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1. Step-by-step guide to selling globally

WooCommerce international shipping: How to sell globally

Selling internationally opens up a plethora of opportunities for WooCommerce users. Expanding your customer base, tapping into niche markets, and boosting revenue become accessible with the right tools and strategies. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to shipping internationally with your WooCommerce store.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Reach a larger global audience, with over 4.5 billion internet users outside North America. Leverage major international marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay.

  • Define geographical areas for specific shipping methods and rates in WooCommerce.

  • Understand potential costs by engaging with multiple carriers. Choose from flat rates, free shipping, weight-based, or item count-based rates.

  • Comply with required customs declarations and accurately classify products using the Harmonized System (HS) code.

  • Implement dynamic pricing and discounts, manage international taxes, and provide enhanced tracking and notifications.

  • Gelato offers global production hubs for localized production, reduced shipping costs, and eco-friendly solutions.

Step-by-step guide to selling globally

Here are six steps given for you to understand how to sell globally without any hassle.

Step 1: Understand the value of selling internationally

In an ever-globalizing world, businesses can no longer afford to operate in silos. Tapping into international markets not only presents an opportunity for growth but also for diversification. Here's a closer look at why selling internationally should be on every WooCommerce merchant's radar:

Reach a global audience
  • Scale and size: Over 4.5 billion internet users reside outside North America. By offering international shipping, your products become accessible to most of the world’s online population.

  • Diverse demographics: Selling to a global audience allows access to different age groups, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses, expanding potential customer bases.

Risk mitigation
  • Diversification: You're not putting all your eggs in one basket by selling in multiple markets. If one market faces an economic downturn, sales from other regions can balance it out.

  • Seasonal balance: Different regions have varying peak seasons and holidays. For instance, while Western countries may have peak sales during Christmas, regions like China see a surge during Singles' Day in November.

Capitalizing on global trends
  • Niche markets: Some products may have saturated local markets but could be novelties in other countries.

  • Localized trends: A product trending in one country could be introduced to another, giving you a first-mover advantage.

Increased revenue potential
  • Higher order values: Often, international customers are willing to buy more or opt for premium products, especially if they aren't readily available in their home country.

  • Currency exchange rates: Depending on currency fluctuations, selling in foreign currencies can sometimes offer better profit margins.

Competitive advantage
  • Early entry: Merchants who venture into international markets early can establish brand presence and loyalty before the market becomes too competitive.

  • Global brand recognition: International selling bolsters your brand's global reputation, making it recognizable across borders.

Leverage international marketplaces
  • Platform expansion: Sites like Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay have massive international customer bases. Offering international shipping can boost sales on these platforms.

Step 2: Set up shipping zones

Shipping zones are geographical areas to which you ship your products. In WooCommerce, defining these zones helps create specific shipping methods and rates for each zone. Here's a step-by-step guide to setting up your shipping zones for international sales:

Navigate to WooCommerce settings
  • If you’re already using WooCommerce Shipping, ensure that WooCommerce Services is up-to-date via the ‘Plugins’ screen in WordPress.

  • Go to the WooCommerce section and select 'Settings.'

  • Within the Settings, click on the 'Shipping' tab.

Add a new shipping zone
  • Click on 'Add shipping zone'.

  • Name your zone (e.g., "European Zone" for shipping to countries in Europe) and provide a descriptive zone region (e.g., France, Germany, Italy).

Determine regions within the zone
  • Under 'Zone regions,' you can select multiple countries or specific regions within countries. For instance, if you're only shipping to the northern part of Australia, you can specify that.

Add shipping methods

Once you've defined a zone, specify how you will ship to that zone.

  • Click on 'Add shipping method' within the zone.

  • A dropdown will appear, letting you choose from available methods like Flat Rate, Free Shipping, or Local Pickup. Select your desired method and then 'Add shipping method.'

Configure shipping method details
  • After adding the method, click on its name (e.g., "Flat Rate") in the zone list.

  • Here, you can specify the cost, the class of the product (if different products have different shipping rates), and any other necessary details.

Review and test
  • Review your configuration after setting up all zones to ensure no overlaps or missing regions.

