International shipping is a business model opted by companies of all shapes and sizes. It helps to increase profit, expand your business and diversify the customer base you’ve built. For many businesses, choosing to go global is the next logical step once they meet the boundaries of their current market. As a new shipper, understanding the logistics and operations of international shipping can be difficult. Moving freight from one country to another is complicated. It requires a certain degree of research and understanding. And, without the right support, it can present several difficulties. Which is why we’ve pulled together this business guide to give you a clear understanding of the factors you’ll need to take into account during planning.

Why international shipping is a viable business choice

Say you run a successful eCommerce or brick-and-mortar store. And say, you feel like you’re doing well in maintaining your repeat customers and growing a solid reputation for your brand locally. But on top of this, you want to scale and grow as the next stages for your business. International trade allows you to do this. It allows you to:

  • Reach a much larger audience who aren’t restricted by geography when it comes to sampling your product line up.
  • Improve and grow your brand awareness, meaning your products are likely to be seen by a much bigger – and sometimes more relevant – audience.
  • Find different markets that are less saturated. While a product may not be deemed ‘innovative’ in your native country, it may be in another market.
  • Find opportunities for niche markets. Again, if a product isn’t as readily available in another country, your brand could find its own niche and strong following as a result.
  • Reduce the number of returns. While this isn’t relevant for every single product, international customers are generally less likely to request refunds because of the financial and time implications. You still need to have a secure process in place but it may be beneficial to understand this.

If you’ve decided that international shipping is the next big step for your business, read on.

Identifying the right shipping carrier

One of the first things to do when looking to offer products overseas is to work with the experts. Freight forwarders, such as our team here at Radius Warehouse and Logistics, have built up expertise over many years and have a detailed understanding of how this process works. They’ll stand alongside you every step of the way, advising on the best way to ship certain items and how to get them past customs (which we’ll address shortly).

Another area to focus on is choosing the right shipping carrier. These are the companies that physically move your product from the warehouse to the end customers. Freight forwarders will organise these seamlessly but understanding the options out there and the benefits that come with different companies is an important business decision. When choosing your shipping carrier, take into account the following things:

  • What are you shipping? Certain carriers will have restrictions and limitations on the size and quantity of products that can be shipped in one go. They may also add on further costs for unusually shaped or excessively weighty products which need to be factored into your final retail price too.
  • Where are you shipping to? Some carriers are restricted to the companies that they can ship to. Others will incur additional fees to cover specific paperwork or restrictions – again, which need to be factored into your final costs.
  • Reputation – How long has the company been running? Have they built up a solid reputation which allows you to put trust in their ability to help your business? What support do they have in place to prevent items from getting lost or delayed? Do they have references and testimonials from past clients to show how well they run their operations?
  • How quickly can they ship? Depending on what you’re offering to your customers, you need to understand whether the shipping carrier can meet your specific delivery time frames. Do they have a tracking system? Can they offer next-day or equivalent shipping at a higher rate which you can factor into your customer offering?
  • What insurance do they have? You want to know that your products are protected while in the ownership of a shipping carrier. Ask to review the insurance that they provide and ensure it covers loss, theft and damage up to the price of your product.
  • What are their prices? Taking the prices of each shipping option into account will ensure you can cost up retail prices accordingly. You’ll be able to avoid making a loss and ensure business benefits from this new venture fully.

Understanding country restrictions

Shipping internationally, to any country, will be met with restrictions and related costs. A good Freight Forwarding company will work with you to establish and understand these early on, allowing you to make the right decision for your business. And, as Brexit develops, the general EU rules and laws will change and impact international shipping to more countries. Some of the most stringent countries with restrictions in place are:


India has high import duties, starting at 22%, and a more rigorous requirement for documentation for specific items.


With a constantly changing political landscape, Russia also places tougher restrictions on incoming freight. It has a very strict customs regulation – particularly for electronics and commercial goods. And delays are part and parcel of this too.


Due to the corruption levels and in-depth, confusing import policies, Brazil is notoriously hard to ship to. There is no threshold on import duty or tax, meaning you need to pay duties on nearly everything.


China has very high import duty fees and costly delivery prices while being such a vast country means delivery times are slower.

The best way to speed up delivery and ensure you don’t hit any hurdles when shipping internationally for the first time is to always work with a professional who can advise accordingly.

Understanding customs documents

Any and all international freight movements will have specific requirements for customs documentation. And these change, depending on the destination country and the changing climate for international trade. In general, you will need:

Proforma Invoice

This document will show the buyer and seller, a detailed description of the good, their classification and the price. It will also specify the delivery details and the currency used.

Commercial Invoice

This document will include all the same information as the proforma as well as additional information such as the order number, customer reference number and additional insurances required.

Packing List

This is a detailed list of all the items included in the shipment, with information about the net and gross weight as well as the dimensions of the packages in various measurements.

Certificates of Origin

Some countries may require you to specify where the goods in your freight shipment originate from.

Letter of instruction

Also known as a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction, this document will provide all the information needed to safely move your goods to the desired country.

Shipping internationally offers expansive room for growth for all businesses and is the next step for many looking to reach new markets. Here at Radius Warehouse and Logistics, we’re available to help you every step of the way. If you would like to speak to a member of our team and discover how we can help you along the way, please do get in contact today.