Selling cross-border has become a major moneymaker for corporations and small businesses alike – consumers buying from foreign countries spend twice as much as domestic shoppers. Additionally, 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is now outside of the US. Yet less than once percent of American small businesses export, and of those that do, 58 percent only export to one country. Still, many merchants find the thought of exporting daunting.
Expanding internationally doesn’t have to be the hair-raising prospect many small business owners fear it to be. Organizations like Export.gov and the International Trade Administration offer one-on-one counseling to small business owners. And in the fast-growing global marketplace, all owners should be looking to find new sales channels overseas.
Here are four simple steps to make international shipping a breeze:
Check all your boxes
Literally – Export.gov has a quiz to help small business owners assess their readiness for international trade. Before you increase inventory or start hiring, you should check it out to make sure your item can be sold internationally, estimate average shipping costs (to you or the buyer), and better understand any restrictions you may be hampered by.
Read up on regulatory requirements
One of the most common questions merchants have is whether or not a special license is needed to sell abroad. For the vast majority of exporters, the answer is no. Those that do need a license are generally selling products that have a dual commercial and military use. You can see if you fall into this category at Bureau of Industry and Security.
Additionally, there are certain items that cannot be shipped internationally under most circumstances and are subject to much closer scrutiny, including alcohol, firearms, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nail polish. USPS has a country by country list of restricted items.
Navigate the waters of customs and shipping
All international shipments need to pass through customs. To help avoid issues, stay organized when it comes to your paperwork. This means attaching the customs forms to the outside of the box and being completely honest in declaring contents. Avoid surprise fees by calculating duties. When it comes to shipping, there are a variety of carriers that ship internationally – USPS, DHL, FedEx, and UPS.
Don’t make customers leave your site for simple information
International customers want to know how much items will cost them in their own currency. If you don’t make this information readily available to them, they will have to leave your site to find it – and they may not come back. Whether shoppers have an option to scroll through a drop down menu to convert the prices or you list them in a product description, having that information easily available will help close sales by keeping it simple.
Melissa O’Malley is Director, Global Merchant and Cross Border Trade Initiatives at PayPal.