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Cheap international shipping: To grow your e-commerce business internationally, you need to control costs. Discover 12 actionable tips for cheaper international shipping.

Expanding your e-commerce business’ reach to international customers is a sure-fire way to grow your store. But international shipping can be costly. How can you save on international shipping costs and avoid expensive mistakes? We’re here to show you. In this guide, we’ll cover: 

Whether you’re looking for cheap shipping to China or cheap shipping from the UK to the USA, read on to learn how to support your business’ growth with efficient and cheap international shipping. 

Cheap international shipping – choosing the right shipping method

New to e-commerce? Here’s a low-down of the international shipping methods available to you and advice on what to consider when evaluating both methods and couriers: 

International Couriers

International courier services collect from your home or workplace and deliver to your customer’s door. Well-regarded international couriers include Parcelforce, DHL, Parcel 2 Go, ParcelHero, DPD, and UPS. Beyond convenience, international couriers typically offer fast and cost-efficient international delivery. 

International Container Shipping

Container shipping is an ideal choice if you have a high volume of items to post to a single destination or you’re shipping large items. However, shipping containers are typically limited in space — you can choose from 20ft or 40ft. The cost of shipping also depends on the location you’re shipping to — the longer the journey and the more popular the destination, the higher the cost. 

International Air Freight

Transporting your items via International Air Freight is the fastest way to ship — taking 1 to 3 days on average. This super-fast delivery also makes it a more expensive option than shipping via container. Curious about costs? Reach out to two or three providers to compare quotes. 

Cheap international parcel delivery: how to choose your shipping method

How do you choose the right international shipping method for you? Here’s what to weigh up: 

  • Your budget
  • Your international shipping destinations 
  • How quickly you need to deliver
  • The size and weight of the items you’re sending
  • The value of your items
  • Insurance requirements 

Why is international shipping more expensive?

Why is cheap international shipping so hard to come by? Here are some of the biggest reasons it’s so expensive to ship internationally: 

  1. Packages delivered outside of the U.K. typically incur customs duties. Customs duties are additional costs that you’re legally required to pay before your package can be delivered to your customer. Countries typically implement them as a source of additional revenue and to protect local businesses from international competition.
  2. International deliveries often require extensive work for the shipper. From delivering the parcel to the local depot to moving the parcel through customs inspections after it has been shipped across the world. 
  3. Your provider doesn’t offer affordable prices. 

Top tip! Make sure you’re not paying unnecessary duties on your international shipping. Check out our guide to the rules of origin.

How to get cheap international shipping 

1: Choose the right supplier 

When keeping shipping costs down, the first thing you need to consider is whether or not you’ve chosen the best supplier for you. Grab a pen and take note — here’s how to find the best, most affordable supplier for your shipping needs: 

Insurance coverage 

Are you covered if your packages get lost or damaged during the shipping process?

Double check to see if the shipping company you’re interested in provides insurance from a reputable insurance company and offers the coverage you need. Consider:

  • Which packages are automatically covered by insurance 
  • Which need additional coverage
  • Whether the shipping company can provide the correct coverage for each package you need to ship.

Research, research, research 

Never jump into a relationship with a provider without doing your research. Online reviews and testimonials, as well as shipping provider guides can help ensure you make an informed choice.  

Consider additional caveats 

Always double to check to see if there are any additional caveats. Do you have to pay more for parcels over a certain weight? Do you need to ensure you offer additional packaging for a particular item? Be sure to calculate all the costs involved in shipping your items with your chosen provider. 

2: Know your international shipping restrictions

International shipping is subject to ever-fluctuating rules and restrictions. As such, it’s key to keep aware of any changes — both on the part of your shipping provider and in relation to international shipping rules. 

This is especially relevant following Brexit, which took place on the 1st of January 2021. Following the UK’s move away from the EU, all international shipments must now include a CN22 or CN23 customs declaration form and you may have to pay for additional customs and import VAT charges — depending on the country you’re shipping to. To ship directly to customers, you must also register for EU VAT. 

Did you know that your VAT charges may have changed since July 1st? Find out about the new EU VAT rules for e-commerce retailers.

In addition, if you’re shipping from the UK to the EU then you will need an Economic Operator’s Registration and Identification or an EORI number. This is a personal ID that registers and tracks customs information in the EU. 

Need more advice on navigating the changes to shipping between the UK and the EU? Check out our free guide to shipping to Europe after Brexit. 

