International Shipping – is it for you? Australia is known for being a more of an importing than exporting country, (with exceptions such as our wonderful wine), but with the advances in ecommerce technology in recent years the question, “Should you go global?”, becomes more imperative.
Expanding your reach to markets outside of Australia obviously means that you can grow your market share and Australia has a reputation for offering good quality products that could see yours being well received.
Business Plan for International Shipping
Beyond the technological and logistical requirements, (which is our area of expertise here at Freight Controller), there is a lot to plan of course, such as which countries should you launch to first; what are the issues around currency, language, local taxes, and customs? Your website or social media should provide some insights as to which countries to market to; consult your analytics to see where people who visit your website or click on your content are coming from; what products they view / like the most.
Also take into consideration the type of product: food, for example has more red tape associated than other products. Select the easiest products to ship overseas.
Distance is a factor in shipping costs and speed to deliver, so you might want to test with nearby countries. A great example would be New Zealand: it’s close, there are no language barriers and it’s a highly similar culture. On the other hand, markets such as Asia, and the US & UK are larger, (with the latter two also sharing the same language and similar culture).
Once you’ve planned for those factors in becoming an exporter, and created your business plan, the next areas to consider are:
- What technology systems can help us automate these exporting processes?
- What carriers should we add to our network to facilitate logistics for this?
Ecommerce Technology for International Shipping
Obviously, the best way to test outside markets is with an online shopping process. It would be a bit too much of an investment to rent stores and hire retail staff overseas to get your new venture started. This would also require you to register your business, whereas if you start purely online you don’t have to.
Another low barrier to entry method to test the viability of an international shipping process to expand your customer-base would be through an online marketplace. If you have one that you already use in Australia, which is also popular in the country you’re expanding to, (such as Amazon), that would be a fairly easy method to expand your reach. You might test this with Amazon fulfillment but there are extra perks to managing the fulfillment internally from your warehouse if the costs don’t erode your margin too much; perhaps they could in fact be done concurrently, and depending on the product.
For your online store(s) you will need to look at functionalities such as language & currency conversion, perhaps purchasing new domains for that country, the simple ‘.com’ being universal of course and there are sophisticated CMS / Ecommerce systems that recognise the country of the person shopping (or they can select that themselves) to ensure they are receiving the appropriate information.
You should be able to duplicate your CMS and perhaps change images to localise them, perhaps minimise the products to test with a few products your research shows will be popular.
Next area to consider for your goal to international shipping is Order Fulfilment. Sure, you could start manually but if you plan for growth (and who wouldn’t?) then you need scalability. Plus, you’re still managing your local freight so automation of workflows can only help you succeed in this new market(s) whilst staying strong in your local market. Therefore, a centralised system that can manage both your local orders and your international orders is helpful. You don’t want staff swapping from one system to the other; it’s too time consuming and clunky.
A system that automatically imports orders, wherever they come from, and can be fulfilled and shipped in bulk, individually, or filtered to be processed in batches (depending on your pick & pack workflow processes), is the optimal solution for productivity gains.
Such a system (like ours) needs of course a ‘plug and play’ capability with the main ecommerce platforms such as:
- Amazon, Walmart, eBay
- Shopify, Magento, Woo Commerce
International Shipping – the Logistics
Of course, you’ve got to be able to get those lovely products into the hands of your new customers, so you need the right mix of carriers for the job. At Freight Controller, our logistics consultants have decades of experience in managing freight, including international freight: FCL, bulk & parcel; container shipping and airfreight. We would be happy to design the right mix of carriers to assist with both your local and international freight needs. We can load them into our TMS system for you so that you can quickly select the best carrier based on service and price for each consignment.
The costs to ship from Australia may be prohibitive for some of your products because of distance issues increasing costs, or taxes applied by the destination country. Therefore, it might be best to ship stock in readiness to an overseas 3PL or the carrier’s DC so that those products are effectively treated as domestic shipments and incur a lower shipping cost and less taxes.
Consolidation of shipments that can then be broken down to their smaller localised shipments with all the freight labels for shipping overseas, and then shipping via local courier is the most streamlined and easy method to achieve this. If your TMS system enables the consolidated orders to be be priced and automatically labelled straight away, you will save time, save on human errors, and will greatly reduce the freight costs for your international shipping. Having a Transport Management System that can automate this process for you is vital to your success with this type of solution.
Centralised Multi Carrier Shipping
Once rates & services are negotiated with the right carriers for automation benefits it’s best to implement a seamless end-to-end distribution process via a centralised system. Our ecommerce TMS not only provides integration with your online marketplaces & stores it also integrates with both local freight carriers here in Australia and with international shipping carriers; providing that seamless automation that will help bring about the success of your launch into new international markets.
Choices for selecting the carrier and service that is cheapest or fastest is also available to assist you with providing a competitive offer to the new market. This can be provided in real time to the customer at checkout too, (along with margins to protect your profit margins).
A system that also estimates taxes & duties at the recipient country is important to ensure that all relevant costs are factored in for those who are shipping directly to the recipient.
A system that also provides tracking for your deliveries; and an easy to manage returns process is important for local customers but even more crucial for international customers given the extra hurdles such as customs, further distances to overcome will keep your new customers happy and returning to shop for more.
International Shipping Documentation
To ease the barrier of entry further with this project for entering new overseas markets, our TMS provides the ability to upload customs documents electronically. We also provide, and auto generate a number of other customs forms for more specific shipments like FDA and FCC forms, NAFTA, Certificates of Origin, etc.
Further simplification can be provided for the system user through the ability to save a template with weight, package type, and all customs information. The user then just needs to select the saved template and the recipient.
As you can see, there’s quite a few steps involved in with international shipping, but it still remains true that it has never been easier to implement a plan to penetrate new overseas markets and indeed, most customers nowadays expect you to take this step. The benefits of opening yourself to larger markets than our relatively small population of 25 million people cannot be over-emphasised. Once you’ve got your local business up and running it’s logical to look to scale your business through relevant overseas markets.
If you’d like to learn more about how our freight management solutions can assist you getting started with international shipping of your products, please contact us to arrange a consultation.