4 Ways to Improve Your International Shipping Strategy
Expanding your Shopify store beyond borders is an exciting step forward in your ecommerce journey but it isn’t without its challenges. Navigating different regional shipping restrictions, customs fees, figuring out how best to package your products for the longer journey to the customer - it’s a lot to consider. However perhaps the biggest challenge is figuring out your international shipping strategy.
Shipping is one of the most common causes for abandoned carts, with nearly 50% of consumers citing extra shipping fees and costs as part of their decision to abandon an order. It’s a major component of the customer experience, so if you want to grow the number of international orders heading out the door you need to create a robust shipping strategy that puts customer satisfaction first whilst also making it easy on your fulfillment team.
1. Be transparent with international shipping costs
The difficulty with many international orders is that often the costs won’t be displayed until checkout where the customer is met with a potentially high shipping cost. If they’re not expecting it, then it can come as a shock and be off-putting. However if they’re already aware of the potential costs before they even add a product to their cart then this shock is mitigated. It’s all about managing expectations - international customers are already aware that they may need to pay a high shipping fee to their country.
So how do you achieve this transparency? If you have an international shipping pricing structure in place, then you can display this in a few different places on your store.
If you don’t have one already, then having a clearly marked shipping information tab on your product pages is extremely valuable for both domestic and international customers.
Here you can give a summary of your international shipping options and costs, linking to a more detailed description elsewhere on your store.
Shipping Info Bar
A clever way to display shipping information to international customers is to use a geo targeted announcement bar across your store.
This can display a link to information about international shipping, for example “Hello, UK! Click here for information about international shipping” or “Free international shipping on orders over $100. Click here for more info”.
Have a clearly marked “International Orders & Shipping” space on your FAQ pages that go through pricing for different regions, as well as what regions you ship to and which products may be restricted.
You should also include details of customs and import fees that customers may face once the order lands in their country, and which shipping method they can use to mitigate these costs if available.
2. Consider different shipping methods
It can be difficult to determine which shipping methods will benefit both your business and satisfy your customers. Some methods may be great for your business in that they cause the least amount of work on your end, but they may be too expensive for your customers. Equally having too many options can be confusing for your customers, and tricky to manage for your fulfillment team.
The easiest way to manage this is to look at what options you currently offer and come up with a few different structure options.
Simplified multiple options
If you only offer one shipping option, it might be off-putting as some customers will be happy to pay for an expedited service whereas others will be more willing to pay for a slower but cheaper service. In this case, we would suggest offering Economy, Premium, and Expedited.
Alternatively if you find that having different options is difficult to manage, or you have too many options, you could consider a flat rate. That way the customer isn’t dealing with different prices depending on how much or how little they order, and it keeps things simple for your team.
With this option, you can integrate your Shopify store with your chosen shipment carriers and offer real-time price options to customers. It also has the added benefit of costing the same to the customer as it does to your business.
Bonus: Free Shipping
Free international shipping isn’t something that every merchant is able to offer, however you could calculate how high an order value would need to be for your profit margin to mitigate the cost to your business and offer a “Free Shipping over $x”. Alternatively you could offer it at key times throughout the year such as the holidays and Black Friday/Cyber Monday on orders over a lower amount.
3. Offer real-time tracking on international orders
Many international shipping options mean the order takes more time to reach the customer than domestic orders. They can often take longer to prepare also depending on your international fulfillment process and procedures. The lack of information when placing international orders can be off-putting to potential customers, as there is then more scope for an order to go wrong or missing.
We’ve written previously about the value of real-time tracking, and this is definitely valuable to international customers also. Real-time tracking apps such as Order LookUp offer customers the ability to see exactly what’s happening with their order along with any notes your team adds, so they’re kept informed from the minute they place the order to the moment they have it in their hands.
4. Monitor abandoned carts and collect feedback
With any decision you make with your ecommerce store, it pays to be data-led. If you follow the advice on trying different shipping methods, then you’re going to need some data to show if they’re actually resulting in more orders. It can be difficult to say for certain if the reason a customer did or did not complete a purchase is due to shipping rates, however if you implement a new method and you see an uptake in customers choosing that option it can give you some indication. The best data to use in this case is your abandoned cart rate - noticing any kind of significant change either positive or negative after making a change to your shipping rates can be an indicator of how customers are responding to those changes.
The other way to monitor the success of any changes is to engage customers for feedback. Customer feedback can be invaluable in pinpointing what changes you should consider for your store to improve the customer experience and encourage conversions. You can use both previous customers as well as potential customers who abandoned their cart at checkout. For existing customers, ask them a series of questions about their experience with shipping:
- How would they rate their overall experience?
- How would they rate the courier?
- What shipping options do they prefer when ordering internationally?
- What more could your business do for international customers?
As for abandoned carts, you can send them an automated email once their abandoned cart email workflow expires asking some very simple questions about why they didn’t complete their purchase. If you find many of them are selecting options related to shipping, then it may be time to consider a change in strategy.
When you’re expanding your Shopify store globally and entering new markets, the last thing you want to hold you back is your shipping strategy. Testing new approaches, adding new features to improve the customer experience, and keeping track of your data to help guide your strategy are all simple ways you can ensure that your store is accessible to international customers.