Shipping overseas is incredibly expensive, which is why many small businesses don’t do business across the pond. In addition to cost, there’s also the general hassle; the customs forms, the difficulty of saving foreign addresses in some databases, and simply having to go to the carriers site can cause a headache. The good news? For motivated business owners, there are ways to make shipping overseas easier.
First, you cant be afraid to ask for a discount. No matter what the carriers website might say (unless its the US Postal Service), those shipping fees aren’t set in stone. For example, FedEx offers a flat 15 percent discount just for signing up for an account. There are many hidden discounts out there, so don’t be shy about asking about them.
Here are a few more ways to save on shipping.
Get to High Volume Status
Those big stores like Wal-Mart can offer free shipping to customers because they ship so much stuff. Most carriers offer a high volume discount, which can vary from carrier to carrier. If your business is already there, this is the ultimate way to save money. Comparison shop and see which carriers offer the biggest discounts.
Some businesses naturally ship a lot of items, such as e-commerce sites that specialize in hardware and software, including everything from Word to construction management shipment software. If you’re paying the advertised price, no matter what your volume, you’re probably overpaying. Work out an arrangement with a local carrier (or a site) and get to know the owner and staff. Just like everything else in life, its who you know.
Mail Forwarding and Packaging
Also called parcel forwarding or package forwarding, this is often the best way to save money for international customers. Anyone anywhere in the world can use these services, and they’re given a US address. All items are shipped to the US address then re-distributed (or forwarded) around the world. This is how customers in SE Asia, Europe and pretty much anywhere else save bundles on US products.
US-based businesses can use this approach, too. Get a forwarding address and compare the cost of shipping to traditional carriers. A lot of the time, the bottom line is in much better shape assuming you don’t have regular international shipments.
Reduce, Reduce, Reduce
Some carriers charge per weight, so its important to make packaging as light as possible. Don’t include batteries, remove excessive marketing fodder and cut weight wherever possible. This isn’t an option for many businesses, but it is for some (such as Etsy shops). Wherever fat can be trimmed, do so and you may qualify for lower shipping.
When it comes to international shipping, you have to get a little creative. Don’t go with an advertised price and always look for every avenue to cut corners. That’s the ticket to saving big and satisfying those global customers.