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How to Ship Internationally to Southeast Asia

Your collection of international shipping tips and best practices to ship your goods to and throughout Southeast Asia

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Section 1: Preparing Your Orders for International Shipping in 6 Steps

Southeast Asia (SEA) has been heralded as the next land of opportunity for eCommerce, including by big names like Google and Deloitte (sources below). With fast-growing markets like Indonesia and the Philippines looking ripe for you to sell your goods cross-border to, it would be ideal for your shipments to arrive safely at your customers’ doorsteps with minimal delays.

This is a living page covering best practices associated with B2C and B2B shipping methods to various countries in Southeast Asia. This guide will be updated with new insights and guides to various countries within SEA as well different modes of transportation – air, sea, and trucking.

Part 1 below will focus on how to prepare for your deliveries, from selecting your shipping partners and services down to packaging and labelling.

Part 2 contains shipping guides to different countries in Southeast Asia, including some of the customs documentation you need to look out for.

If you need more info, our additional resources in part 3 covers topics like planning for holiday seasons, delays, and links to our other resources like customs clearance.

 


PART 1: PREPARING YOUR ORDERS FOR INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING IN 6 STEPS

The way you prepare and package your goods prior to shipping them can mean the difference between a product getting stuck in customs or getting damaged in transit.

These 6 basic steps should help you minimise most chances of the above happening:

  1. Engaging the right shipping partners
  2. Packaging your goods well
  3. Choosing the right levels of service and cash on delivery
  4. Providing shipping details to your logistics service provider
  5. Printing and attaching shipping labels and documents to your package(s)
  6. Passing the shipments to the carriers

 

1. Engaging the right shipping partners

Different logistics service providers (LSP’s) offer different ranges of services at different parts of the international delivery process. Depending on your existing supply chain set up, your needs could range from getting a full end-to-end solution or just having an LSP that specialises in just one stage of the delivery.

The international shipping process consists of the below steps:

steps in cross border shipping

  • First-mile delivery –

The shipment moves from your origin address (e.g. your office, warehouse, or a supplier’s address) to the airport or port.
Find out more about first-mile delivery

  • Customs clearance at country of origin –

Clearing goods for export from the origin country.

  • Freight –

The shipment is transported, either by air or sea, from the origin country’s airport or port to the destination airport or port.If a land connection exists between your origin and destination countries, cross-border trucking is another option available.

  • Customs clearance at destination country –

Clearing goods for import in the destination country.Get country-specific customs details at our Southeast Asian customs clearance guide

  • Distribution –

The shipment is sent from the airport or port to the domestic distribution centre to be sorted and assigned to vans and motorcycles for the last mile delivery stage. For LCL sea freight shipments, they are unpacked at a container freight station at the port before being collected by the last mile delivery vehicle.

  • Last mile delivery –

The shipment moves from the distribution centre to the customer’s doorstep.
Find out how to get the most from your last mile delivery services

 

As an example, a Singaporean merchant could have their Jakarta-bound goods shipped via truck from their premises to Changi International Airport (SIN) where it is cleared for export. Then, it is transported via air freight to reach Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) in Indonesia and goes through customs clearance. After that, it gets transported to a local distribution facility to be picked up by the last mile delivery van or motorcycle. These vehicles then travel from the distribution facility to your destination address in Jakarta.

 

Which type of logistics service provider should you choose?

If you’re looking for suitable third-party logistics service providers, consider the pros and cons of using postal services, private delivery companies or logistics integrators. While postal services save you money, private express couriers can provide better service experiences. Logistics integrators, on the other hand, partner with a network of logistics service providers and assign your delivery to their partners for you.

One way to save money on shipping is to use multiple smaller, localised shipping partners at different stages of the delivery, but this may prove hard to manage when there are so many partners to coordinate with.

Fortunately, there are end-to-end service providers such as Janio Asia who do the heavy lifting of connecting you to their wide networks of logistics service providers which provide great coverage in Southeast Asia who can manage these logistics partners for you at a similarly competitive rate.

