A Complete Guide To Global Shipping For Sellers - Alibaba.com

alibaba.com NOVEMBER 08, 202112 MIN READ
A Complete Guide To Global Shipping For Sellers - Alibaba.com

A strong global shipping strategy is a must for international traders. Sellers need a reliable shipping plan to ensure that each order that an international buyer places arrives on time and in good condition.

In this post, we’re going to break down everything sellers need to know about global shipping. We’ll cover how it works along with some popular methods and carriers to use for your global shipping strategy. From there, we will dive into some information on navigating country-specific regulations and some tips to maximize your success.

To wrap things up, we will talk about using Alibaba.com to streamline your international trade.

How does global shipping work?

When it comes to global shipping, there are quite a few hoops that sellers must jump through to successfully deliver their international buyers’ goods. Senders must ensure that their shipping procedures are compatible with the local restrictions for both their location and the destination country.

Creating a global shipping strategy that suits both you and your buyers is a must. Let’s review the step-by-step guide that you can follow to carry out international shipments.

1. Check the shipping and trade guidelines

First and foremost, it is important to check the shipping and trade guidelines for your local government and the government of the place your buyers are located.

You can check the rules by doing a Google search for “[country] importing rules,” “[country] trade regulations,” or something similar. Look into exporting from your country and importing into the destination country.

If you are looking to export to the United States, for example, a quick search for “america trade regulations” will generate a variety of results for government-backed organizations with tons of documentation on trade between different countries. Two of the top results are from the United States Trade Representative and International Trade Administration. Clicking through the pages on these sites provides a better picture of what you need to do to trade between the United States and your country.

Make sure you get your information from an official government website or a verified associate. A customs broker will certainly come in handy.

If you are new to exporting, it is a good idea to establish ties with one country at a time so that you can become well-versed in the local rules and regulations.

2. Choose a shipment method

Next, you’ll choose a shipment method. The two main methods are ocean freight and air freight. They each come with their own pros and cons, so it is important to carefully consider the options to find the one that makes the most sense for both you and your buyers.

We will compare and contrast ocean freight and air freight further along in this post, so stay tuned for that insight.

3. Choose a carrier

Once you choose a shipment method, it is time to choose a carrier. There are many options located around the world that serve different regions. The most important thing to consider is whether or not a carrier has a trade route between your country and the one you’re selling in.

Depending on the nature of your company and how many different regions you serve, you might consider working with different carriers. This will give you more coverage and allow you to expand into different markets.

We will discuss some specific carrier options and rates a little later in this article.

4. Find a customs broker

Once you’ve made decisions on the shipment method and the carrier that you’ll be using, it is time to find a customs broker. Customs brokers can come in handy for orders of any size, but they may be required for exports or imports over a certain value.

A customs broker is an expert that specializes in trade with a specific country. They will help you work through any confusion that might arise, especially with the legalities and fees required for selling goods in their country.

Oftentimes, customs brokers are required to be licensed and certified by a nation’s governing trade organization.

5. Collect information for customs

Now, it is time to start collecting information for customs clearance. You’ll use the information to fill out a few required documents. These may include a commercial invoice, a packing list, Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) classifications, certificate of origin, and importer forms.

The required information varies based on the port of origin and port of destination, so it is difficult for us to provide a definitive list of required customs information. However, most customs departments want to know what the product is, what it is made of, who the recipient is, how much the goods are worth, and so forth.

Create a form to collect the required information for customs from your client. Add fields for all of the criteria for both your country and the destination country.

6. Prepare the shipment

It is time to prepare the shipment. First, you’ll pack up your order. Make sure to follow any size restrictions set forth by your carrier.

Your package will need a shipping label with the delivery address and a return address. Ask your carrier for any other specifics that must be included. They will likely provide a shipping label with a bar code so that the package can be easily tracked.

You’ll also need to check and double-check all of your customs paperwork. Ensure that you have all of the information related to import charges, including delivery duty and tax information.

7. Hand the order off to the carrier

Once your packages are prepared with the proper documentation, it is time to hand them off to your carrier. This will look a little differently depending on the carrier. Some might send a truck to your warehouse, and others may require a dropoff. This will also depend on the size of your shipment.

Make sure that you receive a written confirmation that the carrier has received the package whether that be a printed receipt or an email confirmation. This will help to ensure that the package isn’t carelessly lost or misplaced.

8. Follow up

It is important to follow up with your buyers after the delivery has been made. Not only is this an important technique for sales, but it allows you to monitor and assess your shipping strategy as time goes on.

Give your buyer a call and ask them a few quick questions or email them a questionnaire to fill out. A few questions that you could ask include:

  • How satisfied were you with the shipment?
  • Was your order delivered on time?
  • Were all items delivered as expected?
  • How can we improve your experience?

Not only will this information help better prepare you for future shipments, but it will let your buyers feel heard. That makes it a win–win.

Global shipping options and shipping times

As we discussed, there are a couple of methods for global shipping. The two main global shipping options are air freight and ocean freight. Let’s take a minute to break down these two options.

Air freight

Air freight is a shipping method that is relatively fast and convenient. The fastest air freight shipping option is “next flight out.” As the name suggests, sellers can ship items in as little as one day by getting them on the next flight out of their local shipping center. This overnight shipping method typically comes with a premium fee.

The other two options for air freight are “consolidated” and “deferred.” The consolidated shipping option allows you to book a spot on a flight for your cargo, so it must be planned in advance.

The deferred shipping option is a budget-friendly method in which sellers agree that their order will be shipped whenever there is space on a flight. Deferred shipping should only be used for transactions that have a flexible timeline.

