What you should know before shipping to China

By Regina Baily
Published in Solutions
November 18, 2022
5 min read
What you should know before shipping to China

We often hear about shipping from China to the US, but what about the reverse? More and more, Chinese customers are patronizing ecommerce businesses based in the US of A. What does that mean for your company? Well, not only will you need at least a passing understanding of international customs law, but it’s a good idea to have all your paperwork together well in advance to make sure your customers don’t experience any delays, or at the very least make sure that they’re resolved as quickly as possible. Read on for our overview of what to keep in mind when preparing to ship abroad, whether you’re shipping to China or somewhere else entirely.

How do I calculate shipping costs?

In this day and age, if you want to know how much it is to send a package, the simplest way to find out is to quickly check the website of your preferred courier partner. These sites will inevitably contain no end of shipping rate tables to help you determine how much you’re likely to spend on an individual package, and some sites even have tables for multiple packages at a time. This means that you don’t have to spend valuable time and energy sitting in front of a computer screen, calculator in hand, doing complicated forms of addition and multiplication.

Not only will most couriers’ sites have tables for domestic delivery, you’ll also typically see an international shipping calculator so you can make sure that you get the best deals possible when it comes to fulfilling for your international customers. Be aware that many delivery companies will provide better rates to business customers who ship packages with them again and again. This means that it may be more cost effective to pick one company and stick with it as opposed to jumping around to whomever has the cheapest rates at the time. These companies may even be able to provide shipping labels and other packing materials for you without too much hassle or extra cost. However, there are arguments for both approaches, so you’re free to run the numbers yourself and see which is best for you.

How much is shipping in the US?

It depends on the courier, as well as other metrics such as weight, dimensions, and whether it needs to be treated as a fragile or dangerous material. Domestically USPS will often have the best rates, especially for simple letters and flat mailers. Once you get into larger packages, though, things begin to get a bit more tricky. Packages under one pound start from just under 3 dollars at USPS, and start from 7 for over a pound. But this of course all depends on whether you’re electing for priority mail, first class mail, media mail, or retail ground mail. Commercial rates for priority mail express start at almost $23 a package (!) but come with up to $100 in insurance. Normal commercial rates for priority mail will run you a far more reasonable $7.16, and comes with $50 in coverage.

UPS offers multiple flat-rate shipping items for ecommerce merchants, which can be an excellent convenient choice if you don’t feel like spending time calculating and generating multiple types of shipping labels. UPS will charge 7-14 dollars for small-ish items such as t-shirts or books. Large items, however, can start at $23 and climb upwards for merchandise that’s particularly large or unwieldy. FedEx also provides a number of flat-rate options. To mail a stack of papers or something similarly flat, the charge will be just under $9. Packages large enough to fit a few books, on the other hand, will run you anywhere from ten dollars. If you have an extra-large box to ship, meanwhile, that will cost you in the low 30s. This represents a large diversity in shipping fee rates between the carriers, which naturally will have a strong effect on your bottom line.

How much is shipping internationally?

International ecommerce strategy is both somehow more and less difficult than the average merchant might expect. Yes, there are a number of pitfalls, such as dealing with VAT, import fees, and no end of paperwork. There’s a number of troubles that might be discounted by the average seller that can compound into big issues in the blink of an eye. How does one offer consistent two-day shipping, for example, when cross-border shipping and delivery times can be so unpredictable? The Covid-19 pandemic has only made these issues more present and difficult to avoid than ever before. Unfortunately it’s difficult to offer a hard-and-fast answer about how much international shipping costs, as these prices are constantly changing in accordance with exchange rates, oil prices, and other indicators. By shipping all your business through a single carrier, though, you’re likely to be able to nab a considerable discount for your cross-border shipments.

How much does shipping cost per pound?

The average price per pound is $1.35, but this depends strongly on location, the type of delivery selected, and whether it’s being transported at personal, commercial, or freight rates. A freight cost calculator will quote far lower prices than USPS for instance, because international marine transportation is far more efficient and involves far fewer fuel and personnel costs than traditional ground or air transport. As a result, your average freight container shipping cost calculator is likely to quote a price of only a few dollars per kilogram.

Not only is marine transport cheaper than other forms of carrying merchandise from point A to point B, current studies suggest that it’s far more environmentally friendly as well. Indeed, first and last mile transport makes up the vast majority of fuel emissions to begin with, but even ignoring that, it simply costs a lot less to sail a boat over the sea and take advantage of ocean currents than it does to drive large trucks or fly an airplane.

How much is overnight shipping?

Even the cheapest overnight shipping isn’t necessarily a small expense. For comparatively cheap shipping options, though, USPS is generally your best bet when it comes to any parcel under two pounds. Their Priority Mail Express flat rate envelopes work wonderfully for anything that fits into them, netting you the cheap shipping rates and fast turnaround time you were looking for. Even in regards to parcels over two pounds, the USPS overnight cost is still competitive in comparison to other couriers, meaning they’re still worth the consideration.

If you don’t use flat rate, however, the calculations become a bit more complicated. The overnight shipping cost is influenced by all sorts of factors, such as the dimensions of the package in question (larger or unusually-shaped packages are naturally going to cost more), the weight of the parcel (most postage is paid by weight), and the number of shipping zones your box needs to travel through. This last point is especially pertinent. A delivery passing through three shipping zones costs far more to send than one passing through two or even just one. That’s the reason why strategically-placed fulfillment centers are a must for any courier network, so that they can make sure to keep costs down for both themselves and their customers.

In conclusion

The cost it requires to get your products onto the doorstep and into the hands of your end customer is highly variable depending on the size, weight, and dimensions of the item in question, as well as the distance you need to send it and any relevant exchange rates. The major three courier companies all offer different prices and flat-rate options, but for sheer efficiency of price it’s difficult to beat marine freight. All of this can be quite confusing to wrap your brain around, especially if you’re new to the world of ecommerce fulfillment. Luckily, P2Pseller has your back. Instead of leaving you to flounder, we offer a number of calculators and even the use of our own business account so you can get better rates than you might be able to get going to these courier companies as an individual. We’re ecstatic to help you smash sales goals and grow your business bigger than ever before. Register a free account with us today to browse the full measure of our offerings without any commitment required on your end. We’ll see you there!


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