Tuesday, December 4, 2012
With the previously provided info regarding international customs forms in hand, what's next? Well, more information is needed, of course. It is the government, after all! But without the correct information for customs, your packages can be stuck en route or even returned. That’s expensive and does not make your international customers smile. Our CPS Shipping Software is a multi-carrier shipping system that records this important international shipping data as well as the ability to print shipping labels and customs forms.
To complete your commercial invoice and certificate of origin forms, here are some of the items that may be needed and should always be available when shipping international packages. In addition to the value and description of your products, you should also have information about your federal id number, the country of origin of the goods you are shipping and the terms of sale.
For the commercial package carriers, you will need to provide information details about the products contained in your packages so you can provide the commercial invoice and NAFTA or non-NAFTA certificate of origin. For the USPS, for the 2976A form, you will need to decide how you want non-deliveries treated. The USPS has two customs forms, the 2976/CN22 and the 2976A/CP72. Why two designations for each form? I have never seen an explanation for that, but you may see any of these form numbers referred to by the USPS. The good news is the CPS(TM) shipping software supports both the 2976 and 2976A forms for the USPS and the Commercial Invoice and Certificate of Origin for CPS supported carriers. A good, not too complicated explanation of when each form is needed is at https://www.usps.com/ship/customs-forms.htm.
And, like most infomercials or TV product commercials, but wait – there’s more! A Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) is another form that may need to be provided. "May need" because shipment value is part of its requirements. Starting July 2, 2008, the Census Bureau requires mandatory filing of export information through the Automated Export System (AES) or through the AESDirect for all shipments where a Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) is required. For more information, visit this web site: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www/.
Next time, we'll wrap up this international shipping information, and put a bow on it just in time for holiday shipping! If streamlining your international shipping is on your shipping department “to do” list, then check out our Web site for additional information about CPS. Visit www.HarveySoft.com.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
With international shipping comes customs forms creation. Maybe you do this through your shipping software, maybe you create your own forms, or you might use an online system or some other way to do this. Without the correct forms, your packages will not be delivered, so this is important. Customs forms have to meet certain specs and need to contain specific information, since most customs data must also be presented to customs electronically. This information includes a description of the goods in the shipment, their value, its classification (a merchandise sale, gift, documents only, etc.), and accurate customs Schedule B and Harmonized Tariff codes so that your packages clear customs without delays.
Since “Schedule B and Harmonized Tariff codes” are unfamiliar terms for some, below is information about the Schedule B codes from the US Census Bureau, plus some information about Harmonized Tariff codes. You can get additional information about these codes at the US Census Bureau website: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/.
Millions of trade transactions occur each year. These transactions are classified under approximately 8,000 categories of products leaving the United States and every exported item is assigned a unique 10-digit identification code. For example, concentrated frozen apple juice is assigned a 10-digit identifier that is in a broader category that is assigned a 6-digit identifier for apple juice. The 6-digit identifier for apple juice is in another broader category assigned a 4-digit identifier for fruit juices, vegetable juices, etc. The 4-digit identifier is in another broader category assigned a 2-digit identifier for Preparations of Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts etc. When you export goods, it may take some studying to learn which of these codes are the right codes for your product(s).
What's the difference between the Schedule B codes (for exports) and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) codes (for imports)? All of the import and export codes used by the United States are based on the Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) - http://www.usitc.gov/tariff_affairs/. The HTS assigns 6-digit codes for general categories. Countries that use the HTS are allowed to define commodities at a more detailed level than 6-digits, but all definitions must be within that 6-digit framework. The U.S. defines products using 10-digit HTS codes, like the example for concentrated frozen apple juice. Export codes (which the U.S. calls Schedule B) are administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Import codes are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC).
The USPS uses forms called 2976 or 2976A to record and print this information. UPS and FedEx use a commercial invoice. Regardless of which form or carrier is used, your products must be properly documented or your package will sit at customs until clarification is provided. With the requirements for electronic upload of customs information, customs form creation is being tied more and more to the shipping system. Our CPS Shipping Software creates and prints the necessary customs forms; so as a multi-carrier shipping system, CPS users have one easy system for international shipping and documentation.
We'll get into more about international customs forms in an upcoming post. For more information about CPS, visit www.HarveySoft.com.
Posted by Harvey Software Inc. at 12:01 PM
Friday, September 14, 2012
If your company is looking across our country’s borders to expand your business, a fundamental question is “How do I get the orders delivered to these international customers?” With the special regulations and additional expense of international shipping compared to domestic, getting this right is key. So understanding the international shipping process is the cornerstone to making this new business profitable and worthwhile.
Let’s look at the additional documents needed when shipping internationally. There are two (2) sets of information needed so your packages are delivered properly. One is for the carrier; the other is for customs. And this is where a multi-carrier shipping system can really help. I’ll use our CPS Shipping Software as an example.
