Best Practices for Carrier Selection in International Shipping

Selecting the right carrier for shipping is important for the success of your business because it impacts not only profit margins, but also supply chain efficiency and customer satisfaction. There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing an international carrier such as knowledge of the market, delivery times, tracking capabilities, and customer service. The right shipping carrier can help to optimize your shipping strategy.

The Most Common International Carriers

International shipping solutions vary depending on the size of the shipment, regulations surrounding the shipment and where the shipment is going. For example, shippers sending goods from the U.S. to China may choose a solution offered by UPS or FedEx whereas a company that ships to Europe may opt for DHL.

The most common international carriers are the same as the major domestic carriers in the U.S.:

USPS:  Handles smaller, lightweight packages under 20 pounds.

UPS: Offers express services at affordable rates for ecommerce packages and heavier shipments.

FedEx: Known for its overnight shipping when there is a tight deadline and is also a B2B ecommerce carrier.

DHL: Specializes in international shipping.

How to Choose the Right International Carrier

The carrier will depend on your business’s shipping patterns and how well it matches with a carrier’s services. The following are considerations when choosing an international carrier:

Delivery Duty Paid Shipping

Some carriers offer Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) shipping while others offer Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU), which makes the buyer responsible for paying duties once the shipment enters the destination country. DDP is usually the more common shipping service for businesses that sell products internationally since it makes the sellers responsible for paying customs or import duties.

International Shipping Knowledge

International carriers must know which countries and regions you are shipping to and from as well as the customs, duties, and regulations that are associated with those areas. A carrier must have experience with international shipping which differs significantly from domestic shipping. The shipping distance between the warehouse and final destination affects both shipping rates and delivery times. Carriers that ship often to a certain country may be able to offer more competitive rates.


The latest supply chain technology allows for up-to-date information to be relayed in real time. Once a customer makes a purchase, they have come to expect excellent service, including being able to track the order, even if it is crossing borders. As a business, you need to be able to see where your international shipments are in their journey to their destination. The carrier must offer shipping tracking capabilities so the customer can track the order from the time it leaves the warehouse to when it arrives. The shipment tracking program should be easy to use as well as accurate.


Pricing is one of the most important determining factors for companies choosing a carrier. Before finding a carrier, the budget for shipping should be set. International carriers offer different rates. Low-value items with low margins should be shipped as cost-effectively as possible. Larger, more expensive items that need adequate insurance coverage require premium international shipping. While choosing a low-cost carrier is tempting assuming that money will be saved, the cost should be balanced with delivery that is on time and reliable.

Product Type and Quantity

The type of product that is shipped also matters. Carriers specialize in different product types so find a carrier that is right for the type of product you produce. Perishable or hazardous items will need a whole set of shipping considerations and some carriers provide discounts on the type of product. The quantity of the product can determine which carrier to use. Many carriers offer discounts for bulk shipments so if shipments can be combined to make a larger shipment at a lower overall shipping cost.

Delivery Timeframe

Transit time is also another priority while choosing a carrier as it impacts your business’s reputation. About 90% of global trade is via ocean transport however maritime shipping can take weeks and when shipments are delayed even further due to a compliance or customs issue, it complicates the delivery timeframe. Select a carrier based on their Estimated Transit Time (ETT) between your warehouse and final destination. The carrier should have an ETT that fits with your supply chain requirements.

Carrier Reputation

There are several ways to evaluate how reliable a carrier is and the kind of service they provide. Online reviews from customers can highlight carriers’ strengths and weaknesses. Also, reviewing delivery and reliability statistics can help the decision. A safety record can also be requested from a carrier to see how many fines and accidents a service has had in the last few years. The right carrier is one that offers superior customer service as well as the efficient delivery of goods. With shipping, delays and other issues are bound to happen, and the carrier you select should have the support and knowledge to be able to deal with them.

Verizeal’s International Shipping Solutions

Choosing the right carrier is a decision that has consequences that impact your company’s supply chain ROI. The wrong carrier will result in loss of profit, aggravation and unsatisfied customers. Verizeal offers complete visibility for all international orders with the use of IoT devices and sensors, as well as export compliance documentation assistance to cut down on shipping delays.

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