According to the Internet, one reindeer costs up to $6,000. And there’s no volume discount for a team of eight.
They don’t even come with a guarantee they can fly. But don’t despair; there are lots of tips here to get your packages mailed around the world, during the holidays and all year long.
For Canadians wanting to start or grow an online business, there’s never been a more opportune time. According to a 2014 report by eMarketer, global business-to-consumer ecommerce sales were expected to hit $1.5T in 2014 and top $2.36T in 2017, a growth rate of 89 per cent. And while ecommerce in North America and Western Europe is forecast to grow at an impressive 53 and 43 per cent respectively, growth in emerging markets is expected to boom, with Asia Pacific ecommerce leading the pack at 174 per cent. Moreover, an increasing percentage of disposable income is being spent online, ranging from France at 19 per cent to India at 33 per cent.
There’s a lot to consider for growing a successful online business, but one thing ecommerce entrepreneurs may overlook is how simple shipping tricks can help their profit margins. For example, if you’re selling maps or posters, it’s often cheaper to ship the items using triangular-shaped packages, because some shipping services levy a surcharge for cylindrical packages, which need special handling.
Make your online business ship-shape with these 5 tips
Dennis Jarvis, General Manager of International Product Management at Canada Post, says there are five things to consider when shipping your products outside of Canada.
1. Consider whether mail is the best distribution method for your products. “Before you begin, consider the logistics of what you’re selling and whether it’s allowable to mail it internationally,” Jarvis says. “There are a lot of rules and regulations about what can be transported and what various countries will not accept.”
For example, that junior chemistry set, toy replicas of munitions and perfume are subject to regulations and restrictions, and may be prohibited in certain countries. If you’re selling gift baskets, items such as perishable foods have certain requirements, and the Plant Protection Act and the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species regulate the movement of certain plants, seeds, fruits, bark, and soil. Check whether your products are deemed Dangerous Goods, and check the International Destination Listing to see if your intended market can accept them.
2. Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine your best shipping solutions.
Consider speed, cost, and the value of goods you’re selling. “Many online sellers find there’s a strong correlation between the cost of shipping and the whether a sale will be completed,” says Jarvis. “If you don’t offer a choice of lower-priced shipping services, you may not be driving as much volume as you could.”
The value of the product is also a determining factor. “If your customer is buying a $10 item, they don’t usually want to spend $20 on shipping,” says Sonia Langenberg, Manager, Product Development at Canada Post. “Ten years ago, our highest growing services were courier services, but with ecommerce, we’re seeing much higher growth in lower-priced, ground parcel services.” When pricing your products, remember to include the cost of packaging materials.
3. Think inside the box; optimize your packaging.
Being aware of the optimum type, size and weight of packaging and cushioning materials for your items can help you increase your profit margin. First, properly packaging and addressing your product can help prevent damage, loss, delays, returns and unhappy customers.
Secondly, shipping price depends on size as well as weight—the cost for shipping large but lightweight items is adjusted to adequately cover the cost of transportation. Ensuring packaging is an optimal fit can therefore save costs. Follow these steps to weigh and measure your package and estimate the costs to ship your parcel through Canada Post (other shippers’ costs may vary).
Remember too that nearly all shipping companies offer volume discounts. “Even if you’re shipping a few hundred items a year, it could be more cost-efficient to sign a contract,” says Jarvis. “If you’re a small business, you can even save up to eight percent by joining Canada Post’s small business program, with no contract required.”
4. Fill out customs documentation accurately, completely and legibly
By ensuring you properly fulfill any requirements for documentation and customs clearance, you can help avoid delays at the border and ensure your customer gets their order promptly. For convenience, some shippers embed the customs and declaration form into the shipping label.
5. Remember customer service. The inability to examine products is still a deterrent for some online shoppers, but there are ways to help them overcome their hesitation. Jarvis advises making product descriptions, specifications and photos as detailed as possible. “Manage their expectations upfront, and they’ll be less likely to return it.”
Jarvis says postal administrations around the world are currently working on a standardized system to make it easy for online retailers to offer a convenient return policy, such as including a label which would allow them to ship the product back to Canada.