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  • International shipping policies: Everything you need to know

International shipping policies: Everything you need to know

By Britney Wells

Cross Border, Duties and Taxes, Global Trade Compliance, Industry, Shipping,

Zonos graphic that illustrates "International shipping policies: Importance and components" over a map of the world.

8 April 2022 / 0 min read

It is important to understand international shipping policies if you have a business that sells and ships goods to foreign countries. Taking that one step further, it’s important to be transparent with your international shoppers so that they know what to expect when purchasing goods from you. Transparency is key to a positive cross-border shopping experience, and one of the best ways to provide it for your shoppers is by displaying your international shipping policy on your website.

This blog will explain the following:

  • Why should I have an international shipping policy?
  • What should I include in an international shipping policy?
  • Does Zonos help with international shipping policies?

Why do I need an international shipping policy?

International shipping policies have several purposes, including the following:

  • Managing your foreign customers’ expectations regarding the particularities of cross-border shipping
  • Providing transparency to shoppers about the process, time, and fees involved in cross-border shipping
  • Being proactive against possible shipping mishaps
  • Having a quick resource to send to shoppers to avoid spending unnecessary time answering questions about matters discussed in the policy

To truly understand the importance of an international shipping policy, it helps to think of it from common, real-life perspectives. Picture these scenarios:

Scenario #1

A customer from India recently made a purchase on your website and is unhappy with how long the order is taking to reach her home. She is complaining that it has been six days since she ordered her items and she thinks the package is lost. If you have outlined your shipping options with estimated shipping times in your international shipping policy, your shoppers can use it to determine how long they should wait before worrying about a package being lost or requesting a refund because of a late shipment.

Scenario #2

A shopper in Germany orders a product from your store that they needed by a particular date and the shipment arrives late. The customer, who already prepaid duty and tax, rejects the parcel and requests a refund because they no longer want the item. You then process the request and refund the cost of the item. Your customer says that the duty and tax they paid should be refunded to them as well. If you include in your shipping policy that duty and tax are non-refundable in certain or all circumstances, you are not liable to reimburse your customer for duties and taxes on a package where you will lose the money paid for the order, e.g. a lost or rejected package.

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What should I include in an international shipping policy?

Though shipping policies can look different from one business to another, here are some necessary elements of a thorough international shipping policy:

  • Available delivery locations – Providing shoppers with a list of countries and locations you allow orders to be sent is crucial for a smooth international shopping experience. It would be inconvenient for a customer to go through your website meticulously adding items to their cart to later find out that your business does not accept orders from their country.
  • International shipping options – Describe all of the shipping options and service levels you offer in addition to any restrictions that vary by location, e.g. Express shipping (not available to China).
    • Estimated delivery timeframe for each shipping option – Showing customers the minimum and maximum amount of days a package will take to ship to them helps to manage expectations and prevent premature “lost package” complaints.
    • International shipping costs It is important to be transparent about the cost of each shipping method you offer and how the cost is determined. For example, if the shipping cost is a weight-based calculation, or if you offer free shipping for orders over a certain monetary amount, make this clear to your shoppers.
  • Duty, tax, and fee warningMany international shoppers are not aware that their package will incur duties, taxes, and fees once it crosses the border, so it is helpful to mention this in the shipping policy. Additionally, if you do not ship with duties, taxes, and fees prepaid, you should alert shoppers of this.
    • Duty, tax, and fee refund policy – It is crucial to disclose whether or not duties, taxes, and other cross-border fees are refundable.
  • Shipping refund policy – To avoid conflict, you should state whether or not you refund shipping costs for return orders.
  • Handling timeframe The handling timeframe is the period between when an order is placed and when it gets shipped. Because international shipping takes longer than domestic, having an estimated package handling time is beneficial so that international shoppers are not counting the estimated delivery days from the time of purchase.
  • Order date cut-offs – Another part of managing shoppers’ expectations is making it clear if orders must be placed before a specific time to be counted as placed during that business day. This is especially helpful for those shoppers who do the math to estimate when their shipment will arrive.

⚠️ Your international shipping policy should be separate from your domestic shipping policbecause shipping options, delivery times, etc. differ between domestic and cross-border shipments.

ℹ️  In addition to a solid international shipping policy, it is important to be transparent with your shoppers and make it clear that your business ships to their country as soon as they get to your website. Zonos Hello greets customers in their language on your website. The greeting includes pertinent information about duty, tax, and de minimis values in the shopper’s currency, along with notifying them that you accept orders from their country.

To recap…

There’s no question about it. You always need an international shipping policy if you are sending orders across borders. It is a proactive solution to possible shipping mishaps, a way of providing transparency to your customers and managing their expectations, and a helpful resource to direct shoppers and avoid wasting time with repetitive international shipping policy questions.

Britney Wells
Britney Wells

A love of bringing words together to create clear, simple messages about complex topics has driven me to pursue a career in professional writing. As the Technical Writer at Zonos, I find excitement and purpose in decoding the complex details of cross-border ecommerce.