3: Don’t make mistakes with your paperwork 

Paperwork mistakes can lead to fines or parcel delays — racking up more expenses for your e-commerce business. Make sure you understand how to fill in your paperwork for the parcel in question and the destination you’re shipping to. 

Whether you’re shipping to the EU or further afield, you must always include a commercial invoice. You must include details on the recipient’s address, the item’s value, the country of origin, and your own address. You may also be required to include your product’s HS code

How to ship internationally for cheap: additional ways to save 

1: Choose your international shipping partner carefully

Cheaper isn’t always better. Less reputable shipping companies may cut corners, leading to more expense in the long run. As such, it’s important to research your provider carefully and ensure the right quality controls are in place.

Here’s what to look out for in an international shipping partner:

  1. Price of shipping + all additional costs (always read the small print!) 
  2. The quality of service 
  3. The speed of service 
  4. The level of customer service provided (particularly important if you’ve just started shipping internationally and need additional guidance)
  5. The level of insurance coverage available 
  6. Whether or not they have measures and processes in place to deal with new Brexit-related regulations and limitations 

2: Schedule ahead

A well-scheduled shipping process can save you both time and money. Take the time to reflect on your product lines and see how fast you need to ship each item. Sea freight is far more cost-effective than air freight. If you have items that you don’t need to ship as quickly, sea freight can be a great option. 

3: Weigh-up your shipping costs 

Unsure of exactly how much you need to budget for your shipping? It’s important to calculate all of your shipping costs accurately, including: 

  • Cost of international shipping 
  • Cost to ship the product 
  • Packaging costs 
  • Duties and taxes
  • Handling charges 
  • Your profit margin 
  • The total cost

4: Ship with multiple international shipping companies

Want to ship internationally for cheap? Save money by using multiple carriers. For example, some carriers offer better pricing on larger packages, while some offer more competitive rates for shipments to particular countries. However, consider that the more carriers you use, the more complicated it can become to organize your shipping — think carefully before adding another courier to the mix. 

5: Reduce packaging 

Larger packages increase your shipping costs — as you’ll pay more to post a larger package. To reduce the amount of money you spend on shipping, be sure to carefully measure an item before you buy packaging to ensure you don’t end up with more packaging than you actually need.

Making sure you only buy the packaging you need also helps increase your green credentials among your customers. Trivium Packaging even found that 74% of consumers are happy to pay more for sustainable packaging. Reduced packaging and eco-friendly packaging materials will go a long way in boosting your customer satisfaction rates – so always state the fact on your website and marketing materials.

6: Package and address your packages correctly for cheap international shipping

The right packaging can protect your products from damage in transit — helping to protect you from expensive returns. Here’s how to package and address your products correctly when shipping internationally:

  • Choose the right packaging for your product — many items have specifically designed packaging specifically created to protect a product throughout the shipping process. For example, mug boxes can help keep the fragile outer handle safe from breakage. 
  • Cushion your item with packing materials like bubble wrap. 
  • Label boxes correctly, such as: “this way up” or “fragile”. 
  • Address the package in accordance with the rules of the country you’re shipping to. 
  • Clearly address packages in English and state the destination country in capital letters for greater readability. 

7: Use electronic trade documentation

Electronic trade documentation (ETD) enables you to submit your customs documentation electronically — saving you on paper and printing costs. ETD can also help reduce shipping delays and can speed up delivery. 

8: Go for Final-mile delivery services

Final-mile (also known as Last-mile) delivery refers to the final stage in the parcel’s journey; the carrier delivers the package to the recipient’s local post office, where a local carrier undertakes the final stage of delivery. Final-mile delivery reduces residential surcharges saving you money on shipping costs. 

9: Consider Ex Works (EXW) international shipping

Many e-commerce store owners aren’t yet aware of Ex Works — here’s everything you need to know.

What is Ex Works (EXW)?

Ex Works, or EXW is an Incoterm (International Commercial Terms) is one avenue for cheaper, stress-free shipping. EXW hand over shipping payments and arrangements to the buyer. EXW benefits buyers by giving them full transparency on the costs of the shipping. All you need to take care of? The documentation for the export processes. 

Curious to know more? Check out the benefits and drawbacks of EXW below. 

The benefits of EXW:

  • The customer has total control over shipping — getting to choose how much they spend on delivery and how long they’ll wait for their package. 
  • The customer understands all the costs of shipping upfront and avoids unwelcome surprise fees.  
  • Your customer can benefit from their local knowledge of import customs and clear customs charges without any trouble. 

