eBay for Business
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

The Complete Guide to Selling and Shipping Internationally

Share Post
Verified Blogger
Verified Blogger


Seller_B2C_Fashion_Packages_Intl_Domestic1399 (1).jpgTechnology has been a boon to online sellers, especially when it comes to reaching global buyers. In 2017 online retailers raked in an estimated $2.3 trillion from international ecommerce. Even better, that number is expected to rise to $4.5 trillion in 2021.


With nearly 170 million buyers in 190 markets, eBay is an ideal marketplace for sellers looking to expand internationally.


Selling and shipping across borders doesn’t have to be daunting. Consider these tips for taking your business worldwide, including special insights from Jenny R. from Never MSRP, a globally Top Rated Seller and one of the biggest international electronics retailers on eBay.


  1.       Choose the right carrier for the right country.

To ship postal or commercial? Your decision will come down to a few considerations.


When you ship internationally with USPS, the local postal carrier takes over delivery upon entry to the country. For that reason, sellers may wish to use the postal option in regions with more developed infrastructure, such as Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Israel, among others.


It’s in the emerging markets with greatest growth potential—like Mexico, Brazil, China, Argentina, Ukraine, and more—that commercial carriers become most viable. Carriers like FedEx, DHL, and UPS ship orders directly or through contracted affiliates, giving your item a better chance of arriving safe and sound in those places with less developed infrastructure.


Other nuances may influence your decision. Jenny R. from Never MSRP—who sells mostly mobile phones—chooses FedEx for all her international orders, as USPS will not ship items with installed lithium ion batteries internationally.


  1. Tracking is key.

When shipping internationally, sellers should pick services that include door-to-door tracking, meaning the carrier provides tracking all the way to delivery.


Door-to-door tracking helps reduce unreceived-items cases and provides the seller with greater protection.


International commercial options typically include door-to-door tracking, as does USPS Priority Mail International. USPS First Class International, on the other hand, will only track your item through the domestic leg of its journey.


  1. Insurance is a good bet.

Many international shipping options include some amount of insurance, which can protect against loss, theft, or damage during transit. Your safest bet is to insure your shipment for the full cost of the item.


USPS Priority Mail International, for instance, comes with $200 of insurance free of charge, to which you can add additional insurance, up to a certain limit, for pennies on the dollar.


Whichever carrier and service you choose, be sure to confirm your insurance options, especially in emerging markets.


  1.       Safeguard against returns.

The idea of international returns may seem scary, but in reality, the international return rate is only 1%, and there are steps you can take to reduce returns and protect yourself against their cost when they do occur.


Sellers who maintain good communication with shoppers experience fewer returns, and it’s easy to understand why; they put their buyers at ease throughout the transaction and are able to respond to their concerns.


Consider setting a “buyer-pays” return policy for international orders to help cover costs and lower return numbers.


Starting in June 2018, you will have the flexibility to list with a different return policy for domestic and international orders.


Until then, you can simply describe your international returns in the Return Policy Details section (e.g. “For International Returns, buyer pays return shipping.”)

Additionally, a seller can minimize losses by adding a small increase to their shipping price to cover the risk of returns.


  1.       Use business policies help bulk-manage your listings.

Business policies are the payment, shipping, and return details specified in your listings. You can set specific shipping rates and policies for countries as you see fit.


Once you’ve created a policy, save by assigning the listings to that policy instead of manually setting the shipping for each.


  1.       Know what to expect with customs.

Customs authorities in each country are tasked with inspecting imported packages, stopping the entrance of prohibited items (more on that soon), and assessing duties and taxes.


One of the biggest variations between countries is their de minimis level, which is the dollar threshold below which imports are exempt from duties and paperwork. The European Union, for instance, has a de minimis level of $170, while Brazil’s is $50. Only above those amounts do buyers in those countries pay import duties. Find an overview of global de minimis levels here.


One thing Jenny R. from Never MSRP wishes she had known earlier in her selling is that when the buyer doesn’t pick up the item, customs authorities may impose those duties on the sender. While it’s possible for the seller to charge the cost back to the buyer, the buyer may in turn open a chargeback.


  1.       Can you ship that there?

Familiarize yourself with what’s restricted and prohibited from entering the countries you’re shipping to. Prohibited items may not be imported at all, while restricted items may enter, following certain procedures.

