As a merchant, you want to make as much money as you can, usually by selling to as many people as possible. In the old days of brick-and-mortar stores, your customer base was limited by the number of people who walked by or drove past your door. Once you maxed out the footfall, the business hit a ceiling. If you wanted more money, you would have to open a store in a second location.
But e-commerce has changed that. Now anybody with an internet connection is a potential customer regardless of where in the world they are. But selling and delivering are two very different things. When it comes to shipping, the limits of the physical world strike again.
Beware of divergent laws, shipping costs, and tariffs
In a place like the EU, borders don’t mean much as long as you are inside the EU yourself. But in other regions of the world, borders can seriously impact your business. You have to worry about customs duties, international shipping fees, local sales taxes, and even the length of time it takes a nation’s border agents to clear your goods.
For this reason, free international shipping becomes a nonstarter. The extra cost of customs and taxes is also borne by the buyer. This makes your products too expensive for buyers in some countries to even bother with unless they can’t find them anywhere else.
Divergent laws also strike again with product-specific regulations. Guns, for example, are fairly common in the United States. But they are either completely banned in other countries or so heavily regulated that selling guns or gun accessories just isn’t worth the bother. Pharmaceuticals are another example of products whose regulation varies from country to country.
Beware of return fraud
You probably deal with return fraud in your operations already. This doesn’t stop just because you’re crossing borders. If anything, some countries like India have very high rates of return fraud. Increased return fraud plus the cost of international shipping, high customs duties, and the challenges of dealing with complex foreign bureaucracies are probably going to make certain markets unattractive.
Tell your customers whether you ship to their country early on
After analyzing the legal and financial implications of shipping to a certain international market, you may decide that it’s just not worth the bother, especially if the volume is low. If that is your conclusion, you need to clearly tell your customers that you do not ship to their country.
You can easily do this by checking the IP address. If there is an address from a nation you don’t serve, have some text on the product page letting the customer know that you don’t ship to their country. Don’t wait until checkout. It’s frustrating.
Clearly inform customers that they will need to shoulder the cost of import duties
If you ship to a specific international market, let the customer know on the product page how much the product is going to cost them in total, including customs duties, local sales taxes, and international shipping. Don’t spring this information on the customer at checkout. People don’t like additional costs they didn’t anticipate.