9 Things Dropshippers Need To Know About International Shipping

With Internet and technology advancements, doing business across the world has been made easier and faster than before. Now, you can do business anywhere in the world. You can manufacture products in China and ship the products to the Caribbean, and do it in the comfort of your home or office. Indeed, e-commerce has changed the way people do business.

international shipping

This also comes with developments and advancements in shipping. If you want to have an international business, you should be able to offer worldwide shipping. Shipping is part of dropshipping; although, they do not mean the same thing. Let’s discuss the concept of shipping and dropshipping. You can read our post on the 5 Benefits of Dropshipping.

Relation of Shipping and Dropshipping

Shipping basically means the act of transporting a package or item from one place to another. This term is not to be confused with the slang word “ship” which means that a person likes a certain movie, celebrity, couple, character, series or thing.

Dropshipping means that you partner with a wholesale supplier or manufacturer who will directly package and ship the products to your customers. Or, you can be the said wholesale supplier and be the one to ship the products to customers of your partner wholesale vendor.

As you can see, shipping is directly tied to dropshipping. It is an important factor to consider when choosing which dropshipping supplier to partner with. In this post, we will discuss the ins and outs of international shipping.

What You Need to Know about International Shipping and Dropshipping

1. Shipping Carrier

You must partner with a shipping carrier who will meet your specific shipping requirements. If you choose to dropship, you need to consider the coverage of the dropshipping supplier. Most especially if you offer worldwide shipping, you need to partner with a supplier who offers international shipping.

One of the known international shipping carriers is UPS. You can check out their website to know import regulations for international shipments of the destination country. You can also see tools and instructions for shipping across borders such as metric conversions, price list

These are the factors that you need to consider in choosing a shipping carrier:

  • Shipping options,
  • Rates,
  • Coverage,
  • Tracking or Mapping tools,
  • Delivery Timeframe,
  • Fees,
  • Package size,
  • Policies,

When you will offer dropshipping, you will be the one to ship the products directly to the customers of your partner wholesale buyers. You can opt to partner with an international shipping carrier to handle the shipments for you. Check out our post about what wholesale buyers expect from your dropshipping operations.

You can choose from different shipping carriers such as USPS, FedEx, UPS, Australia Post, UK Royal Mail, and Canada post. Choose a reliable and trustworthy shipping carrier that fits your shipping requirements and that you can do business with for the long haul.

2. Destination Country Regulations

Every country has their own regulations, clearances, and restrictions for packages coming from abroad. You need to be familiar with importation laws and regulations for every country that you will ship your products to.

TechinAsia wrote about AES filing requirements, “When you plan to export merchandise valued over US$2,500 to other countries — Canada excluded — watch out for the U.S. Foreign Trade Regulations (FTR). This requires you to file your export information electronically through the Automated Export System (AES).

The consequences of failing to file your information or filing them incorrectly could be catastrophic. One consequence could be the seizure of your shipment by the U.S Customs and Border Protection.”

3. Get an Insurance

Shipping carries a lot of risks. As you can imagine, cargoes containing the packages have to travel by land, sea, and air to get to their destination. Depending on the destination country, there will always be risk involved such as shipment delays and errors that are not controllable.

Thus, it would be wise to get an insurance so that losses can be covered. There are different insurance companies so you need to study and compare their policies, requirements, and coverage. Choose the best, most reliable insurance that offers a lot of coverage.

4. Shipping Rates

The shipping rates can vary depending on a lot of factors:

  • Shipping Carrier;
  • Size and Weight of the Package;
  • Country of Origin and Destination Country;
  • Custom Regulations.

To check the shipping rates, you can check out the shipping guide, services and features of these shipping companies:

5. Delivery Time

Depending on the destination country, shipping carrier, and customs regulations, delivery time will vary from country to country. You need to take into account the delivery time to get the package across to the shipping address of the customer. Give allowance in the delivery date so that you can provide proper expectations to the customer.

6. Electronic Invoice

International shipping requires you to have a sales invoice which is part of the documentation.

Shipping carriers also offer paperless or electronic invoice such as UPS Paperless Invoice and FedEx’s Electronic Trade Documents. This way you will be able to transmit the invoice to customs and obtain clearance from them.

Further, you can also print out an invoice and put it along with the package.

7. Customs Clearance

According to Icontainers, “In shipping, you must take into account customs at the destination of the cargo and at the origin of both imports and exports. The documentation requested with internationally transported goods is vital to prevent delays and additional charges from occurring.”
As explained by Allegro Freight, You need to deal with customs fees, which will be based on the value of the item you are shipping out and its destination.You also need to deal with taxes such as shipment fee, warehousing fee, and other additional charges. One company may also have different tariff computation depending on the scope of their services and locations.”

8. Tracking

There are a lot of international shipping carriers that offer tracking services for shipped goods. So you need to also consider that when choosing what carrier to partner with. Once you can track the shipments, you will know whether the parcel or package has arrived at the shipping address or not. You will also know if there are shipment delays and issues or if the shipment is being held at customs.

9. Packaging

Most consumers value the packaging and presentation of the products as much as the product itself. Aside from ensuring that products are neatly packaged, the packaging is also an important factor in shipping. Depending on the package size and weight, shipping rates will vary.

You can choose the materials for the packaging of your products to make them more presentable to customers. You can have your own creative packaging design that showcases your brand. Plus, opt for lightweight, protective materials to package your products so you can get cheaper shipping rates. You can also choose to have a creative label in the packaging to further delight your customers.