  • Consider placing test orders or using the 'Shipping Zone Testing' tool in WooCommerce to ensure everything works smoothly.

Step 3: Establish international shipping rates

Establishing accurate and competitive international shipping rates is crucial to ensure that your customers aren't deterred by exorbitant fees while also ensuring you cover all associated costs. Here's a guide to setting up international shipping rates in WooCommerce:

Research and understand the costs

Before you start inputting numbers, you need to:

  • Engage with multiple carriers: Reach out to carriers serving your target regions. This might include global giants like DHL, FedEx, and UPS or regional specialists.

  • Get quotes: For various package sizes, weights, and destinations, understand the range of potential costs.

  • Factor in additional costs: Consider packaging, insurance, and handling fees associated with international shipping or any other shipping methods.

Navigate to your shipping zones
  • Access your WordPress dashboard, go to WooCommerce, then 'Settings,' and click on the 'Shipping' tab.

  • Click on a shipping zone where you want to establish a rate.

Add or edit a shipping method

Within the desired shipping zone:

  • If creating a new method, click 'Add shipping method.'

  • If editing an existing one, click on the method's name.

Choose a rate type

WooCommerce offers several types of shipping rates:

  • Flat rate: A standard fee for all shipments to the zone.

  • Free shipping: Available based on certain conditions (e.g., orders over a certain value).

  • Weight-based rates: Adjust rates based on the weight of the order.

  • Item count-based rates: Vary the rate based on the number of ordered items.

Input your rates
  • For a Flat Rate, input the desired shipping fee.

  • For Weight or Item Count-based rates, you'll need to specify rate ranges. For example, for weights 0-1 lb, the rate might be $10; for 1-2 lb, $18, and so on.

Consider offering multiple shipping options

Customers appreciate the choice. You might offer:

  • Standard shipping: A balance of cost and delivery speed.

  • Express shipping: A faster but more expensive option.

  • Economy shipping: A slower, cheaper option.

Factor in customs and duties

Some countries might impose customs and duties on imported goods. While it's usually the customer's responsibility to pay these fees, it's crucial to:

  • Inform customers: Make it clear during the checkout process that additional customs/duties might apply.

  • Delivered duty paid (DDP) options: Some carriers offer services where you can prepay duties and taxes, making the process smoother for the customer but potentially increasing the shipping cost as per the shipping location.

Regularly review and update your rates

International shipping costs can fluctuate based on fuel prices, currency exchange rates, and carrier rate changes. Regularly review and adjust your rates to ensure they remain accurate and competitive.

Incorporate third-party solutions

Leveraging third-party plugins or integrations, like Gelato's global print on demand platform, can help dynamically calculate accurate shipping rates. Such platforms often have integrations that auto-calculate shipping based on real-time rates and their vast network, making the process more streamlined and efficient for sellers.

Step 4: Navigate customs and taxes

Navigating customs and taxes is a pivotal step when selling internationally. Proper handling ensures timely deliveries and avoids unforeseen costs or legal implications. Here's a comprehensive guide to help WooCommerce online store owners maneuver the complexities of customs and international taxes:

Understand customs declarations

Every international shipment requires a customs declaration. This document provides customs officials with essential details about your shipment, including:

  • Content description

  • Purpose of the shipment (e.g., sale, gift, return)

  • Product Value

  • Origin Country

Accurate product classification

Classify products using the Harmonized System (HS) code, an internationally standardized system of names and numbers to classify traded products. Proper classification:

  • Helps determine applicable taxes and duties.

  • Reduces the risk of customs delays.

Value your goods correctly

The declared value of your goods will often determine the customs duties and taxes levied by the destination country. Ensure accuracy by:

  • Including product cost and shipping charges.

  • Being consistent in valuation methods across shipments.

Determine the duty payment responsibility

There are two main methods:

  • Delivered duty paid (DDP): The seller bears all costs, including duties, taxes, and other charges.

  • Delivered duty unpaid (DDU): The buyer is responsible for paying any import duties upon delivery.

Both methods have pros and cons; your choice will depend on your business strategy and customer preference.

