This is Part 1 of a series on eBay shipping. This installment deals with international shipping issues. Follow-up articles will cover the lesser-known advantages of shipping with DHL, how to handle shipping disputes and claims, and the pros and cons of various eBay shipping tools.
Before we dive into the international tips, there are a few general points to make about shipping. First off, the way you ship - the options you offer, your efficiency, and the way you charge - are critical to eBay success. Good shipping practices drive customer satisfaction. Customers who like your service come back, good feedback ratings generate more business, satisfied customers tell friends, and your products become more valuable when they're shipped promptly and correctly.
Shipping right also helps your marketing efforts. Clean, professionally packaged goods reflect positively on your company and brand. You can place promotions and flyers in the packaging to generate repeat business. And, items that arrive unscathed and on time deliver on your promises and guarantees.
Now let's talk about international shipping considerations. If you're going to ship internationally, let shoppers know up front that the costs will vary. The eBay shipping calculator doesn't currently support international calculations, so you'll want to have the prospective buyer contact you via email for shipping details. You can then punch the weight and country destination into the USPS (or other) calculator and determine the proper pricing.
If you already ship overseas, you've probably discovered that each country you ship to requires customs forms. These allow governments to collect duties, and enforce trade and regulatory policies. Fortunately, many eBay shipping systems can print customs forms automatically. eBay seller Ryan Kortendick of RJK WebTronics, who ships 85 percent of his products overseas, recommends Endicia (http://www.endicia.com). "It's a must for anyone who ships internationally," said Kortendick. "Endicia generates each customs form automatically on your laser printer then prints your mailing label on a thermal printer."
Window Book (http://www.windowbook.com) also offers software systems for efficient international shipping and customs forms completion. They have the only manifesting solution that puts both domestic and international packages on one manifest. You can print customs forms with multiple line items per form, packing more items into individual shipments. By manifesting, you use a permit rather than metered stamps. You don't pay until your packages are accepted by the Post Office, so you don't waste postage when the label or meter strip is damaged. And the recipient of the package doesn't know how much you paid for postage because it's not indicated on the package.
Many international customers don't want to pay customs duties, so they'll ask you to say that the item is a gift or less than it's worth on the customs form. Most sellers recommend against this. Customs agents are constantly opening up items to check value and packing slips. A low value or gift designation on the customs form is a red flag to them. If they hold up the package, the customer will probably become irate. You don't have much to gain by fudging customs forms.
Shipping internationally can be fairly slow - Canada and Italy are notoriously slow, for example. Make sure you manage your buyers' expectations and familiarize yourself with the local regulations.
Part 2 coming up - Should You Consider DHL?