Where small to medium businesses have historically been tied to local manufacturers, the internet has enabled them to easily access overseas markets and a new set of global customers and suppliers. Yet while many businesses understand how to search the internet for products and have invested in a website with e-commerce facilities to enable online transactions, the actual delivery of the product remains a challenge. The freight and logistics component of an overseas transaction doesn’t have to be daunting or time consuming. In choosing a shipping partner, SMEs should consider those that can offer a wide range of services and access to a large number of markets. Most importantly, select a provider who is willing to assist them with smaller orders or one-off shipments. The following are some tips to first time shippers.
Demand to know
Particularly if you’re a smaller company, you can save a lot of money by knowing your customer demand cycles and scheduling production to allow you to move freight in a consolidated manner. Shipping one larger box will always work out more cost effective than shipping numerous, smaller boxes.
Time is money
When choosing a shipping company, cheaper isn’t always better. If you want a faster delivery, you’ll pay a premium price for airfreight. However some companies offer a deferred airfreight service, this means that you receive the same level of service as an express delivery but at a reduced rate. The only real difference being that instead of arriving in 2-3 days, delivery will occur within 4-6 days. Take time to review what benefits you’ll receive as part of the service. If you’re new to international trade it will be helpful to select a partner that can offer advice on how to complete air waybills and custom forms.
Ask for help
Take advantage of the many resources available. Austrade, the Commonwealth agency devoted to developing international trade - largely concentrating on expanding Australian export opportunities - also carries plenty of country-specific import advice on its website. Tapping into the valuable experience of other small companies who have been there and done that will ensure you save yourself time and avoid costly mistakes.
Create a niche
Don’t try to be all things to everyone. If there is an opportunity for you to service a niche market efficiently and cost effectively for your business, this is where you should concentrate your efforts.
Choose to network
If your provider doesn’t have a large domestic network in other countries, at least make sure they can control the movement of the shipment from pick up to destination with complete visibility. It is your reputation on the line if your customers are left waiting because the local freight company doesn’t maintain the same standards as your international freight provider. Proof of delivery is also a very important export feature for you and your customers especially for high value items.
If you’re selling on the internet, you don’t always know where in the world your next customer will be. It’s extremely important you select a freight provider with the capacity to deliver to a large number of regions. A reliable delivery service is key to ensuring repeat customers. -Gary Edstein is senior vice president of DHL Express, Oceania