Let's start with the most important items for the carriers. First, and it may sound obvious, but you need to know what country you are shipping to. Actually, you need to know how the carrier refers to the destination country. For example, let's use Ireland. If you are shipping with UPS, the country can be Republic of Ireland or just Ireland. For FedEx, you can only use Republic of Ireland. For USPS using Endicia, you can only use Ireland. Use the wrong one and you will not even get a shipping label. Our CPS shipping software helps with a “pull-down” country listing to assist you.
Next is international paperwork. This includes Commercial Invoices, Certificates of Origin, USPS Customs Forms and SED filings. The carrier needs to know how the international paperwork is being handled or your package can be delayed clearing customs. Each customs form has a specific layout. A shipping system like CPS that really supports international shipping can collect the data and print the correct forms in the approved format.
Using a shipping system that simplifies the shipping, shipping label, and international forms creation processes goes a long way to making international orders easy, freeing you to grow your business outside our borders.
International shipping is definitely not for the uninformed. There will be several more posts on this subject to follow over the next few weeks, including more detailed information about some of the items in the customs forms, such as the Schedule B and Harmonized Tariff codes and other items. So stay tuned.
To see more about CPS, visit www.HarveySoft.com.
Posted by Harvey Software Inc. at 10:00 AM
Friday, September 7, 2012
“Your order is on the way.”
You received the order, you have the products in stock, and now they are on the way to your customer. So what do you think your customers expect next? If they are like most, it’s "Is my order on the way and when do I get it? Show me!" Isn’t that what everyone wants to know? And when you notify your customers with timely, accurate information about their order, you also reinforce your brand. What is the best way to do this and show your customers great service?
Shipping notifications underline your commitment to outstanding service and, when delivered correctly, emphasize your brand. A terrific way to show your customers you are giving them a great experience is to send them a timely email to let them know their package is on the way. Today's best order systems may have this feature, the carrier provided shipping systems might be able to help, and high-quality third-party shipping systems have this as an optional or (better yet) standard feature.
For example, the CPS shipping software includes the SHIP eLERT(R) that sends email shipping notices right out of CPS using your company's own email address. You don't need Outlook, Outlook Express, etc., for this. Since each SHIP eLERT comes from you instead of the carrier or another party, there is no doubt about who your customer is doing business with.
There are many more advantages to a multi-carrier shipping system than just timely shipping notifications, so consider this one point. If you use a carrier's dedicated shipping system and send the shipment notification from their system, take a look at that notification. First, it's not from your company, it's from the carrier. Also, notice how far into the notification you have to go before it's clear the notification is from your company. With the CPS shipping software, you use your company’s email address. There is no doubt the shipment notification is immediately identified as coming from your company with the information they expect to see about delivery of their order. Great service keeps customers coming back. When it’s also a better process for your company, you have the best win-win situation.
Great service keeps customers, and showing customers know how well you are serving them is a great way to encourage repeat business. For information about CPS, visit our web site at www.HarveySoft.com.
Posted by Harvey Software Inc. at 10:18 AM
Friday, August 31, 2012
Part 2 - (continued from last week)
Forecasts say that online sales will grow by 15% or more this year, even in the current economy. What are the best ways for you to get your share? Reducing cart abandonment as much as possible will definitely help, as will encouraging shoppers to fill their carts. As you plan for your busy season, your shipping system can provide invaluable information to you can make your final price right for your customers. The idea is to make them click "Buy" instead of "Bye".
Shipping cost “sticker shock” is a huge contributor to abandoned shopping carts. For the same order, do you charge different amounts for shipping depending on the package destination? That makes your price different according to where your customer lives. If you visit the local outlet of a national store, they don’t ask for your ZIP code before you get the price - all customers pay the same amount. Maybe that’s a little different situation from a web store, but the point is clear - no one likes to know they are paying more than someone else for the same item. And unexpected, unanticipated shipping costs are a key factor that creates abandoned shopping carts.
“Flat rate” shipping offers, strategically mixed with "free" shipping offers, combat this problem. A number of experts and Internet entrepreneurs have found that it is very important to display shipping charges before “check out” to avoid shopping cart abandonment. So how can this be implemented?
Free shipping is very easy to calculate. Figuring out the right amount for flat-rate shipping takes a little more effort. If you are lucky enough to have your company’s actual carrier rates in your shipping system, this, combined with historical reporting directly from the shipping system, puts you on your way. Some shipping systems go a step further. As an example, the CPS Shipping Software can use actual carrier rates, including contract specific rates that even reflect the fuel surcharge, to provide the most accurate rate shopping and reporting. The CPS Flat Rate Shipping Charge Calculator report shows average shipping cost per package and average shipping cost per pound. These costs are also then reported by next day, 2 day, 3 day, ground and international services. With just a few mouse clicks you can keep tabs on your shipping costs for any period of time, by carrier and service, to accurately manage your flat rate shipping offer. This data also lets you know your costs to provide free shipping offers, too. You could crunch the numbers out of your carrier bills, but who has the time? To just "Click" and see them is so much easier. Monitor your costs at least monthly and make adjustments for changes you see in average charges.
