Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Oct 14 2015 21:44:23

What's Your Biggest Barrier to Selling Internationally?

By: Ina Steiner

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I was chatting today with a reporter about the challenges of selling internationally - even trade between Canada and the US presents challenges for sellers on both sides of the border, never mind Europe - or Asia.

The topic came up because of the TPP - Trans Pacific Partnership. There's a lot of controversy about the trade agreement that's been in the works behind closed doors for 5 years. On October 5th, agreement was reached - yet not much is known about the specifics of the TPP.

In terms of international ecommerce, language may be the biggest hurdle to a seller depending on where they're selling. And shipping is certainly one of the biggest challenges no matter where you're sending your international order. While shipping costs may come immediately to mind, it is speed of delivery and tracking that can lead to headaches when sending a package overseas, especially to countries with poor postal service.

Interestingly, eBay issued a report this week on the European Union's Digital Single Market imitative, and in a list of recommendations, its first was: efficient parcel delivery market in Europe and beyond. eBay called for more affordable cross-border prices for parcels, faster and more reliable delivery, and end-to-end shipment tracking, among other things. (More on that in Thursday's Newsflash.)

Other challenges sellers face include customs and duties; regulations about what can and can't be sold in a particular country; and VAT (value added tax) collection.

For those of you selling online, what keeps you awake at night when it comes to international selling? Are you aware of the TPP and its potential impact on your business? Do small sellers stick to selling to English-speaking countries, and are any of you trying to reach shoppers in Asia?

Update: Here's the article about the TPP in Quartz by Ana Campoy, 10/27/15.




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Perminate Link for What's Your Biggest Barrier to Selling Internationally?   What's Your Biggest Barrier to Selling Internationally?

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 14 23:01:40 2015

If eBay put out this kind of report - its only good when you run out of toilet paper.

Asking eBay ANYTHING about ecommerce, ANYTHING at all - is like asking your pet gold fish about what stock to buy.

If eBay wants to talk about trade barriers, let them first start with the SUPER CRAZY HIGH shipping prices for their GSP services.

I'm a tiny insignificant mouse as compared to eBay, yet I can get a 5pound package to ANYWHERE DHL delivers to for $30. Thats a heck of a lot less then what eBay charges for its GSP program.

Why is there no transparency in the program itself? Ship a box to lets say ... Singapore. Any idea how it goes? Well, for any company that eBay doesnt have a deal in place with (ie Fed Ex for Europe etc) - most times eBay bids it out. Sometimes (alot of times) yu think its going one way (Fed Ex) but it ends up going another (Singapore Post) - Ive had these issues MORE then a few times.

As well, eBay (for a lot of manufacturers) prevents via VERO, selling items into the EU from eBay.com. eBay colludes with these companies to ONLY ALLOW GSP shipping and no displays of products in certain countries. IE you cant as an example, sell a Casio watch on eBay.com and check "ships to the following countries". That will get you a VERO MC012 or MC019 violation.

My point is - let eBay get its OWN HOUSE in order, before comming up with all these other silly ideas.

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by: ebayclosed2016 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 00:11:21 2015

While ebay is screwing around with this instead of fixing things like... Google visibility to my listings..I listed an additional 4,000 things on amazon this week and already sold 55. And I took 700 off of ebay. Jan 2016--- c ya ebay!

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by: madgeshatbox This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Oct 15 00:28:14 2015

My biggest gripe is with Royal Mail.  I sell vintage hats so I have many customers in the UK.  Royal Mail slaps a surcharge of $18 on packages coming from the US.  That's in addition to customs fees.  My customers are sophisticated buyers so they understand customs.   The delivery fee however, is so bogus.  RM is already delivering mail so this fee is pure profit to them and leaves a lot of angry customers in its wake.

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by: trader_chris This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 00:40:50 2015

Transit times, poor tracking, and occasionally getting ripped off. I have no idea why in this day and age, a package sent via First Class Mail should take 40-50 days to reach its final destination (usually Australia).

Tracking for most items usually seems to end once the items leaves US customs. Then they seem to disappear into a black hole and eventually find their way. There needs to be a standardized system for global tracking.

