Avoid a runway fail: How to ensure smooth sailing through customs

May 22, 2019

Paperwork is not something you expect to deal with when getting into a digitally-driven industry. But there’s no escaping it, especially for cross border e-commerce retailers. Lack of completed paperwork or inaccurate documents can tie up international goods at the border, leading to customer frustration and disappointment. For your international customers to receive goods in a timely fashion, an accurate and complete paper trail is essential. The correct customs paperwork required for an international shipment can vary from country to county, depending on specific regulations and restrictions, so retailers can’t take a “one size fits all” approach.

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As notes, international businesses need a minimum of a commercial invoice and an export packing list to present to customs. A commercial invoice provides documentation of the financial transaction between you and your customer. It specifies the country of origin for the goods being shipped, how it was paid for, and the purchase price minus any discounts. Depending on where you’re shipping to, you may need multiple copies of the commercial invoice.

A packing list provides a more detailed description of the products contained in the packaging. The exact requirements vary by country, but can include information on the seller, buyer, shipper, date of shipment, mode of transportation, carrier, quantity, weight and dimensions. Brands should also be prepared to provide as much information as possible on how the product will be used and by whom. This is important for cross border e-commerce retailers when selling into markets that may have restrictions on certain products.

Other paperwork that may be required includes airway bills for freight shipments, documentation on any required export licenses, a certificate of origin on the product, or proof of any specific licenses needed to sell a certain category of goods.

These requirements vary by country, which can cause a lot of anxiety for cross-border retailers who do business in multiple markets. In global markets where the competition for customers is fierce, having a snag-free approach to customs can make or break your business. Technology solutions, like Flow, provide merchants with the tools to help manage product harmonization and classification and other aspects of cross-border commerce that could prevent international customers from being able to order and receive their purchased goods.

Cross border e-commerce shouldn’t be so hard. Get in touch with a Flow expert today to learn how our platform can make it easier.

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