Shipping Overseas - a Seller's Guide
The good and bad and ins and outs of shipping overseas with Ebay.
This guide covers shipping using standard postal services in the UK, but may also help if using other services, or if you ship from other countries.
Why shipping Overseas is a good ideaShipping overseas can:
- increase the number of customers you have
- increase your profits
- increase your confidence
- provide a base for starting listing on different Ebay sites and / or in different languages to reach a wider audience
When shipping overseas is a great idea- if you have items related to or manufactured in your home country that are especially popular overseas, or which may obtain better prices overseas
- If you sell items from your country which overseas visitors to your country would need on arrival
- If you want to target expatriates or long term travellers, who may have difficulty getting favourite items from home.
- If certain popular items are not widely listed on the Ebay of your target country
When not to do it- This may not be a great idea if you ship breakable / valuable / unique / very heavy or large items.
- Check shipping costs carefully, don't just guess. They can mount up quickly when shipping internationally.
- Think carefully about what countries you would be happiest to ship to and start there. Maybe Europe first. Remember Ebay's version of Europe in the shipping options includes Eastern bloc countries including Russia. You may wish to specify your own country list within your listing.
- if an item is prohibited in yours or the buyer's country or by Ebay rules.
How to do it safely- take out all postal insurance available to you in case the item arrives damaged or does not arrive.
- Consider beefier packaging as the item will be going further and may have to survive more bumps and wet. However you may wish to at the same time try to minimise packaging weight and size to keep postal costs down.
- Take into account packaging weight and size before quoting shipping. The packaging can add a big weight and increase shipping cost significantly. You may be able to optimise the packaging with some thought. Pack the item, check the postage and THEN list it?
- check buyer feedback carefully if you are at all unsure of your buyer. Check feedback they have left for others too, to see if they leave negatives easily or if too many items have been lost in the post.
- If you are worried about a transaction it may be worth writing to your buyer briefly to see if they can respond with reasonable English before proceeding with shipping. Ask about reliability of mail if that is what you want to know.
- Tailor your return/refund policy to take into account your international buyers.
- check the shipping address format. The way Ebay presents it to you may not be correct. Check by googling "address format (chosen country)" and you should find some examples. If you are still not sure, message the buyer and ask specifically for their exact shipping address via return message or email.
- Use a confirmed address. You take this how you want. It depends on trust between buyer and seller as well as Ebay / Paypal guidelines. If a work address makes sense for the buyer who may have to sign for the item then you might wish to consider this even if it is not a confirmed address. Your seller protection may be affected. But sometimes it is wiser to be flexible. You will have to make your own rules. You can state these rules in your policies if you wish.
- Read scare stories of international scam purchases on other guides. They will tell you which countries to possibly beware of and what signs of fraud to look out for.
- Personally I have not been affected by international buyer fraud and have dealt with a great many very nice and genuine international buyers.
How to evaluate the risks and cover yourself according to your needs and wishes- If you sell the same items or similar small items regularly you may choose to relax some of the above details now or later.
- If your items have low value, you may wish to take the odd small loss yourself and not bother with paying for insured postage or messing about with claims. You may get far more sales this way. It all depends on what you sell and where you sell to. This experience will come with familiarity.
I sell various types of item to all sorts of places and consider each new one a fun experiment. If I have had bad experiences I may restrict shipping to insured services, but often Airmail is quite reliable enough depending on the type of article and packaging.
- You can also charge a bit more for overseas shipping to help cover the costs of the odd one that may not arrive.
- If travellers buy from you they may not have a confirmed address where they are. Then it is up to you to decide whether to ship. Their temporary address may be insecure. Then again they may know that and may be willing to take the risk for themselves. Most travellers I've met are reasonable people! And they would love to buy and normally know exactly what they want in my experience.
Payments from overseas- Paypal is easiest and quickest (unless you get caught out with an echeque payment).
- If you decide to accept international bank payments this will also be fine but you will need to provide your bank account's BIC and IBAN codes, and you will have to wait longer for payment. The delay varies by country and banks involved. You may also have to pay higher fees, try to take this into account when accepting payment via this method.
