International trade is nothing like domestic trade. Importing and exporting come with their own rules, regulations, and policies, making it easy to get lost in industry jargon. For instance, agreeing to the wrong International Commercial Terms (incoterms) regularly causes confusion.
The intricacies of cross-border trade are a key reason small businesses avoid importing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, small business importers only accounted for less than a third of the known import value in 2018. Importing is a critical way to expand your business, however. A few importing benefits include:
- Reducing manufacturing costs
- Introducing new products to the market
- Finding higher quality goods at lower prices
Are you in the early stages of learning the ins and outs of importing? Don’t be deterred by the complex world of freight. Begin the process with this easy checklist to ensure a smooth shipping experience:
|Selecting freight: you can choose between two shipping methods: ocean freight and air freight. Ocean freight typically takes longer to arrive but is lower priced and meant for high-volume orders. Air freight on the other hand is much faster and suited for time-sensitive shipments. It is more expensive to ship by air freight and is designed for smaller orders that are between 150KG to 500KG.|
|Incoterms: these acronyms regulate where you assume shipping responsibility from the supplier, as per the sales contract. For example, FOB means you take control after loading on the ship or plane while EXW means you coordinate shipping directly from their warehouse. Know which incoterms you are agreeing to and ensure they meet your needs.|
|Packaging: make sure goods are tightly and carefully packed. Consider palletizing your shipment if needed. This prevents cargo from getting damaged along the way.|
|Cargo insurance: insist on comprehensive cargo insurance. Most carrier liability only covers a small percent of your cargo's value.|
|Documents: have your supplier send you a copy of the commercial invoice and packing list. These documents contain some of the information you will need when requesting quotes.|
|Details: come prepared with the origin, destination, import mode, size of goods, value, and other core details to both make requesting the quote easier and confine communications.|
|Shortlist: decide which forwarders to request quotes from, based on referrals or past experience.|
|Request: request quotes (or use Alibaba.com Freight to instantly compare quotes).|
|Review: make sure everything is correct on the quote. For example, some forwarders have a tendency to forget trucking on either side, or they might forget to include customs.|
|Accept: accepting a quote is almost as simple as it sounds but don't choose solely on price!|
|Instructions: congratulations! Time to send documentation to your new forwarder.|
|Next steps: your shipment is now booked...but your shipment is just starting.|
This checklist outlines the steps for booking your shipment, but there are plenty of other areas that require your attention.
Be sure you're asking your suppliers and freight forwarders the right questions when importing. Watch our webinar to hear experts from Alibaba.com and Freightos reveal the most important questions you should ask your suppliers when importing, and what you want those answers to be.
Understand exchange rate fluctuations. The price of the US dollar might increase or decrease, and the rates could move in your favor or against you.