Sellers in some categories, like electronics, may have licensing restrictions on where they’re allowed to ship outside the US. Some items are restricted or prohibited from export altogether.


FedEx has has compiled a helpful list of prohibited and restricted items around the globe.


  1.       Stay above international standard.

When it comes to eBay performance standards, international transactions are measured separately from domestic orders.


Global Top Rated Sellers maintain a defect rate of 0.5% or lower and a late shipment rate of 5% or less.


To meet minimum global seller performance standards, keep a defect rate of 2% or lower and a late shipment rate of 10% or less.


Sellers who don’t meet minimum global performance standards will find their search placements lowered and may have limits placed on their international selling activity until their ratings improve.


  1.       Ready for the next level? List on international eBay sites.

eBay makes it easy to sell to international shoppers straight from your original listing, but if you’re looking to maximize global sales, consider listing directly on international eBay sites, like ebay.co.uk (United Kingdom), ebay.com.au (Australia), and so on.


Doing so will increase your listings’ visibility by putting them directly in front of your target audience.


You can log in to international sites using your same eBay username and password, and start listing.


Be prepared to convert your prices to local currency. In order to show up well in search results, be sure to list in the local language, too (perhaps using free translation services like Google Translate).


Our planet’s becoming more connected all the time. Use these tips as the foundation to expand your business across borders and reach a world of buyers.

by valley*valley · Thrill-Seeker | Updated

I have a question, say there is an international buyer, and for some totally random reason they pay shipping in a separate transaction then they do for the actual item they purchase. The seller ships the item, provides the tracking information, and saves all receipts/customs forms/etc. The buyer, for whatever reason, cannot make it to the post office in time to pick up the package. The package is returned to the seller*. Why, would PayPal, upon receiving a dispute for item not received, reverse the charges for the shipping fees [thus basically stealing from the seller], but not care that the buyer [who obvsiously missed something?] did not bother to dispute the amount of money for the merchandise? Sound ridiculous? Well, it literally just happened to me. Please advise... Thank you.



by victorkiam · Enthusiast

This article doesn't  mention what I think is the biggest flaw with the GSP,  namely that it pushes postage costs so high that the buyer will not buy anything!  International selling is being killed by the GSP. The ebay community needs to understand what is causing this problem. Is it price gouging by Pitney Bowes? We also need an honest postage calculator which explains how USPS international rates are calculated, so we can learn how to send stuff economically. For example, I am buying firefighter jackets at the moment. They all weigh about the same, but the postage cost  from the US to the UK varies from $26 to $65.  The sellers can't explain why. I think it might be that some of them are using an unnecessarily large box, and being charged for sending fresh air - that's because airfreight is charged according to volume as well as weight. If a seller uses a Flat Rate USPS box for the sake of convenience, he probably wastes space on the plane.  The last jacket I bought came in a box which the seller made himself, by cutting up  a diaper box. The jacket was a snug fit in the box - no wasted space. The postage cost was only $26.                      

If you are posting items international at the post office you may want to look at the correct format for the address in the destination country with UPU http://www.upu.int/en/resources/postcodes/addressing-systems.html to increase the chances of your parcel arriving safely.



by victorkiam · Enthusiast

Thanks, but I've never had an international shipment go missing, not even from Italy, where theft within the postal service is very common.  Maybe I've just been lucky

by tsme35 · Thrill-Seeker

Sad but the USA can not compete in the world market anymore, postage rates have gotten so high that it cost more then the item cost. I had to dropped international shipping this year because of the outrageous postage rate. Couple years ago I was making thousands of dollars a year and shipped hundreds of items each year then postage hit $12 for 4 oz and it dropped 99%, it jumped to $14 this year and just isnt worth the risk. Until someone can figure out how to drop the cost of shipping the US is just gonna fall further and further behind. Ebay is already turning into a junk market with all the cheap chinese knock offs that alot of people are not even shopping here anymore. 

by victorkiam · Enthusiast

I finally got the seller to drop his postage cost from $65 to $35. He said $65 was incorrect because he'd selected the wrong shipping option. So I bought the jacket.  But the USPS calculator says the cheapest option for this package should be $75.  So now I'm more confused than ever. Perhaps the secret is for the seller to deliberately misreport the weight? I bet only a small fraction are checked by Pitney Bowes.