Taking the mystery out of international shipping for e-commerce (Part 1)

Posted on Aug. 18, 2015 by Canada Post in Shipping Solutions

Author: Sonia Langenberg
Sonia Langenberg helps Canadian businesses large and small expand into the global market as a Product Manager for International Shipping at Canada Post.
(The 1st of a 2 part article)

Today, even the smallest e-commerce retailer can sell global. But many, especially small and medium businesses (SMB), shy away from selling beyond their own borders, perhaps due to logistical concerns such as shipping. Sending your goods need not be a barrier to expanding outside of Canada. Help to build satisfied international customers and higher profits with these 5 steps:

Step 1. Check to see if your items can be exported to the destination country and if any transport regulations apply.

Step 2. Choose the right shipping service based on the value of what you sell and the speed and cost of the shipping service.

Step 3. Consider your customers’ convenience; what kind of delivery network and pick-up locations does your shipper have in the destination country?

Step 4. Complete customs documentation fully and accurately to avoid delays in the destination country.

Step 5. Consider customer service; choose a carrier who can help you solve the mysteries of international shipping (in case of a delay during your packages’ journey).

Note: Steps 1 and 4 are where you’ll find the most differences between shipping within and outside Canada.


Step 1. What can you sell and export to the destination country?

Your product might not seem dangerous or hazardous – you might even consider them day-to-day necessities. But the rules and regulations on the type of goods you can import into a certain country, and what can be transported by air, might surprise you. Perfume, for example, is subject to transport regulations because it usually contains alcohol.

Every country has its own rules and definitions of dangerous and prohibited goods – the nation of Andorra restricts baby comforters and toys, while the UK prohibits horror comics. Before you export an item outside of Canada, check the import rules of your shipment’s destination country and the transportation policies that apply to your product. You can find detailed information at:

Step 2. Choosing the right service

There are many options when it comes to picking a shipper. Most carriers price their services based on weight, dimensions, delivery speed, destination and options like signature collection and liability coverage. Choosing the right service helps you keep costs down and meet your customers’ expectations. Here are a few points to consider:

What are you selling?
Is it high-value with a high replacement cost? In that case, you may prefer a service with full visibility (tracking, recipient signature, etc.) from start to finish. It may be worth it to splurge on extra shipping services and security for a high-value item. But there is a point at which the cost for the bells and whistles of a particular shipping service become too high for the value of the goods being shipped.

If you sell inexpensive goods, you will probably choose low-cost shipping services that don’t include extra features like tracking, liability coverage and signature.

How fast do your customers expect it to arrive?
Some customers prefer speedy delivery and are willing to pay extra for it. But most prefer reduced shipping costs and a longer delivery time. If free shipping is offered, research shows that 87% of shoppers are willing to wait 7 days or more for their international shipments.

Choosing the right service depends on balancing all these points. If your customer orders a $150 item, how much will they pay for shipping? If you offer free shipping, what can you afford – and still remain profitable? Are you willing to spend $100 for a full-feature service that reaches the other side of the world in 2 days? Or does a $35 service that delivers your package in 5 days and still provides tracking work?

For a low-cost item like a $30 shirt, will a basic shipping service do? One that provides tracking and limited liability coverage and tracking, but doesn’t collect the recipient’s signature?

Step 3. Giving your customers the most convenient options

Your global customers may want the same convenience that your Canadian customers enjoy, like picking up packages from a handy post office near their home, office or cottage. In some parts of the world, delivery to a PO Box is the main way to reach your customer.

One way to broaden your international shipping ability is to make sure that the carrier you choose has access to a vast, convenient delivery network.

Keep reading for Step 4 (Customs) and Step 5 (Customer service).



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