Finding international shipping companies to help your business grow into new markets is extremely important for any e-commerce company looking to scale.
Being an international e-commerce retailer puts you in esteemed company: of the 30 million companies in the United States, only 3.9% of them sell goods internationally. Yet, international e-commerce demand is up, so now is a good time to get on board. Between 2018 and 2022, global e-commerce is expected to register a growth of more than 8%—much of which is being driven by the Latin American and Asia-Pacific regions.
Technology is making it easier and easier for companies to connect with and sell to international customers. However, the complexity of international e-commerce logistics often requires a deeper partnership with shipping companies abroad. Packaging and fulfilling domestic orders can often be done in-house, but shipping internationally creates the need for help with warehousing and fulfillment.
One of the biggest challenges for e-commerce retailers is finding the right choice among the myriad of international shipping companies to help keep costs low and deliver packages on time. Let’s dive into what you need to ask a prospective logistics partner before choosing them.
Things to Know Before Contacting International Shipping Companies
Before choosing a partner from the available international shipping companies, you should know exactly what your e-commerce business is looking for in a logistics provider. Having a solid understanding of your needs before reaching out to any logistics companies can lead to a more productive search. As a first step, make sure you can answer the following questions.
What Are You Shipping?
Knowing the full scope of what your company can ship abroad can help you find the right international shipping company. Depending on which country you’re shipping to, you may need to provide special packaging or documentation, or you may not be allowed to ship things there at all. If your e-commerce business is reselling used clothing, you may not be able to ship to Mexico, for example.
International shipping companies may have their own limits and restrictions on what can be delivered or how it can be delivered. Lithium-ion batteries—common in many consumer electronic devices increasingly in demand in Latin America—may limit your options for shipping, if you can send them at all. One of the more experienced international shipping companies can help you understand the challenges of delivering your company’s goods abroad.
2. What Are Your Customers’ Shipping Expectations?
Consumer expectations when it comes to shipping are rapidly evolving. In 2018, 43% of consumers expected “much faster” deliveries and 75% of them expected shipping to be free. This is easier said than done when it comes to international shipping, but that doesn’t discount how important it is to know what your customers want.
But breaking into markets like Brazil can be challenging for international e-commerce businesses, both large and small. Why? Because local brick-and-mortar stores remain popular and provide goods faster. Experienced international shipping companies can help you understand what consumers in the region, be it Latin America or Asia-Pacific, are thinking. This customer insight can help you strike a balance between delivery speed and price that will allow you to compete against your international competitors.
3. Are You Planning to Expand?
While your e-commerce business may not have immediate plans to expand with new products or new territories, it’s a good idea to chart out a 5-to-10 year business plan to help you look further down the road. Once you have a better idea of where you’re headed, find out whether the international shipping companies you’re considering are able to expand with you. Finding the right international logistics partner is a serious investment in terms of time and resources, so being extra diligent now will make a difference in the long run.
5 Questions to Ask International Shipping Companies
Once you have a good sense of what your business needs from international shipping companies, you can start to vet them with these questions.
1. What Services Does the Company Offer?
These days, international shipping companies are integral partners to your e-commerce business. They help you maintain a superior customer experience through reliable transit times, accessible customer service, and returns handling.
If you’re delivering in a region like Latin America and you want to hand off the logistics process to an outside company, warehousing and fulfillment services may be worth exploring. You may find that some international shipping companies have warehouses closer to your customers—reducing shipping time and costs.
Note that shipping internationally does add extra bureaucratic layers to the process. Find out how familiar your prospective international shipping companies are with the specific countries that you’re shipping to—this local knowledge can avoid costly errors and take stress off your team.
One of the most critical services for e-commerce companies is returns. E-commerce customers return goods over twice as often as brick-and-mortar consumers, and regularly cite free and easy returns as a key differentiator when choosing an online retailer. Take the time to determine what kind of returns process you want to offer your e-commerce customers before you choose an international shipping partner. Ask whether the international shipping company processes returns and exactly how they handle them.
By understanding what international shipping companies can and can’t do, you can quickly narrow down which one is right for your e-commerce company.
2. Does the Company Ship to Where Your Customers Live?
While there are many international shipping companies that ship worldwide, it takes years of experience and an investment in the region to successfully ship to customers in booming regions like Latin America and Asia-Pacific.
Understand what the logistics process looks like for the shipping company in your target market. In countries like Brazil, for example, last-mile delivery in the big cities is much different from last-mile delivery in the rural countryside. With decades of experience in the country, SkyPostal knows how to work with local couriers like the national postal system, Correios, to deliver to the right person—even when the location lacks a physical address.
International shipping companies that specialize in your target market can often provide cheaper, faster, and more localized customer service for your international customers. Be sure to spend time talking to your prospective international shipping companies to learn how invested they are in your e-commerce company’s target region.
3. Who Are the Company’s Clients?
One way to determine whether a prospective international shipping company is the right fit for you and your customers is to learn more about its current clients. If you’re shipping consumer goods from the United States to Brazil, for example, see whether your potential partner currently serves other companies that ship similar products or have similar target markets. If not, that could be a red flag—or it may simply be that the target market is underserved by international e-commerce entirely.
If the partner you’re scouting does serve companies that ship similar products or have similar target markets, it may also be worth connecting with one of their clients for reference. It can be very illuminating to gather some third-party insight from another company that faces similar challenges.
4. What Technology Does the Company Utilize?
International e-commerce relies heavily on digital platforms to market, sell, and track inventory. The most important technology for any logistics company is tracking—but in many countries in Latin America, for example, carriers can’t offer real-time tracking solutions. So when it comes to a technology checklist, make tracking the number one thing you look into due to its outsized influence on your customers’ logistics experience.
Good international shipping companies have logistics technology of their own for fulfillment and package tracking that should integrate with your company’s core business software, like CRMs or e-commerce platforms. With TechSync by SkyPostal, you’ll have an API-integrated tracking and label creation solution that gives you and your customers instant visibility on a package from label creation to final-mile delivery.
But beyond software integration, technology is quickly reshaping the world of international shipping. From the internet-of-things, to blockchain, to drones, there are new ways to track shipments, deliver them, and keep the logistics process secure. Your chosen international shipping company should be working to incorporate the newest technology into the process to make it fast, efficient, and safe from threats like hacking.
5. What Is the Company’s Customer Service Like?
When it comes to international shipping for an e-commerce business, the question of customer service is two-fold: there’s the customer service your company receives, and the customer service your customers receive. Of the two, the latter is paramount. Remember: when your customers need to track a package or have a question about the returns process, they’ll be working with your logistics partner—whose customer service reflects on your company.
With international deliveries, your staff may not have the language or cultural background to provide effective customer service to customers in other countries. This is where the support of a skilled logistics company with local employees can come in handy. Not only can SkyPostal provide customer service in the right language, we have the cultural knowledge to solve logistics issues when shipping to Latin America.
For example, when one of our clients didn’t properly address a package to a Latin American country, our knowledgeable team was able to reformat and fill in the gaps on the address to ensure the delivery went through successfully. This wouldn’t have happened without our years of experience shipping to and working within the region.
Choose SkyPostal for Latin American E-Commerce Shipping
With decades of experience specializing in Latin American logistics, SkyPostal is the trusted partner for e-commerce companies looking to make the most of the emerging LatAm region.
Contact us today to see how our solutions can help your e-commerce company save time and money in the logistics process.