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Testing the International Shipping Waters

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Testing the International Shipping Waters


Are you ready to open up your customer base and ship to other countries? This article is designed to get you off the ground and provide you with basic tips and options for your consideration.

For starters, don’t just assume offering a flat rate will be appropriate for all cases or that offering free shipping will fly. Well, it really all depends. Start by determining what your average shipping costs would be for foreign (specific countries) and domestic. Once you have that number, you know you will never ship below that price. Flat rates can actually work, but only if you have products with similar size, weight and packaging.

Although Free Shipping and Free Returns is an enticing incentive to offer customers, it may not be cost effective for international shipping, unless perhaps a high shipping threshold is placed. With international shipping, customs and taxes can seem complicated, but there are great sources of information to read through like PayPal Passport.


If you are reading this blog from one of the 50 US states, we have good news for you. There is no longer a flat international shipping rate for sending packages to your fellow North American neighbors in Canada. As of May 2015, USPS now has zone based pricing. For more information see the chart below for details (click to enlarge):

International Shipping



Shipping only a few items?

If you find that you are only shipping a few items, USPS Priority Mail International may be the way to go.

Shipping many items?

Check out warehouse shipping, and what regional Fulfillment by Amazon has to say.

How do you factor in taxes and fees?

First determine who will be paying these. Its either going to be you or the customer. Much like other shipping fees, international fees are assumed and can be built into the price or consumed by the company. Offering free shipping over a certain order amount can be an added bonus to entice shoppers in a new market.

As far as the international climate on the whole, every country has their own fluctuating and specific custom fees and taxes, so make sure to do your research.

Should I offer flat rates or live rates?

Flat Rate shipping is good if you have bulk or international orders and the packages are the same size, height and weight. However, if you have packages that vary in size, height and weight you will want to calculate each package.

For Volusion you can set up live rates. However these have gotten more complicated for international flat rates. Since each individual country is different it may not useful unless you are focusing on two to three countries.

Who is your target international eCommerce shopper?

What is the preferred method of payment in the country you are looking to ship to? What are their buying habits or other shipping rules? Hint, hint check a competitor website! There is no need to reinvent the wheel but rather work smart and find useful information that’s already out there.


The best practice, like anything, is to do your research. First calculate the price per package based on product and country. Then pick a country or two and start small. Market to their specific needs. Overall, you should assume that international shipping will require some testing before you figure out the most effective way to ship to your international customers.


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