Finally, I was extremely disheartened / upset last fall when I shipped some jewelry to Russia. Long story short, Russian customs agents opened the package, took the jewelry out, and shipped the package back ''received empty''. I had no recourse as neither the USPS nor my shipping insurance company would reimburse me and had to pay $1700 out of pocket, which really hurt my business (it actually contributed to me leaving eBay entirely for about 4 months, but that is another story). I no longer ship to Russia as a result, which is everyone's loss. For global commerce to thrive, there needs to be greater reassurance that things like this won't happen, and if they do, there are mechanisms in place reimburse the people who are not at fault.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Oct 15 00:43:52 2015

1. Limited number of countries that offer tracking.

2. Exorbitantly high GSP program that drive both sellers and buyers away.

3. Unreasonable ebafia requirement that sellers pay return shipping.

4. Dishonest buyers - a small but costly percentage.

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by: flybuy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 01:12:20 2015

I do not know much about TPP although as a taxpayer and a voter I resent the negotiations are shrouded in secrecy.  
As for international shipping I have been fortunate as international accounts for about 50 percent of my small business for vintage items. I ship myself using USPS and sometimes Fedex.  
 
On Tradera (the Swedish version of Ebay) sellers often use DB Schenker which appears reasonable and offers a lot of choices for individuals as well as large companies. So that might be a company that could offer the reliability and reasonable prices EU sellers need.  Of course Ebay will look for a way to make money from shipping as well the GSP. EU sellers may want to do some research beyond Ebay recommendations.

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by: Xander This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 01:16:17 2015

Our biggest barriers are delivery liability, the high cost of shipping international and the extra customer service time required to placate the customer when tracking does not show movement for a number of days.

International sales were once over 40% of our business. This was around 3/4 years ago when the USPS international rates were much lower.

International sales have become much more expensive to service these days. The time required to fill out customs declarations, communicate with the customer when they're nervous about where their package is requires additional time yet the price of the product is the same as when sold domestically.

If the package is lost or stolen, the loss is much higher due to the added cost of international shipping rates.

It seems international buyers used to be happy to have access to the US marketplace but today, it doesn't appear that way. The high cost of shipping has robbed them of the deals they once were able to get.

It's too difficult and risky these days so we avoid it as much as possible. On our website- it's domestic only.

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This user has validated their user name. by: cfrphoto
Web Site

Thu Oct 15 01:26:23 2015

1. Shipping costs are excessive with a big jump in rates between USPS First Class and First Class Parcel rates. Tracking is needed on first class mail.
2. Complex and needless customs forms
3. Lack of tracking of First Class mail (a problem in the US also) and of parcels.

The eBay GSP program is useless for sellers of light weight high value items. The postal service limits parcels to $400 value requiring more expensive Express mail or FedEx for delivery. Also, the eBay GSP program cannot be used for copyrighted items because eBay does not guarantee return if not possible to deliver possibly irreplaceable items. Reselling undelivered copyrighted items is not acceptable.

It seems that eBay is totally clueless about shipping requirements for small high value light weight items.

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 01:47:58 2015

I don't use the Global Shipping system and I try very hard to take any International sales OFF of ebay.  I know ebay frowns on this but--

My most sold over seas (and Canada)  item has a packed weight of 6 OUNCES.  This can ship to MOST of the known world for $12. In all my years of selling and shipping both on and off of ebay I have had ONE package go "missing"  and this WAS an ebay package and I am convinced that this was a scammer buyer.

Now ebay demands that I have TRACKING AND REGISTERED MAIL on these which ups the price of the shipping alone to $32.  The item price is $35 so this is outrageous. And I have to jump thru hoops at the PO to send these Registered--I can't use my usual mailers;  I need to have a PAPER mailer so they can STAMP the=--edges?  It's not a hardship- it's just a PITA.

And of course--most countries do NOT Track and do NOT co-ordinate with the USPS.  Norway does not;  Canada does.  The rest of Europe==not so much!  And guess who gets the BLAME when a country does NOT track OR log and return Registered Receipt Requests?  

When I have been successful in directing a customer in advance to deal with me DIRECTLY I have had fine luck shipping plain old USPS First Class International--EVERY item has gotten where it needs to go and in not all that long a time either.  And I don't lose money on ebay fees either so I pass that savings along.  

There is also zero danger that a buyer will post bad FB --if the item did not sell via ebay!   Not to mention the absurd "Buyer Protection"  and possibly being forced to pay Return Shipping.  

If there was a realistic alternative I would stay within ebay rules;  but they make that nigh on impossible.  Do they get kickbacks from the USPS?  

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by: BobNJ This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 01:50:05 2015

Lack of security for mail going to many countries.

