Domestic product fulfillment can be a breeze if your company has the time and staff to manage the process, and of course thanks to the great fulfillment networks that businesses have readily available to them, including UPS, DHL and FedEx.
But that simplicity can be why too many businesses assume that going global will be just as simple. Unfortunately, international fulfillment is another beast entirely — and without the help of an experienced fulfillment house, you may lose customers in emerging markets before they even receive their first shipment.
There are several stumbling blocks that keep international fulfillment from being the simple process that domestic fulfillment is, including:
Erratic distribution chains. Although UPS, FedEx and DHL are universal members of the supply chain in the United States, these companies may have little to no presence in your target country, or any of the countries along the way. Depending on which internal markets you have in mind, your packages may have to change hands several times before they reach your customer, making management difficult and delivery times unpredictable.
VAT, customs and other country-to-country regulations. Unless you do a lot of international shipping, you’re probably unaware that sending products into foreign nations may require additional value added taxes, or at very least, clearance through customs each time they’re handed off in a new country. The forms and regulations governing these transactions vary widely from country to country, so you must know both the route your package will take and the paperwork it’ll need to get there.
Slow delivery times. The last mile can be the biggest hurdle of them all. Slow deliveries can certainly discourage customers from ordering your products in the future, but if your shipment requires a signature, collecting a package can become an ordeal. Many countries lack the saturation of distribution warehouses that the U.S. enjoys. Instead of running across town to collect the package they missed because they were at work, your customers may have to drive significant distances just to collect your shipment. You can be certain that customer will never order from you again.
Who can help with international fulfillment? Hiring a company that provides global fulfillment services eliminates many of these headaches. These fulfillment houses already have networks in place to ensure your customers are getting the lowest cost and fastest shipping the world has to offer. Even in those situations where packages must trade hands repeatedly, electronic tracking and document processing will keep them moving along smoothly.
Global fulfillment services. When your company captures enough of a foreign market, your global fulfillment company will arrange for your products to be stored locally to speed up product distribution. Products that are shipped locally to your new customer base eliminate the extra fees and long wait times that may be keeping many customers from purchasing your merchandise. By adding a global fulfillment company to your team of professionals, entering or expanding in a new market will be more of a seamless process.
International fulfillment is a complicated process, but that doesn’t mean your small business should be limited to domestic customers. Teaming up with an experienced international fulfillment service will open up the world for you and your products.