Welcome back to the final Part 3 of Ship&co’s Checklist for International Shipping!

In Part 1, we looked at the checklist you should go through when deciding whether to ship internationally. In Part 2, we looked at how to get setup on international shipping.

In today’s post, Part 3, we’ll go through the steps on shipping and post-shipping. Once you’ve done the initial setup as outlined in Part 2, international shipping on an ongoing basis involves the following steps:
1. Pack the parcel
2. Select a carrier
3. Prepare shipping documents
4. Arrange for pickup
5. Send tracking details
Let’s go through each in detail.

1. Pack the parcel

Packing for international shipping is like a game of Tetris - you want to make sure the item will be well-protected, and at the same time, you don’t want to go overboard on the packaging as this will add to the shipping cost.

There are two main types of packaging you’ll need - a good-sized outer packaging that fits your product well, and filler materials inside to absorb any impact.

For outer packaging, typical examples include:

  • Mailers / envelopes - good option if you’re sending small items or documents, as they are light and relatively cheap. Some carriers may even send you some mailers for free, so be sure to check with them.
  • Cardboard boxes - most widely used for a typical e-commerce parcel. Corrugated boxes are thicker and provide some cushioning support, while paperboard boxes tend to be thinner, and more suitable for lightweight items such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
  • Cardboard tubes - suitable if you’re sending posters or other similar roll-up sheets.

For filler materials, typical examples include:

  • Packing paper or newspaper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Air pillows
  • Packing peanuts

In many cases, using recycled newspaper could be good enough, so you might not need to incur additional cost for filler materials.

You can typically order different types of packaging materials from online vendors. In the case of Japan, Danballone is a good option used by Bento&co. Make sure to get some samples from the vendor and see them for yourself before ordering more in bulk.

When it comes to the actual packing, there are 3 steps required:

A. Choose the right outer packaging: Consider your item’s size and fragility, and select the packaging type with the appropriate size, material, and thickness. Most importantly, make sure to choose the right size of packaging that will fit your item with minimal empty spaces. If you find that the box is too large for a particular shipment, don’t hesitate to modify the size to fit your item snuggly.

B. Pad and wrap well: Depending on the item’s fragility, you might also want to wrap your products with layers of paper or bubble wrap, and even pad the box with filler materials such as paper, packing peanuts, or air pillows to prevent the item from moving around and absorb any impact.

C. Seal the parcel securely: Once the items are well packed, and you’ve made sure that nothing is moving, you need to securely seal the parcel. Make sure to use a strong tape and tape down every corner of the parcel.

For more information on how to pack your e-commerce parcels, check out this post.

2. Select a carrier

By this point you would have already created your carrier account - and hopefully more than one!

When you receive your international order, you will need to determine which carrier you will ship from. While you may have your favourite carrier you always prefer to ship with, one carrier is unlikely to give you the best rates for all shipments and destinations. By comparing the rates across multiple carriers for each shipment, you can easily save more than 20% on shipping cost.

You can compare the shipping rates manually - for example, by referring to a table of rates for each different carrier, and checking the rates for your shipment requirements.

Alternatively, to save time and improve accuracy, you can use an automated shipping solution, such as Ship&co, which automatically lists the different options for shipping methods and durations, and compares shipping rates across carriers.

3. Prepare shipping documents

For international shipments, there are two main shipping documents required - shipping label, and commercial invoice.

A. Shipping label

Shipping label, also known as waybill, is a document that tells your carrier where the shipment is going, and with what type of service.

You can create a shipping label by filling out a template waybill form. For some carriers, you can download a template online and print it out (here are templates for DHL and FedEx). You can also create a shipping request online on the carrier’s platform. After submitting a set of required information, a shipping label will be generated.

Below are the typical information you will be required to provide. You will need to retrieve this information from the order details of your shop.

  • Shipper contact and account details
  • Recipient’s contact
  • Destination address
  • Shipment details: item, quantity, dimension, weight
  • Shipping method: standard or express, tracking or non-tracking (tracking is highly advisable)
  • Others (depending on carrier): cash on delivery, additional notes, shipping insurance needed, etc

With an automated shipping solution such as Ship&co, you can also save time on preparing shipping documents as order details get imported automatically from your shop, and shipping documents with all major carriers get generated in just a click.

When it comes to printing the shipping label, you can choose to print on paper through an ink-jet printer, or you can use a thermal printer loaded with sticker-type labels. If you ship more than a few hundred labels a month, your carrier may lend you a thermal printer for free, with free labels, so be sure to ask your carrier about it.

B. Commercial invoice

Commercial invoice is an additional documentation needed for international shipments, required for customs purposes. A commercial invoice essentially is a way for you to list down what items you’re trying to import, and their retail value, for customs to check for health and safety, as well as tax purposes.

A commercial invoice typically includes the following details

  • Quantity
  • Item description
  • HS code - this is a 6-digit code that recognizes items in different internationally-recognized classifications
  • Retail value of each item

You can prepare a commercial invoice by printing a sample template from your carrier and filling out the details.

Or if you use an automated shipping solution such as Ship&co, you will also be able to generate a commercial invoice automatically along with the shipping label.

For more information, take a look at our post on "Shipping Documents for International Shipping".

4. Arrange for pickup

Once you have your shipment packed and ready with the required shipping documents, you will need to arrange for a pickup. Ofcourse, you can also choose to drop off the shipment at your carrier’s designated pickup points to save cost, but otherwise, you can book a pick up to your warehouse through a phone call or through the carrier’s online portal. If you’re shipping on a regular basis, you can also arrange to have your carrier come for a pick up everyday, or on selected days, at your preferred time slot.

5. Send tracking details

Once your shipment is on the way, you’ll need to share the tracking details with your customers.

To do so, you’ll need to access your carrier’s platform where you’ll get the tracking number of your shipment, then go to your e-commerce platform to add the tracking number and indicate that the item has been shipped out. If you have set up your automatic customer emails, your customer will at this point be able to receive an email from you, with a message that the item has been shipped, along with the tracking number.

Once again, if you’re using an automated shipping solution such as Ship&co, the tracking number can be automatically sent back to your shop without having to access your carrier’s platform and your e-commerce platform.

Summary

To recap, here is the complete checklist for international shipping that we went through over Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Checklist for International Shipping

Deciding whether to ship internationally
❑   Check if the item is prohibited or restricted by the importing country
❑   Check if the item is listed as “dangerous goods”
❑   Check the cost of shipping and insurance
❑   Check associated duties and tax

Getting set up on international shipping
❑   Create carrier accounts
❑   Determine what to charge your customers for shipping
❑   Determine how you will pay for duties and taxes
❑   Set up shipping rates and methods on your shop

Shipping & post-shipping
❑   Pack the parcel
❑   Select a carrier
❑   Prepare shipping documents
❑   Arrange for pickup
❑   Send tracking details

Sounds like tedious process? It may seem challenging in the beginning, but once you go through the steps once, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Once again, make sure to invest time upfront figuring out if cross-border selling and shipping is right for your business at this stage, and if so, do the initial set up well, as this can go a long way in making international shipping easier later on.


About Ship&co
Ship&co is an all-in-one shipping management solution for e-commerce. We connect online sellers from various e-commerce platforms to global shipping providers through API integrations, to automate the shipping process and help save money on shipping. With our wide network of shipping providers globally, we help online sellers find and connect with the right carriers to make the international shipping journey a smooth one.

For more information, visit https://shipandco.com/ or feel free to contact us at hello@shipandco.com.