- Some overseas buyers may not have access to Paypal, or may hate it with a vengeance for some reason. If you can accomodate this type of buyer then you will achieve more sales, albeit for a bit more work.
- If you advertise on other Ebay sites with different currencies, you will be charged more exchange fees before you get your money. Listing fees may also be more than you are used to. You may wish to adjust your prices for this.
Dealing with customers whose first language is not English- Consider adding keywords to your title in your target country's language. This may also apply if you are shipping between US/UK where local words or spelling may be different.
- Consider adapting your listing text to take into account local keywords or local language explanations. Especially if there is one particular language you want to target.
- research on the site in the local language to find keywords they ACTUALLY use for the products you sell. These may be very different from what a dictionary will tell you. There are various ways to do this within Ebay as well as outside it.
- Experiment with listing on the target country's site directly for more visibility. This may cost more so evaluate carefully.
- If you have a target country that speaks another language, make sure you can understand and answer questions from buyers in their own language. Using online translators can cause huge misunderstandings.
Shipping Times- Expect everything to take longer and any tracking to be hit and miss. You will learn soon enough what to expect for different countries. It may help to keep note of your experiences to help future buyers.
- I am writing a separate article detailing some of my experiences shipping to different countries, I will include a link here when it is done.
- Delays may vary depending on the size and value of the package. Envelopes are generally quicker than packets, which are generally quicker than parcels.
- Always use Airmail unless there is a very good reason not to. If you won't use Airmail, the item will take far longer. Make sure your buyer knows what shipping method is being used.
- Understand that your buyer will be as worried about the transaction as you are. Keep them informed and help them out where possible. Most buyers who buy internationally from you will speak some English.
- Different countries may have holidays at different times of year which could affect delivery times.
Customs, Import Duties, other Taxes- The buyer should be made aware by your listing, policies or specific message that you will not cover any fees charged to get the item into their country through Customs.
- At the same time you can help them in various ways to make the experience hopefully simpler and cheaper. Not all of this advice is legally sound so please don't take it as such.
- Pack safely but simply. Don't make it look exciting.
- At the same time you may wish to make it recognisable in case the buyer needs to describe it at a busy Post Office, or find it in a heap.
The Customs Form
You have to put a Customs label on the item declaring its value if it is anything more than an innocuous envelope.
The receiving country may make no charge. If they do make a charge it will be related to the value you put, the item type, and possibly the boxes you tick.
If you buy insured postage you must make the insured value and the Customs declared value the same. If you want to minimise further cost for the customer but cover yourself adequately in case the item arrives broken or does not arrive, then you could choose a value somewhere between your cost and what the customer paid you. (In any case, the Post Office may insist on reimbursing only your cost in case of a claim)
If you are not shipping with insurance there is one further way to look at it. I will simply give an example here which may not be related to your circumstances but may help in a generic way.
A relative shipped an item to me while I was travelling abroad. It was a genuine present (gift) for our personal use and was never going to be resold as new. It cost £7 new, which they put on the customs label. I was charged 20% or so and had to pay it when collecting from the local post office.
However, locally where I was staying, similar items were for sale for as little as £2. So my future instruction to my relative was to put a similar discount on future packets' declared values. These were all genuine gifts and THIS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. But you may wish to bear it in mind.
DSR's and Top-rated seller status in your home and other countries- Your received feedback and DSR ratings from other countries will not affect your seller status in your home country.
- However, you can achieve better or top-rated seller status in your target countries if you sell enough items into them. This applies whether you sell through your home site or their Ebay site.
- You can also achieve Global Top-rated seller status if all your ratings are good enough. The requirements are a bit less strenuous.
- You can have Global Top-rated seller status even if you are not a Top-rated seller in your home country.
Requirements and rules for this are constantly changing, the above is a brief guide only.
Using courier servicesIf the postal service does not meet your needs there may be a courier service which does. It is worth investigating and may help to reduce postage costs for certain items, or may make shipping a larger item possible which would not go by post. Countries where this may help will vary by courier.
This is a separate topic altogether.
If you have more questions you are welcome to contact me and I can add to the article or respond to you directly.
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I have written other Guides, if you are interested in reading them you can see a list of all my Guides here