International Shipments: How some shipping mistakes can make or break an SME business

For many businesses today, shipping plays a significant role. But what exactly is shipping? It’s not just about getting good delivered from point A to a distant point B. It involves thinking about proper packaging, storage facilities, customs, and legal aspects. But more importantly, your shipping process is a chance for you to showcase your commitment towards providing the best service you can to your customers or clients. 

As we have stated in the previous articles on our “Shipping Disasters” series of articles, going the extra mile to avoid what seems to be a simple problem can save you hours of time and thousands of dollars. 

As business owners, you have a million things to do on your list, and we understand that you don’t have the time to supervise every step of your shipment process. But, if you are aware of the common mistakes made, you have crossed the biggest challenge; problem identification. 

This article will tell you the top 3 mistakes that businesses make with their international shipments (can also be applicable for domestic shipments) which you can avoid, stay till the end for our solutions too! 

3 Mistakes SMEs make when shipping internationally 

1. Not PROPERLY insuring goods

Insurance, more of than not, we think of it as a lower priority when it comes to shipping. Whilst the freight forwarders do ship your goods in one piece most of the time, there is always a chance that your goods could have gotten damaged during the transit. Issues like; ship or flight crash, temperature change, theft or misplacement, all of which you, as the company, do not have the control for. 

What makes it worse? If you have not properly insured your goods, you can and will run into a whirlwind of documentations, and legal procedures once your shipment has been damaged to reclaim its value. 

So, the one thing you can do about this is to get your goods the proper insurance it deserves. An insurance package covers all the possible damages that could occur. Hence, getting your goods insured makes sure that you get paid off the charges regarding damages (even if the damages caused were unintentional). 

2. Choosing the cheapest freight option 

For SME’s or for many businesses, time and money are crucial. Once you have decided to ship your products, choosing the correct freight option can a cumbersome process. Choosing between ocean or air freight, port to port or door to door shipments, insurance coverage, and lot more factors come into play. 

Another mistake businesses commit is blindly choosing the most advertised freight forwarding company, thinking that they know how to perform the service best. While advertisements are helpful, it is important to know that just because a company advertises a lot does not make them the best at the job/service. 

Or on the other hand, simply choosing the cheapest or the most popular freight option could backfire and cost you a lot more if and when the shipments get held up at the customs, stolen or damaged. 

3. Improper timing of Shipments

Especially for first-time shippers, understanding the shipping process is crucial. Many times, companies commit and promise their clients a date for their shipments. However, in their planning process, when they get a quotation form their freight forwarder, their transit time alone was 2-4 weeks. If the company had promised the goods to arrive for a time sooner, they are in huge trouble. 

Another common mistake made is not understanding their freight rate quote. Once a company gets a quote, they wait till their shipment is ready to accept but by then their quotation has expired. This simple thing alone can cost a business hundreds to thousands of dollars.

(Bonus) 4. Not doing your homework regarding shipment details

Last but not least, relying too much on your manufacturers or vendors for the shipment process details can be hurtful to the business at times. Yes, your suppliers may already have some personal connections with specific freight forwarders, but blinding trusting them could mean that your company may be losing an extra couple hundred from its pocket. 

How can you best avoid the international shipment mistakes

1. Make sure to plan the shipment process ASAP!

Next time you’re shipping internationally, or dealing with any sort of shipments, create a shipping plan! We mentioned this in our “Shipping Disasters: Amazon FBA Shipment” articles, and we cannot stress its importance more. 

A crucial step in forming the shipping plan is figuring out the details regarding the actual shipment. Such detail includes the choice of a freight forwarder, dates of shipments, and other related information. When figuring out the dates, you need to consider the time in transit, the time it takes to load and unload the freight, the time it takes to transfer the goods from port or terminal to the given address. 

If you do not plan this thoroughly, you either ship your goods too late or too early, both of which will cost you extra money.

2. Choose the correct freight forwarder

On a general note, larger shipments are commonly shipped by the sea. And the fastest way to ship goods internationally is by air, but the cost aspect comes into play. Airfreight is generally more expensive than the ocean freight. Given that time and money are both crucial to many businesses, it is important that they create a plan, explore the options thoroughly, get a couple of quotations before deciding on the final option. 

When choosing the freight forwarder, assess them by factors such as the number of years they have been in the industry, their responsiveness (use the chatbox if they have one!), do they ship to the country or region you require them to? Do they carry sufficient knowledge about the custom rule and regulations for that particular country? 

We understand that this process may be a resource and time-consuming part. Which is why we bring to you,, the Expedia of air freight. It is a one-stop platform for all your air freight needs, you can look at the freight forwarder options available for the air freight, get an instant quote, and close a deal with them within a matter of days. It sure will reduce your search time from days to seconds and saving you at least 20% on the costs.  

3. Check with your freight forwarder  

A lot of the freight forwarders offer insurance, but it may just be a basic plan with not much coverage. It’s important to get your goods insured, but also equally important to get it done properly. So, check with you freight forwarders and gather more details regarding their insurance plan: what type of goods they cover if they only cove port to port or door to door, is the insurance cost a standard rate for each shipment or does it depend on the number of boxes or other metrics.

With, it offers to cover up to US$ 10,000 insured value for free.  And with an additional free, more value of goods can be insured!

If a freight forwarding company’s insurance plan does not satisfy your company’s requirements, look into the option of buying your own insurance from another third party. Gather as much information as you can to make an informed decision. This way, even if damages do occur in the future, you know how to best get it handled.

4. Keep yourself updated with the industry and how it works 

The first step is to understand all freight costs that there could be in the shipment process. Apart from the costs related to packaging, cost regarding loading, unloading, the carrier costs will also be considered as freight costs. 

All such freight costs are considered as “F.O.B freight cost”, Free On Board freight cost. There are two types of FOB costs; FOB Origin and FOB Destination. It helps determine which party pays the freight charges and when (before or after the shipment is received) 

  • FOB Origin: Charges are the responsibility of the consignee (the receiver of the shipment) and the transfer of money happens after the goods reach the consignee. 
  • FOB Destination:  The shipper is responsible for the freight charges, and are products are shipped prepaid. 

Understanding these types of charges and talking this through with your consignee and freight forwarder can save you time and money so that you don’t have to settle the charges later or pay for charges that you did not have to in the first place. 

Another key suggestion to stay in the loop is fo keep an eye out for initiative by your countries Freight or Import/Export Organization’s events, free webinars and websites. Such organizations have access to experts in the industry to can better address your shipping needs and concerns. 

If you are a company in the US, you can follow The National Export initiative, if you are a company in Hong Kong, you can follow The Hong Kong Maritime or Logistics Associations.

By taking the suggested solutions into consideration, you can assure that the company’s success and as well as your customer’s satisfaction. Moreover, why go through the trouble and learn from on your own when you can learn from other’s mistakes! 

Any small mistake avoided can save you a lot of money and time, and so, as long as your company identifies its potential problem with help from this article, your business is already on the right path to its success. 

Give it a try now and get an instant door to door quote for your next shipment at

Continue reading

Subscribe to our newsletter
for great shipping resources.

We use cookies to enhance your experience by collecting information about how you use our site.
Decline cookiesAccept cookies