Syria, there's no way I can legally do this?


Sharona R. said...

Yes, you cannot send a mail item to an enemy country. Nor can you receive one (because a person on an enemy country cannot ship to you either).

I didn't even have an idea Malaysia is an enemy!

WildernessCat said...

What about UPS, FedEx and such? Do they also have this restriction?


irina said...

how about other issues than cost: how many times did customers complained that items got lost in the mail? how many times the item got to the customer damaged? how many times it returned to you because the address was wrong or unexistant?

Sharona R. said...

I never had a damaged item (knock on wood). Only once I had an item never arrive, when I was just starting with my shop, and I made another item for the customer. That was the last time I used unregistered mail. That is a major issue though, since my items are almost always one of. I cannot create a replacement.

I never tried anything other than Israel Post Service, so I do not know. But this is a customs and regulations issue. I expect it would be the same, but who knows.

Aya Rosen said...

Really great - and general entry. I think this is helpful for almost anyone.

Another great advice:
Most post offices in the world offer information on their websites, it helps both to know where you can or cannot ship and in pricing. Especially if you have a scale, you can get very precise shipping fees before you go to the post office.

Another good advice for Israeli sellers, the prices of shipping from Israel are, for some reason, exceptionally cheap, me and my sister exchange packages and often her shipping fee is about half or a third then mine (she's in Israel, I'm in New York). So you have the benefit of actually charging price that's very close to domestic shipping in the USA.