The drawbacks of EXW:

  • EXW can lead to issues at customs in the country of origin. Your customs may wind up with additional costs if the correct paperwork is not filled out. In addition, they may also be hit with hefty customs charges. To avoid any issues, a reputable retailer will fill out and provide the right paperwork, including information on their export license.
  • Customers may be reluctant to take on the responsibility for shipping and customs — and the additional costs that can go with them (such as customs charges). 

10: Opt for Free On Board (FOB) international shipping

Free On Board (FOB) is typically only available for sea freight and puts the responsibility for getting the package safely onboard in the hands of the seller. However, the responsibility for successful delivery is more evenly divided between the merchant and the buyer. 

FOB can be a good choice for consumers looking for greater control over the shipping process, but who don’t yet have the confidence or experience to opt for EXW.

Pros of FOB 

  • In comparison to EXW, FOB can mean lower costs for customers. Typically, a  merchant can deliver items to the port and clear custom charges for a lower fee than a freight forwarder. 
  • Similarly to EXW, your customer gets transparency on shipping costs at every stage of the process.

Cons of FOB 

  • Customers take responsibility for the shipping risks after their item is onboard — this can cause extra headaches for inexperienced customers. 
  • Unit prices can cost more, but this doesn’t necessarily transfer into higher overall costs.
  • Customers may think that an item is more expensive — putting them off buying from your store. To tackle this, provide a clear breakdown of costs on your website. 

11: Choose the best international shipping technology

Shipping technology can make your shipping processes more cost-efficient. The right tools can automate your processes, print your labels, better organize customer data, manage data from a range of international shipping providers, and automatically calculate your shipping — among other benefits. 

12: Pick your insurance carefully 

You should always make sure you cover international shipments with the right insurance. International deliveries are frequently subject to damages or losses. To ensure you pick the right provider, take the time to carefully review the options available to you — cross-check your choices against online reviews with stores that sell similar items to you. 

At Sendcloud, we provide affordable insurance that can cover you for any amount and is easy to arrange. Curious to learn more? Please get in touch.

How to choose a cheap international shipping company

With so many options on the market, it can be hard to decide on the right international shipping company for you. It’s important to carefully research the options available — considering long-standing players and newer providers.  

These are some questions you can ask to help you narrow down your options:

  1. Do they offer the services you need? 
  2. What are the weight or size restrictions?
  3. What are the added costs?
  4. What do they charge for different kinds of shipping? 
  5. Will you keep costs down by using multiple carriers? 
  6. Do they offer tracking?
  7. Do they have good reviews?
  8. Do you need goods that are subject to restrictions?
  9. Is their customer service well reviewed?
  10. Can you ship the majority of your items with a single freight shipping company? If so, they may be able to offer a discount. 
  11. Do they provide international shipping tools to help streamline your processes?
  12. Do they offer a flexible service? Can you ship via air and sea?

How to find a cheap international courier

How affordable an international shipping company depends on the services you require. As above, here are the questions you should ask when reviewing shipping providers:

  1. What are the sizes and weight of your items?
  2. Which countries are you shipping to?
  3. How fast do you need delivery to be?
  4. What are the potential customs restrictions you need to think about?
  5. Do you need packaging materials?
  6. Do you need priority mail?

Take a look at case studies and online reviews to get a full picture of how cheap a shipping company is (i.e look out for any hidden costs!). Take note of companies that ship similar products to similar locations. In addition, don’t forget that you can save by using multiple carriers. 

Understand the key international shipping terms (Incoterms)

The international shipping industry uses specific terms and acronyms that are important to know. Dubbed Incoterms or International Commercial Terms, these three-letter terms are developed by the International Chamber of Commerce. To help you understand these terms, we created a complete guide to incoterms.

How to get cheap international shipping

Whether you’re looking for cheap international shipping from the UK to Australia or cheap international shipping from the UK to the USA, it can be difficult to find affordable international shipping. From choosing the right shipping company to avoiding additional tax and customs charges, the costs of international shipping can soon rack up. 

Taking the time to carefully review the shipping methods and companies available to you and familiarising yourself with international shipping rules and regulations can go a long way in helping you save costs.  

At Sendcloud, we partner with e-commerce stores to help them find the best and the cheapest international shipping company for their unique needs. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, feel free to reach out to a member of our team or create an account with Sendcloud today! 

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