Investing in an international shipping strategy is essential for any company hoping to expand operations overseas and reach new markets in 2024. The growing world of ecommerce and increasing globalization have opened the door for businesses of all sizes to unlock new sources of revenue.
Unfortunately, international shipping can be challenging. The majority of businesses face a number of challenges when shipping across borders, from navigating customs to tracking orders while in transit. The key to ensuring you can protect your business, reputation, and profits as you grow into a global brand is implementing the right shipping strategy.
Here are some of our top tips for optimizing your international shipping methods in 2024 and beyond.
1. Expand Your Knowledge
Knowledge is power, particularly in the business world. While you might be well-informed about the intricacies of domestic shipping, international shipping is an entirely different field, with new terms to understand. Before you dive in, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the landscape and the terminology used.
Read up on the most common documentation used for international shipments, and make sure you know the differences between each option. For instance, do you know the key differences between a bill of lading vs packing slip, and which best suits your needs? Are you aware of all the information that needs to be included in your documents, to avoid delays in shipment processing? The more information you have, the less confusing and complex the process will be down the line.
2. Master Customs Regulations
After you’ve learnt more about the terms used in the international shipping landscape, it’s worth thinking about the unique challenges you’ll face when shipping products to each particular new region. Every country and territory has specific rules about the types of products you can import and export, the duties you’ll need to pay, and the documentation you should provide.
Working with the right partners can help here, as many freight forwarders and third-party logistics companies assist with customs navigation. However, it’s also worth reading up on the types of customs rules you’ll need to adapt to in different areas. Companies like DHL offer excellent guides for beginners in international shipping.
3. Explore Your Shipping Methods
Around 80% of goods transported worldwide are shipped using ocean freight. However, there are multiple options for transporting your goods, from land and air freight, to multimodal options. The right solution for you will depend on your needs regarding costs, transit times, and cargo.
For instance, air freight offers exceptional speed, while sea freight is generally more cost-effective for bulk shipments. You may also need to consider the differences between FCL (Full Container Load) and LCL (Less than Container Load) depending on how much inventory you need to transport.
4. Leverage the Right Technology
The right technology can help to optimize various business processes in today’s world. Inventory management software, for instance, is useful for tracking stock levels, monitoring patterns of demand, and optimizing replenishment cycles. You can use this software to streamline order processing, minimize the risk of stockouts, and improve overall supply chain efficiency.
There are even intelligent tools that can help you predict and forecast demand in advance, and come up with more effective ways to distribute products overseas. Plus, these tools will give you excellent reporting features you can use to keep track of your business operations.
5. Find a Reliable Freight Forwarder
The right partners are essential to optimizing your international shipping strategy, reducing costs, and ensuring efficiency, and freight forwarders are some of the most valuable partners you can work with. They help to connect you with third-party shipping companies, offering access to cheaper rates, and even support you with documentation and customs clearance.
For many businesses, choosing to work with a digital freight forwarder will be advantageous. These companies offer access to online platforms where you can instantly find real-time shipping rates, book shipments, and track orders, with fewer slow manual processes.
6. Optimize Packaging and Labeling
Just as it’s important to have the right documentation for smooth shipping, it’s also crucial to ensure that your products are packaged and labeled correctly, according to regulatory guidelines. Investing in high-quality packaging and accurate labeling will help to protect your goods from damage and preserve your business reputation.
Think carefully about the specific needs of your products. For instance, certain things might need to be stored in containers with temperature management features. Make sure your teams have standard operating procedures to follow when packaging and labeling each shipment.
7. Ensure Comprehensive Visibility
Supply chain visibility is a key element of optimizing your international shipping strategy. The more insight you have into your inventory, processes, and products, the easier it is to mitigate risks and prepare for potential problems.
Leverage advanced tracking technologies offered by your freight forwarder or other partners to ensure you can track the progress of shipments in real-time. You can also leverage barcode scanning, RFID technology, and GPS tracking systems to monitor the movement of inventory through warehouses.
8. Invest in the Right Insurance
Finally, even if you’re extremely cautious about protecting your goods and shipments while they are on the move, issues can still happen. Supply chains are exposed to a huge variety of risks, most of which are impossible for business leaders to control. However, you can defend your products by investing in the right insurance.
Comprehensive insurance coverage will protect your company from the side effects of problems like accidents, theft, and natural disasters. Your partners in the supply chain landscape may be able to offer advice on which level of coverage you need, and which partners you should consider working with. However, make sure you do your own due diligence.
Enhancing International Shipping
Investing in international shipping is essential if you want to ensure you can serve a broader audience of global customers. However, there are many unique challenges to overcome when you begin expanding across new borders and geographies. Making sure you have the right plan in place for your shipping strategy is crucial.
With the steps above, you’ll be able to reduce the risks to your business and products, minimize unnecessary costs, and improve your reputation with your target audience.