eCommerce Insiders

To Ship Abroad or Not – Tips for International Shipping

Sometimes your local audience isn’t enough.

Sure, some products are really local, hard to introduce to foreign audiences.

But chances are that yours isn’t. And if you’ve been thinking about selling it online, I am sure you also considered shipping it abroad too.

That’s the benefit of ecommerce, isn’t it? Being able to reach customers far away. With ecommerce, it doesn’t really matter where the person visiting your site is, they can still buy your product.

But how you get it to them is a completely different matter. 

International shipping, even though it opens doors to many new opportunities can be quite problematic. It allows you to reach bigger audience but at the same time:

  • there is a far greater risk of fraud. When you ship internationally, there is very little control that you have over your shipped items. Often you can’t even tell if they reached a customer.
  • there is a bigger uncertainty. As said, in some places you won’t even know if the item has reached its destination.
  • shipping cost is significantly higher. Naturally, the further you ship the item the more it costs to do so. And for most part, you can forget about offering free shipping.
  • you are far away from your customers, making it difficult to learn from them.

But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ship internationally. There are however certain things you should keep in mind when considering international shipping.

Your Products  

Most products can be shipped abroad. Not every product however is ideal for international shipping. Bigger products cost more to sent out. That’s not only increases the overall price a customer has to pay but also makes you less competitive in their region. So unless your bulky product is absolutely unique, focus on shipping smaller, easier to pack and sent out items to international customers.

Local Regulations 

Many countries have their own specific regulations as to what items you can and cannot ship to the country. For instance, when I ran My Munchies Box, one of the problems we encountered was shipping tea (one of our main products) to Australia. In most cases, custom officers would tear our packages open to check what those weird looking leaves were. Needless to say, customers weren’t happy. Not to mention that we couldn’t compete with other subscription companies – we couldn’t develop any fancy looking packaging boxes as they would get destroyed before they would reach a customer anyhow.

Shipping Costs

When you send items abroad, the cost of shipping can, of course become a massive problem. Shipping to many countries may end up costing more than the product itself. Again, since My Munchies Box’s audience was primarily in Australia, shipping of our standard box cost the same as the product. It would be cheaper if we shipped to UK. But anywhere further than that, a customer had to pay twice as much (or in some cases even more) for the subscription.

Here is a list of services which can help you estimate average shipping costs for products you intent to sell. Doing so will help you to estimate if going into international shipping is worth it:

Registered vs. Standard Post

Whether or not to register the shipment is often a discussion many ecommerce owners try to avoid. After all, registered post is dearer.

A registered post means that your visitor will have to sign the delivery (and shipping will be recorded). These packages are harder to steal and tend not to be lost so often.

Some stores however prefer to give customers from certain regions, ones with the highest rate of parcels lost in transit, an option to ship their package as a registered post. The downside of shipping via registered post however is that it further increases the shipping cost.

Personally I believe that it should be an option a customer could choose from.


Lastly, you should also consider offering option to insure the package. For similar reasons, if your customer lives in a region known for the problem with deliveries, an insurance will unsure that their parcel can reach them safely. And if not, that they will be reimbursed for the purchase anyway.

Burning Shed, one of my most favourite online stores, offers that option to customers from certain countries.  Moreover, even though it’s optional to do, every customer must mark the order as to be insured or not.

Creative commons image by Nils Geylen / Flickr

Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a copywriter and content marketer and the founder of, the content marketing agency helping SaaS companies grow the user base and generate quality leads with targeted content strategies.

Find out more about Pawel at and connect with him on Linkedin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *