Beckham isn't the only entrepreneur who's found that fulfilling orders for international customers is both tricky and time-consuming. In fact, about 85 percent of the retail, Internet and manufacturing companies that have online presences can't fulfill orders internationally, according to a report titled "Instant Global" by Forrester Research. The report notes that because of the complexity inherent in shipping products across borders-including the inability to price total delivery costs-global fulfillment is currently the biggest impediment standing in the way of penetrating global markets via the Internet.
But that's not such a big problem once you have access to the right resources. Aside from the USPS, the SBAalso offers information about global business. It has publications that explain foreign tariffs and customs, and provides assistance in finding translators to interpret e-mail questions in foreign languages. Or log on to the Department of Commerce's Commercial Services division Web site, which includes market research on 90 countries and a video webcast library with programs on market opportunities and tips on doing business overseas.
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Another resource to take advantage of are professional logistics companies that handle international shipments. Before choosing one, make sure it can explain tariffs, duties and customs issues for foreign countries. Logistics firms usually have relationships with carriers that can handle international orders, including the postal service and DHL Worldwide Express, which has an international air-delivery network linking more than 635,000 destinations in 230 countries and territories.
Although businesses can work with these carriers directly, outsourced logistics companies may offer more competitive prices, because they consolidate freight and ship in bulk.