When you look at customer satisfaction and shopping cart abandonment issues, the conclusion might be that free shipping is the only way to go. But this may not be the best approach for a couple of reasons, especially for the bottom line. Using flat rate shipping charges for low volume orders, then using free shipping as an incentive to increase the order amount are effective ways to increase sales, decrease shopping cart abandonment and increase your return customer rate. You can also offer free shipping for special times of the year like the holidays when competition is hot for consumer dollars. When implemented strategically, shipping offers lead to increased sales and profits.
Use a shipping history reporting tool like CPS Flat Rate Shipping Charge Calculator to monitor your average shipping costs and you can successfully implement and maintain flat-rate and/or free shipping offers. Quick, easily available reporting from the CPS multi-carrier shipping system lets you make sure you are accurately consider the shipping cost when using either offer.
For more information about CPS, visit www.HarveySoft.com.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Is one of your goals to be a national or even international seller? Is this the message you give shoppers at your web site? If you have not yet established flat rate shipping charges for your orders, you could be sending the wrong message. This is an ideal time of year to look at how you are charging for shipping and making sure to deliver the best message to maximize your sales. If you charge for shipping based on the shipping cost for individual orders, your closest customers get your best price, turning your national ambitions into a local or maybe regional business. And everyone wants the biggest possible potential customer base.
It’s well established that unexpectedly high shipping costs are a major contributor to abandoned shopping carts. If you calculate shipping costs per order instead of using flat rate shipping prices (or even free shipping for promotional seasons), you run the risk of causing shipping cost “sticker shock”, and there’s another abandoned cart. So how do you get around this?
Consider developing flat rate shipping cost offers for ground service and do the same for expedited (air) service. With flat rate shipping offers, you tell your shoppers the cost of shipping “up front” so they can fill their carts with confidence, ready to click the “Buy Now” button. Flat rate shipping offers can also simplify the work needed to maintain shipping prices that are displayed on your web site, another welcome benefit. This takes some work and thought to develop, then monitor on a weekly/ monthly basis to determine if adjustments are needed. But there is a great reward - more filled carts and more sales.
A related topic is international sales. International sales can be a business builder, but many see international shipping, with its complexities and regulations, to be a substantial barrier. Commercial invoices, US Postal Service forms and other required international paperwork and regulations (some backed with stiff penalties) mean you need to become an expert in shipping your products overseas.
What do flat rate shipping and international shipping have in common? Each of these can be made easier with the right shipping system. Harvey Software’s CPS Shipping Software helps with each task. The CPS Flat Rate Shipping Charge Calculator provides instantaneous access to the shipping data needed to establish and monitor your pricing for flat rate shipping. And CPS supports international shipping, including customs forms, international rates and shipping labels. The right multi-carrier shipping system can definitely help increase your sales.
Next time, part 2 – more about discovering the right "flat rate" price to charge for your shipping. To find out more about CPS now, visit www.HarveySoft.com.
Posted by Harvey Software Inc. at 12:13 PM
Friday, August 17, 2012
How often do you check to see if your packages are delivered to the right address? Of if they even make it onto the carrier trucks. And if this is not happening, what to do next?
Re-labeling packages, shipping packages that don't belong to your company, changing addresses, deleting packages - all of these can happen and have happened. You might have years of trusted service from a key employee, you check references, do background checks, put systems in place, but something doesn't seem right. You seem to have too many orders that need to be reshipped. Or your shipping costs seem high according your shipping budget forecast of shipping X number of boxes that weigh Y pounds. This kind of problem can be hard to pin down, even when you see the "red flags" that you are sure mean you have a problem. Here's where a shipping system might help you.
In the CPS shipping software, you have quick access to your shipping history data so you can search and analyze your shipping information. For example, after recently noticing something "wasn't right" with their shipping, one CPS shipper extracted their shipping data, looked for patterns that did not match their normal shipping, and discovered there was no order ID information with some of their shipping records. More research into these records zeroed in on the problem and helped find the employee responsible. In another instance, shipments of already processed and labeled packages were voided, then the addresses were altered at the time of shipping. Even though the shipments were deleted in CPS, the labels with illicit addresses were already printed and the package given to the carriers for delivery. With a special setting, CPS wrote the data for every voided package to a file for monitoring. Following this trail of voided packages then led back to the person who was scamming the company. These are examples of looking at the problem "after the fact".
To stop a problem before it happens, one way is to use a data lookup to read the shipping data into CPS, then prevent the shipping system operator from changing or voiding the address in the shipping system. In CPS, there is a setting so if the shipper tries to edit the shipping address fields, a window pops up requiring a password in order to make any change.
It's hardly ever possible to watch what happens to every package in your shipping department. Tools in your shipping system like these in CPS give you the power and information to stop these problems if they occur, or even before they occur.
To find out more about the CPS multi-carrier shipping system, visit our web site at www.HarveySoft.com.
Posted by Harvey Software Inc. at 11:00 AM