Stay updated on VAT and GST

Many countries impose a Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST) on imported goods. As a seller:

  • Understand the thresholds for these taxes.

  • Determine if you need to register for VAT/GST in certain countries.

  • Incorporate the cost into product pricing or checkout processes if you choose to bear it.

Leverage third-party solutions

Handling customs and taxes manually can be cumbersome. Several plugins and services integrate with WooCommerce to automate:

  • Real-time tax calculations.

  • Customs documentation generation.

  • Duty and tax payments.

For instance, integrating with Gelato's global print on demand platform can reduce complexities as they handle logistics, potentially including aspects of customs and taxes, using their vast international network.

Educate your customers

Transparency is key. Inform customers about potential customs duties, taxes, or additional fees they might incur. Clearly state whether your prices include such costs or if they'll be added during checkout.

Review and adjust regularly

Trade agreements, tax regulations, and customs protocols can change. Regularly review your processes, stay updated on international trade news, and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Step 5: Leverage third-party plugins

The expansive ecosystem around WooCommerce provides numerous plugins to simplify, optimize, and extend your international shipping services. When shipping across borders, leveraging these third-party solutions can be a game-changer, making your workflow smoother and more efficient. Let's explore how:

Table rate shipping plugins

These plugins allow sellers to print shipping labels and set different rates for international shipments based on various conditions, such as weight, item count, price, and destination.

  • Flexibility in charging customers based on specific scenarios.

  • Improved profit margins by optimizing shipping rates.

Multi-carrier shipping plugins

Connect to various shipping carriers, get real-time rates, print USPS shipping labels or DHL shipping labels cost effectively, and track packages.

  • Offer customers an option for multiple shipping settings.

  • Streamline the label printing process.

  • Centralize tracking and customer notifications.

Dynamic Pricing and discounts

Automate discounts or surcharges based on shipping destination or cart contents.

  • Drive sales through promotions.

  • Manage margins by adjusting pricing dynamically.

Customs and tax management

Automatically calculate VAT, GST, and other international taxes. Generate customs documents for shipments.

  • Ensure tax compliance.

  • Streamline documentation and reduce manual work.

Enhanced tracking and notifications

Offer advanced tracking services and send automated notifications to customers about their shipment status.

  • Improve customer satisfaction with transparent tracking.

  • Reduce customer support queries.

Step 6: Integrate with Gelato's print on demand platform

One of the most formidable challenges ecommerce stores face when going global is handling logistics efficiently. This challenge amplifies when it involves producing, storing, and shipping tangible products. Here's where integrating with a global print on demand platform, like Gelato, can be transformative for your WooCommerce store.

Expand your business globally with ease by partering with Gelato

Gelato is not just another print on demand service; it stands out due to its expansive global presence with over 130 production hubs worldwide. This vast network ensures:

  • Localized production: Products are produced closer to your customer, ensuring faster delivery times.

  • Reduced shipping costs: Since items are printed nearer to the shipping address, it often reduces shipping fees.

  • Eco-conscious solutions: Localized production means fewer air miles and reduced carbon footprints.

Seamless integration with WooCommerce

Gelato offers an easy-to-use plugin that integrates directly with your WooCommerce store. Here’s how to do it:

  • Installation: Download and install the Gelato plugin from the WooCommerce marketplace.

  • Configuration: Connect your store with Gelato using the provided API key. Once linked, you can sync products, manage designs, and more.

  • Automatic order forwarding: When a customer places an order, it's automatically forwarded to the nearest Gelato hub for production and shipping.

Expansive product range

From wall art to t-shirts or mugs to photo books and phone cases, Gelato offers a vast product catalog. This variety allows store owners to diversify their offerings without significant investments in inventory.

Quality assurance

Gelato prides itself on maintaining consistent product quality, irrespective of the production hub. This assurance means your brand reputation remains intact, even when selling globally.

Customer support

Gelato provides robust customer support to assist store owners with queries or challenges, ensuring smooth operations.

Sign up for Gelato today and set your WooCommerce store up for success.


Next steps

Start selling products with Gelato