In an article by Shopify, “Most shipping couriers and shipping options are charged based on size and weight, you want to do your best to keep your packaging as small as possible. This will help you save not only on shipping costs incurred by you and your customer but to also keep packaging costs from eating away your profit margin. Depending on your business and your product line, you may want to consider carrying a few strategically selected sizes of packaging materials, like a small, medium and large size boxes.”

10. Terms and Conditions

You also need to be aware of the terms and conditions of the shipping carrier as well as the dropship supplier if you opt for dropshipping.

Make sure that you know their return policies and exchanges, payment methods, insurance, guarantees, to name some.

By knowing the ins and outs of international shipping, you will be better equipped when shipping your products to customers while maximizing your profit margins.


12 thoughts on “9 Things Dropshippers Need To Know About International Shipping

  1. Hello. I have an ecommerce business based in CT, USA. One of my vendors is from Holland and they have
    agreed to drop ship an order shipment to one of my customers in Washington State, USA. I am paying f
    the wholesale cost of the items and my customer is paying retail. I am incurring the cost of
    shipping on the order since I offer free shipping if the order is over a certain amount. The last time I ordered
    my wholesale items from this vendor, I was charged a separate UPS customs invoice.
    My question is: Will my US customer also be charged anything additional from the vendor either upon receipt or after the fact
    or afterward? I want to avoid that at all costs. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Carla,

      I’m based in Australia, so I’m probably not the best person to answer this. You might need to touch base with UPS themselves or customs to find out exactly what the situation is.

      Generally speaking though (and someone correct me if I’m wrong), usually the end customer doesn’t have to pay unless it’s held at customs.


  2. Josh, is there a way we can connect? I too am based in Australia, have just started a couple of online ‘stores’ that are sourcing product from O/S (think China) and am only posting/shipping to Australia, because I can’t get any clear information on tax implications for posting/shipping to other countries. My products are relatively low cost 10<$50. Are there any resources that you could point my way? TIA. Mark.

    1. Hi Mark, your accountant would be able to tell you more on this, but the source of truth for us Aussies on matters like this is always the ATO:


      The two things to be aware of when importing goood from overseas into Australia, then the subsequent sale of those goods to someone overseas would be:

      – Import duties (if the value of your goods exceeds $1k at the time of importing)
      – Tax on shipping to overseas (from what I understand the shipping on these are GST-free, but talk to your accountant)

      Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks Josh. We aren’t registered for GST as we won’t be making $75,000 a year. Also we are ‘drop shipping’ – we actually don’t touch the product, we just place the orders through our site and have them sent to the customer. Having said that, we have only just set it all up this week, so it’s all very new to us and it just seems a little complicated. Might need to ring the ATO after all and try get some clarification. Appreciate your response though.

  3. Hello. I have a company based in the U.S. that imports product from China. Most of the of what I purchase comes to the U.S., but I’ve recently acquired customers in India and Costa Rica. I would prefer to have my Chinese supplier ship to these new customers directly, but I seem to be having a documentation problem. I am essentially a middleman, so I don’t want my supplier to know what I’m charging my customers and I don’t want my customers to see my cost. However, my supplier needs to included a commercial invoice with his shipping documentation (showing my cost), then I send an invoice to my customer with my sell price. As the pricing shown on the two documents is inconsistent, it’s creating some difficulty with customs clearance at the destination. Shipping by ocean is less of an issue, because my customer is able my invoice to clear customs and nobody seems to care about the export documentation (and my customer never sees it). But air shipments like UPS/DHL/etc. are a bit more of a problem. Any suggestions on how to get around this? Thank you!

    1. Hi Ron, yes it can be tricky once orders get over the threshold for customs duties in various countries. My suggestion would be to see if the supplier can print and add a copy of your invoice to the package and use those calculations. I’m not really well placed to give advice on this though, you’re best off getting on the phone and working this out with your supplier.

    2. Hi Ron,

      I am in the same situation with you! Was there anything you have done since? Any help would be appreciated. TIA, Petros

  4. My manufacturer is in China but I have a customer in New Zealand. Can I drop ship items directly from China to New Zealand without paying any duties to the US?

  5. Hi all the critical point of international dropshipment are duties and taxes. If you sell from Australia a product shipped from China to a costumer based in USA, you must ensure that a) the correct export value/documents are made from China b) the correct import declaration is made in USA (it will be under your Name as Seller) c) you have full track of the transaction for your tax declaration in Australia. Many dropshippers are not doing this process correctly, it is extremaly painful if you are caught, tax authorities may audit your sales back 10 years. Ideally dropshipments should be used for B2C transactions only and you have to sell DDP duties and taxes Paid so you can Keep track of the entire tax flow. I am in Switzerland. Very often when I buy online I get the product from a third country. I then have to pay import duties, taxes, processing fees etc. which at the end makes the product more expensive than buying in a Swiss store. The result is that I don’t buy on line any more :)

  6. There are a bunch of scenarios this article does not cover. Say you are a US based distributor selling expensive machinery from Germany to customers in the US. To reduce risk you make the buyer accept ex-works terms and have them pay for freight and import. Your supplier ships with DB-Schenker. How do you have to set up the proforma invoice so that the buyer is the importer on record and not your business? Must the supplier name my business as the bill-to? Or can I use my – the sellers – invoice to the buyer for customs clearance? What are the implications of that?

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