Selling Online: Should You Offer International Shipping?

UPS plane sits on the tarmac

Every small online retailer has to decide for themselves if the cost of international shipping is worthwhile.

When you’re setting up your online store, one major decision that you’ll need to make is whether you’re willing to ship internationally or only want to sell within your own country. There are compelling reasons both to offer international shipping and to forgo it when you’re selling online, and we’re going to take a closer look at both sides of that argument below.

Pros of International Shipping

The primary advantage of offering international shipping is that you’re opening yourself up to a much wider audience of potential customers. This can be especially beneficial if you think (or know) that there’s a good market for your product outside of your country. For example, let’s say that you live in the US and make and sell your own peanut butter. While peanut butter is available in every grocery store in the US, it’s much less common in countries like the UK, so you may be able to appeal to American ex-pats or Brits who have developed a taste for American foods.

You may also choose to offer international shipping on a purely personal level because you like the idea of expanding your business’s reach and meeting interesting customers from all over the world. If you’ve got a world map, you can put pins on all the places you’ve sold your product to see just how much a part of the global marketplace you really are!

Cons of International Shipping

The obvious con of international shipping is the cost. As the seller, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to offer free shipping and cover the cost of shipping yourself (this will most likely make a serious dent in your profit), so that means that you have to include the cost of international shipping when you sell your product, which might make your merchandise too pricey or just not worth it to international buyers.

You also have to think about the time and the hassle it takes to ship your product internationally. Since SheepBuy uses PayPal, which requires a proof of delivery for a customer to transfer a payment, you have to ensure that your package arrives in a reasonable amount of time so that the customer doesn’t complain that it’s lost. If you choose to send your products using USPS Priority Mail International (PMI), you’ll get an expedient delivery and delivery confirmation, but this is another added cost.

Ultimately, whether or not you offer international shipping will have to come down to a cost-benefit analysis. If there’s a huge international market for your products and you have international customers who are willing to pay a little extra for shipping, then by all means, make international shipping an option. If, however, you recognize that international buyers can probably get the same kind of products you offer in their home country, it might be better to stick to shipping in your own country.