Loss of mail within our own US Customs, including REGISTERED mail packages getting lost in NYC customs. My collectible insurance company claims they see A LOT of packages lost in the NYC customs offices.

Local post offices that charge different rates at different offices for the same packages and services.

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This user has validated their user name. by: IDKwhoIare

Thu Oct 15 02:00:07 2015

The biggest obstacles are always the high postage cost combined with little to no tracking and ending with the too frequent non-delivery.

eBay makes you refund the shipping money when a package is 'lost' in a postal system despite receipt/proof that you paid for the shipping service. Ridiculous for International shipping costs.  Ridiculous that a company can take your money for a service, not provide it and then just shrug their shoulders.  Especially ridiculous when most of the so-called lost items never make it out of the non-USA side of Customs in places like Russia, Italy, Singapore, etc. and someone in their gov't is taking the item home.

Meanwhile you're stuck paying TWICE for a service you never got by virtue of having to refund the Buyer shipping money (thanks eBay), lost your item and out of pocket the OH & P on it as well.

When USPS doubled the cost to ship to Canada & the UK a few years ago I stopped shipping Internationally.  Would laugh every time I got the notice that I was missing out on an 11% increase in sales by not doing so.  That 11% was eating up 25% of my profit and I was happy as H to plug that leak.

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This user has validated their user name. by: IDKwhoIare

Thu Oct 15 02:03:57 2015

Yes, I realize that actual out-of-pocket for shipping only happens once.  Need to go to sleep!

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 02:31:06 2015

@BOBNJ---I thought we were the only ones to get COMPLETELY different prices on packages sent via different PO's!  We have had HUGE differences depending on where you go.  And we used to have a tiny PO in an old railway station where the guy was still using the old paper rate books;  and doing EVERYTHING by hand.  When ever we had an odd package we would make a point to go to that PO as he always knew what to do and how to do it.  

Of course the PO was closed despite a HUGE outcry ---the nearest PO is now some 10 MILES away for these people. It truely was the "community center"  and had a free kids book section and a globe to show people WHERE their packages were going to or coming from---and if elderly Mrs Smith did not come in for a day some one would tell some one and someone would go track her down.  

A lot of these smaller PO's were shut down to be able to fire the Post Masters who would otherwise cost the PO system lots of money--it was not all about the actual MAIL and volume as we were told.  Shame to the US Govt on everything post office related.  

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 06:33:34 2015

I appreciate EB putting forth the effort.  I don't ship internationally except to Canada.  There's no way to track the package& guarantee delivery unless you send it DHL (expensive!). If an international person contacts me and wants to buy, I will sell -- and I ask them if they have a US address.

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 06:52:58 2015

I will never sell internationally because ebay and paypal because of inadequate tracking, inability to get a signature. Also anti seller policies in the payment processors encourage fraud and makes sellers targets of criminals and criminal enterprises.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Oct 15 07:04:55 2015

Ming's #3.......Unreasonable ebafia requirement that sellers pay return shipping.

When this started I ended all of my international listings on all of my eBay sites.

So in a nutshell, eBay is the biggest barrier to me selling internationally on eBay.

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by: Watching the Wheels This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 07:10:50 2015

The prohibitive cost of shipping, and America's apparent lack of concern for their own citizens.

I don't offer it because I CANNOT AFFORD THE RISKS.

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by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 15 07:41:22 2015

from that article it looks like ebay is more concerned with cross-border trading inside europe, rather than from the US.  i've had the same obstacle I've always had.... the post office raising rates to far more than buyers will pay. 10 years ago international was 40% of my business, buts every years increase progressively dropped my sales until they were less than 5%.  i still get plenty of requests for quotes, but hardly any takers.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Oct 15 07:55:44 2015

Off topic, I saw an article headline this morning that read "Is An Abundance of Information Starting to Make Investors Dumber?"

I immediately thought of eBay, because I think that many of the horrible decisions that they have made in the last 7-10 years have been made due to the fact that they are drowning in data that they don't know how to use and don't know how to accurately interpret and they have lost their ability to make common sense decisions.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Thu Oct 15 09:02:23 2015

My # 1 barrier against International shipping is eBay itself.

With eBay embedded so deeply in every aspect of the buyer and seller relationship, with eBay's ever changing seller standards, and with eBay so determined to control the return process, there is little room for profit for cross border transactions.

Shipping challenges are a minor concern - it is eBay's interference that motivates us to be US sellers only.







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