Expanding business horizons by tapping into international markets offers substantial benefits for eCommerce businesses, such as revenue growth, market expansion, and increased brand awareness. Offering one of the largest and most advanced eCommerce markets in Europe, the United Kingdom (UK) is a receptive location to target for American products. With a boosting international economy and a large population of consumers eager to receive American goods, the UK is a profitable region for e-commerce businesses. However, it’s essential to take the necessary steps to understand consumer preferences, UK-specific regulations, and the overall competitive landscape before shipping to the UK from the USA.
With the right partner specializing in international shipping, business owners can take advantage of the lucrative advantages shipping to the UK offers. At ePost Global, we serve our clients with the utmost knowledge of their targeted country to streamline global distribution and provide a smooth shipping experience with prompt delivery, accuracy, and consistency. In doing so, we’ve provided the benefits, considerations, and steps involved when shipping to the UK to help you achieve a positive and seamless shipping experience.
Advantages of Shipping to the UK from the USA
While there are many countries to choose from when expanding overseas, the United Kingdom is a highly targeted location, as it currently reigns as the country with the 6th largest economy in the world behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and India. As a robust international trading spot, the U.K. is a prime location for importing and exporting American goods. The mighty yet geographically small area comprises England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
With its robust economy and close ties with the U.S., shipping internationally to the U.K. can help your business diversify its revenue streams and enhance brand recognition in one fell swoop. More importantly, the process is more cost-efficient as most consumers in the U.K. speak English, minimizing your localization efforts.
Many companies have found success in targeting the U.K., namely Amazon. Once an online bookstore, today, we know Amazon as one of the largest online retailers in the world. Having gone international in 1998 with the online expansion of Amazon.uk.co, today, Amazon currently operates 17 brick-and-mortar locations in the U.K., with London, England, as a prime market testing ground for the billion-dollar corporation. While success online was apparent, the physical locations that began in Kent, England, drove Amazon to think even bigger, driving an income exceeding 155 million British pounds as of December 2022. Amazon is currently the second biggest market in Europe after Germany.
Many partnerships can be developed by expanding to a well-targeted market like Europe. But you may be wondering; are there any drawbacks to shipping to the U.K. from the USA? While U.K. regulations and requirements can be overwhelming at times, the disadvantages of shipping to the U.K. are few and far between. International shipping is inevitably more expensive and will take longer than shipping in the States. However, the benefits significantly outweigh the cons. Further, the U.K. has an established transportation and logistics infrastructure, with major ports and airports to help streamline the shipping process.
Understanding the UK Market
Conducting thorough market research is essential in any marketing initiative to reach a new audience. Companies must consider consumer preferences, current trends, and product demand in the specific area they plan to target. Tailoring your marketing strategy to resonate with UK consumers ensures a profitable return and, more importantly, enough success to expand further to reach other territories with similar needs.
As the number one trading partner of the US, the UK is particularly receptive to many American products. Common goods exported include the following:
- Consumer Goods
- Medical Equipment
- Precious Metal & Stones
- Agricultural Products
- Industrial Supplies
American technology offers many advances that the UK market is receptive to, including consumer electronics and developed software and tech solutions. American fashion brands have also found a significant UK presence, with named brands such as Ralph Lauren and Nordstrom finding tremendous success in offering international shipping.
While meeting the product needs of your UK clientele is essential, meeting shipping expectations is also vital to your strategy. For example, if your company offers a subscription-box-based service based out of New York, you’ll need to prioritize shipping speed in your plan, as consumers will expect prompt delivery times each month.
Generally, consumers expect timely deliveries, and are willing to pay more for quick transit times. A recent report found that 62% of shoppers expect their shipment in 3 business days or less when choosing free shipping. And many consumers expect free international shipping if they spend a specific dollar amount on their purchase. If profit margins allow it, offering free to low-cost shipping can be a surefire way to maintain an international consumer base.
Ease of use is also critical for eCommerce businesses looking to expand internationally. Many overseas consumers will abandon their carts if they find their order will not arrive in expedited time or if the shipping process is too complicated.
Creating a seamless shipping process by staying aware of customs clearance requirements, common reasons for port delays, and UK shipping regulations helps reduce unnecessary delays that could hinder your business.
Navigating Shipping Regulations When Shipping to the UK from the USA
While expanding shipping internationally is an exciting venture, the process is intricate, requiring special attention to UK-specific shipping regulations, import duties, and commodity-specific stipulations. Below, we’ve outlined the information necessary to navigate the process easily.
U.K. customs regulations are established by His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). HMRC is the U.K. government responsible for collecting taxes, customs duties, and authorities on goods imported into the U.K. Regulations are set to ensure the items shipped comply with UK-specific trade laws and revenue and to protect the general public’s safety.
Certain industrial goods require import licenses issued by the Department for International Trade’s Import Licensing Branch (ILB). If a shipper attempts to import a banned item or an item requiring a specific license, the shipper is presented with a restriction notice. Standard import products prohibited in the U.K. include offensive weapons or self-defense sprays (pepper spray, knives, etc.), rough diamonds, and personal meat or dairy products.
It’s essential to stay updated with U.K. customs by regularly viewing the official website of H.M. Revenue and Customs.