Ocean freight

Ocean freight is a cheaper shipping option, but it has longer delivery times. Ocean shipments are billed a little bit differently from air freight shipments since they are billed by container or cubic volume.

Typically, ocean freight takes weeks to arrive, so it is a better option for transactions with flexible timelines.

Top global shipping carriers

There are different shipping carriers around the world, but there are a handful of carriers that make international delivery routes. Here are a few of the most popular global shipping carriers that have proven efficient and reliable.


UPS is an American shipping carrier with headquarters strategically placed around the world to facilitate an efficient shipping experience.

What’s impressive about UPS is that it offers international shipping services that can ensure delivery in as little as one to three business days. UPS also offers specialized support to help global sellers navigate customs and international shipping with ease.


DHL is a German shipping carrier that offers air and ocean freight. This company also offers ground freight throughout Europe.

This carrier offers different shipping and logistics solutions for SMEs and large enterprises. DHL provides custom quotes for exporters based on the estimated size and frequency of their shipments. Interested sellers must contact DHL directly for more information on rates.


GLS, which was previously known as “German Parcel,” is a Dutch subsidiary of Royal Mail. This carrier is known for fast shipping times and powerful shipment tracking.

GLS focuses primarily on shipping throughout Europe. Individuals can ship outside of Europe with GLS, but at this time, GLS business customers are limited to Europe.


DPD is a French global shipping carrier that ships worldwide. DPD brags an extensive road network throughout Europe, and it is capable of shipping orders anywhere in the world in as little as one to three days.

Like some of the other carriers we’ve covered, DPD offers support for exporters that need help navigating customs.

5 tips for developing a global shipping strategy

We’ve discussed what goes into the global shipping process, but taking it a step further and optimizing your strategy is key to building an exporting business that is profitable and sustainable.

Here are a few of our top tips for developing and optimizing your global shipping strategy.

1. Learn the lay of the land

When it comes to international shipping, “winging it” is not an option. Learning how global shipping works and identifying the specific rules of your intended trade route is a must.

Studying the information that we’ve compiled in this article is a good start. However, we recommend tapping into your network and connecting with those who have created global shipping strategies that are similar to yours.

For example, if you are based in India and selling to buyers in Canada, look for another Indian exporter that trades with Canadian buyers. Whether it’s a casual conversation with an associate or a paid consultation session, this will give you a good foundation. It will help you figure out what sort of questions to ask and avenues to research.

As we mentioned before, customs brokers and other consultants in the industry are very valuable resources, as well. Invest the time and resources to learn from these specialists.

2. Factor tariffs and fees into prices

International shipping comes with additional costs that you don’t see with domestic shipping. Many countries charge tariffs and other fees on imported goods. These can add up, and if they aren’t properly addressed, they will affect your bottom line.

Consider factoring tariffs and similar fees into your product costs or shipping costs. This will make your products a bit more expensive, but it will help you maintain your profit.

3. Prioritize communication

Communication is a cornerstone to success in most business operations.

A simple way to keep a clear path of communication is to set up email notifications and status updates to keep the buyer informed. Also, make yourself available to answer any questions that buyers may have throughout the process.

As the sender, you should also maintain communication with your shipping carriers so that you can step in and offer any support that is necessary to improve the experience for your buyers.

4. Create realistic timelines

Timeliness and punctuality are everything when it comes to B2B trade. Your wholesale buyers need the products within a specific time frame so that they have the inventory and can stock their shelves according to the timelines that they’ve created for their businesses.

Retailers often choose suppliers based on their ability to fit their schedules, so as a seller, it is important to create realistic expectations on how fast you can deliver the order.

Map out the time that it will take to process and ship the order to each buyer’s destination. Account for the amount of time that the carrier needs to process and deliver the order, and consider the time it will take to clear customs or immigration, as well.

Consider providing a range of dates for the expected delivery so that there is some leeway for disruptions or delays in your shipping time.

5. Work out a returns policy

As we’ve covered, figuring out the logistics of a cross-border shipment can be a lot to deal with. The costs associated with this sort of shipment can be equally overwhelming. This is something to keep in mind when creating a policy for international returns since having the order shipped back to you could get complicated.

Create a section of your sales agreement that specifically details your returns policy. Be sure to be transparent about your returns policy rather than keeping it in the fine print. Your buyers will appreciate the honesty.

Alibaba.com Logistics Services

Alibaba.com Logistics Services provides fast and efficient shipping by both air and ocean for transactions carried out on Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com’s shipping service provides transparent pricing, easy booking, and dedicated support from knowledgeable professionals to take the hassle out of shipping.

The service offers both less-than-container loads (LCL) and full container loads (FCL). That way, exporters with different shipping needs can be accommodated.

Alibaba.com also offers shipping via Alibaba.com Parcels and Alibaba.com Air Freight for other shipping needs.

Fill out the Alibaba.com Logistics quote request form and get an instant quote for your shipment.

Sell on Alibaba.com

Expanding your business into an international market may feel overwhelming. That’s why many exporters lean into the support of B2B marketplaces like Alibaba.com to carry out their international transactions.

Alibaba.com is equipped with everything that sellers need to streamline B2B trade. The platform offers a suite of features, including customizable storefronts, Trade Assurance, analytics, smart listings, and reliable support. There are also a variety of tools that are geared toward communication and managing client relationships.

Are you ready to tap into the benefits of selling on Alibaba.com? Sign up today and choose “Seller” as your trade role to get started!