For most of us, the summer heat is still in full swing, and thoughts of clear lakes, cool oceans and sandy beaches are hard to resist. But for retailers, including the biggest and smallest online sellers, there is something more important to think about – namely, holiday shipping.

While it may seem early, the fact is that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only a few short months away. Many retailers understand the need to plan early, and have put their marketing strategies and holiday website design plans in in high gear. But when it comes to shipping – the final and perhaps most important factor in the e-commerce equation – many are slow to act, leaving these planning details until the very end.

Planning your holiday shipping strategy now will save you time, money and headaches down the road. This is especially true when it comes to international shipping, where the complex customs rules and time requirements can vary.

Retailers and e-tailers who carefully follow and understand this season’s international shipping calendar, clearly communicate relevant deadlines with customers, and work with an experienced international shipping partner, will be well ahead of the competition when it comes to reaching and satisfying an international audience.

There is another reason why your international shipping plans are so important: international e-commerce is growing rapidly, and to take part is this powerful movement, you need both the right products and sales strategy, and the ability to quickly and efficiently get your goods to your global customers.

Here are some key tips to help you get your international holiday shipping strategy in place.

Know the Facts, and Let Them Be Known

Deadlines for reaching your international customers will differ from those that apply to your domestic buyers. You need to understand these specific international deadlines, and convey them clearly to your customers.

Make sure that visitors to your site understand exactly when they need to place an order by country and region so that it will reach them before the holidays. When designing your holiday website, consider placing notifications of the relevant deadlines on your homepage in order to encourage international shoppers to make their purchases early.

Deadlines should be reiterated through the online purchase process. An experienced shipping partner can help you identify the 2017 deadlines for specific destinations.

Get Specific About Shipping Costs

As part of the effort to keep customers informed, U.S. companies should consider including on their website the possible duties that will be charged at the time of import.

There are also several HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) code apps available in the iTunes store and for Androids to help you understand better the duty rate and VAT (Value Added Tax) that your international customers may be charged. Customers may be surprised that these fees will be required at time of import.

Another way to improve your customer’s experience is to include the duty and taxes in your shipping charges. This way, the shipment will clear quickly and efficiently with no hold up for a duty payment from your customer.

The shipping term for this process is Delivery Duty Paid and is frequently used by e-commerce shippers. The approach you will take to apply the duty and VAT charge should be included on your website and in advance of the peak holiday shipping season.

Here is a breakdown of the two shipping methods for international e-commerce customers:

  • Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) means that the seller fulfill his obligation to deliver when the goods have been made available at the named place in the country of importation. The seller has to bear the risks and costs, including duties, taxes and other charges of delivering the goods thereto, cleared for importation.
  • Delivered At Place (DAP) is a term that replaced the former term DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid). DAP transactions require the seller to arrange and pay the transportation of the goods to a place designated by the buyer, and the buyer to pay import duties and taxes on arrival of the goods.

Don’t Assume Last Year’s Approach Will Work This Year

If you shipped internationally to specific countries last holiday season, it is important to understand that the rules and requirements in each area may have changed. It is critical to work with a shipping partner who can keep you up to date with changing requirements using an automated system that will streamline the process and integrate seamlessly into your site.

Plan Your International Shipping Offer Early

Will you offer free shipping? What will the minimum purchase be? What about free returns? The move toward free shipping for holiday orders is well-established – even for international buyers. Most online buyers expect free shipping with a minimum offer and, to remain competitive, you need to clearly define and broadcast your offer.

Get Your Packaging Plan in Order

For the longer international shipping journey, it’s critical that your items are packed correctly to make sure they arrive in one piece. Make sure you work with your team to ensure that everyone understands the guidelines for packaging goods for international shipping.



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