U.K. Import Duties and Taxes
Import duties, also known as tariffs, are the taxes a country’s government imposes on imported goods. The U.K. has a standard value-added tax (VAT) of 20% for goods imported (or exported) into the U.K.; however, some products have a reduced VAT of 5%, like specific clothing or food items. The VAT is applied throughout the supply chain process to account for each stage of progression, including manufacturing. The consumer pays the final VAT, and is included in the final shipping price.
Importers are responsible for determining the correct value of import duties and taxes applicable to the shipment. If customs authorities declare the value incorrectly, it could result in additional costs and timely delays.
Required documentation for proper clearance from customs authorities includes a customs declaration, commercial invoice, and a certificate of origin. The customs declaration will specify the product(s) you are shipping. Imported goods also require a commodity code, which can be found in the U.K. Trade Tariff: Volume 1. The commodity code is used on any customs declaration and acts as a reference number to describe the item you plan to import or export into the U.K.
Each good requires its specific code for travel. For example, if your business sells organic health supplements, they will be classified as “food” in the U.K. and require particular labeling and documentation before travel. Improper classification could result in customs agents seizing or destroying your products. It’s also important to consider that while your product may be approved for air or ground travel, it may be illegal in its destination country. For example, U.S. ingredient regulations are far more lenient than in the U.K. Your product may be classified as a supplement in the U.S. but defined as a drug in the U.K., making your products unregulated for international shipping.
The commercial invoice will include an itemized list, including the product name, description, quantity, unit price, and currency. Lastly, the certificate of origin will define the place of origin of the goods and where they were manufactured.
Packaging and Labeling Considerations
Products shipped to the UK from the USA may require a UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking. This marking is specific to goods in England, Wales, and Scotland; however, the Northern Ireland market requires additional regulatory markings, but requirements will depend on the product. You can view guidelines and FAQs regarding Ireland, Great Britain, or other non-EU countries to ensure labeling compliance before shipping your item.
It is essential that the UKCA marking is visible and legible when attached to the product. If this is not possible, it must be attached to the packaging or accompanying documents. Additionally, UKCA markings must only be placed on a product by the manufacturer or an authorized representative.
Regulatory documents are essential for international travel, but it’s also important to consider each facet of travel to account for additional costs. Shipping fees are subject to change based on the shipping method, weight and dimensions, and distance from the port. Additional charges may include insurance and protection for higher-priced items that may be costly to replace.
For example, technical equipment, a common good shipped from the USA to the UK, requires all pieces to be properly packaged with care to prevent damage during transit. While smaller packages may seem like the cheapest way to fulfill certain items, leaving enough room for packaging materials to avoid damaged products during transit is critical. Electronics should be placed in the center of the package with 2 – 3 inches of packaging materials like bubble wrap or packing peanuts surrounding the product to fill voids that could allow the product to move around when traveling.
Building Customer Trust and Satisfaction
Upon completing each step of regulatory compliance for shipping internationally to the U.K., it is vital to keep customer satisfaction at the top of your business strategy. Providing customers with a positive and satisfactory experience is paramount to achieving success. Quality customer care starts with transparent communication regarding delivery times, costs of shipping, and potential customs charges. Hidden fees and unknown charges will deter customers from purchasing your products. Consumers want their products from honest suppliers with the best intentions. A simple way to connect with your audience is to inform consumers of all costs from the start of the buyer’s journey. Surprise shipping costs could result in abandoned carts.
Once you’ve established your shipping rates and a transparent way to notify your customers of them, be sure to offer various shipping options. Consumers often opt for the cheapest shipping option but may pay a premium to receive a product they love.
And while you hope that problems stay minimal throughout your shipping process, mistakes are inevitable, especially when working with customs. Providing an infallible customer service experience with swift response times prevents customers from having a bad experience with your company. Customers understand there may be issues that occur when shipping internationally, and since 93% of customers are likely to shop again with a company following a positive customer service interaction, setting the bar high for your customer service team right at the start could be what sets your business apart from another, grasping the attention of your new UK-based customers.
Choose ePost Global as your UK Shipping Partner
ePost Global partners with businesses to provide a seamless shipping experience with prompt delivery reliability, accuracy, and consistency. With years of international shipping expertise, we offer:
Insights into the international shipping process: Our worldwide network and unique approach are unparalleled to other global shipping providers.
Continued customer support: We offer international shipping solutions for a wide range of business needs, from small parcel delivery to bulk subscription boxes, all while providing positive customer interactions.
Detailed tracking: Unlike many other international shipping services, at ePost Global, we provide enhanced tracking and online visibility throughout the delivery process so your customers know where their package is on the map.
Flexible shipping options: Our longstanding relationship with shipping providers offers our partners an array of shipping options to suit your budget and shipping needs. We customize our services and support to meet your unique mailing and shipping objectives so you can spend less time worrying about regulations and shipping requirements and focus more on growing your business.
While shipping overseas may sound intimidating, eCommerce businesses can take advantage of lucrative opportunities by expanding their market reach beyond U.S. borders. Targeting the U.K. offers substantial opportunities for growth from an undeniably profitable market.
If you are setting your sights on shipping overseas from the USA to the U.K., partner with ePost Global to expand your reach and receive expert guidance for all your international shipping endeavors. Contact ePost Global today.