For a more in-depth comparison, you can find out more in our article: Postal services vs Private Couriers vs 4PL’s

 

Want to get the cost savings of multiple shipping partners but don’t want the complexity that comes with it? Janio can integrate your delivery needs into our network of logistics service providers at reasonable rates. Contact us to find out more.

Talk to Us

 

What should you look out for in a logistics service provider (LSP)?

In general, you should look out for 3 factors in an LSP:

3 things to look out for in shipping partners

Check out our blog post to find out more about the 3 Things eCommerce merchants should consider in a SEA Delivery Service.

Next: Packaging your goods

 

Source: Google and Temasek (2019) | Deloitte (2017)

2. Packaging your goods

Packages could be subject to bumpy events like turbulence during delivery, and nobody wants to be disappointed by damaged items.

To minimise the chance of your items from getting damaged, appropriately packaging your products are important in any form of delivery. Here are 5 summarised steps to good packaging:

  • Assessing your item’s requirements and choosing the right packaging materials
  • Wrap all items separately
  • Cushioning and filling: leave no empty space, but don’t overstuff
  • Using the right sealing material – Brown plastic tape (Polypropylene tape), electrical tape (vinyl adhesive tape) or duct tape (fiber-reinforced paper tape)
  • Sealing your boxes with the H-taping method

You’ll first need to consider the following before deciding on how to package your items:

Asses item requirements such as weight, size & shape, and value & fragility before packaging

  • The weight of your product- The heavier the product, the stronger the packaging material needs to be. You can check the strength of the box you’ll be using via its manufacturer’s stamp. Heavier items may need double or even triple-layered corrugated cardboard boxes. Lighter items can be packaged in a polyurethane bag
  • Size and shape of your product – If you’re using a box, there needs to be enough space for cushioning material. The item being packaged should not be touching the sides of the box.
  • Value of your product and its fragility – Fragile and/or high-value goods need extra cushioning and protection. Place a fragile label on the box for good measure. If needed, you might want to consider the box-in-box method discussed later in this article.

Your individual items could move around within the packaging, which is why individually packing them with sufficient stuffing between the items is recommended. Cardboard separators, bubble wrap or air bags can work for this. If you need additional protection, the box-in-box method is worth considering too.

If you are shipping an item that has no fixed shape and is also non-fragile, like a t-shirt, you can pack it into a polyurethane bag with some packing tissue. If you are packaging larger items that may need more cushioning and needs to be boxed, like cosmetics in fragile containers, our next steps have you covered.

 

Packaging for International Shipments 101

For sealing material, avoid using strings or straps as they could damage your heavier packages or your logistics provider’s equipment. These options work better:

  • Brown plastic tape (Polypropylene tape)
  • electrical tape (vinyl adhesive tape)
  • duct tape (fiber-reinforced paper tape)

Finally you’ll want to seal your box with the H-taping method. To get more details on both this and the box-in-box method, check out our packaging 101 article.

Next: Choosing the right levels of service

3. Choosing the right levels of service

Carriers usually offer multiple tiers of service in shipping. These delivery options mainly differ in the features they offer, such as:

  • Delivery time
  • Weight limit
  • Whether they offer track & trace
  • Free pick-up at origin address
  • Compensation in the event of loss of shipment
  • Cash On Delivery

Typically, the more features offered, the higher the shipping fee is. Some of these features can give your eCommerce business a boost. Real-time track and trace can provide you and your customers peace of mind as customers are able to check on the condition of their parcels without needing to contact you. Choose the right features that best suit your shipping needs and budget.

Cash on delivery is still an important payment option in Southeast Asia, as some want the assurance that they won’t be victims of fraud. Look out for LSP’s who can help you facilitate this method in this region. You can also check our article about whether you should offer cash on delivery.

 

Janio provides real-time track and trace as part of its end-to-end B2C and B2B shipping services. Our flexible cross-border shipping options also lets you choose how our services can complement your existing supply chain too.

Next: Providing shipping details

4. Providing shipping details

Carriers will need merchants to provide shipping details to generate the documentation required by your origin and destination’s customs authorities. Additionally, the documents supplied may need to be in the country’s local language.

The type of information most carriers require are:

  • Sender’s details and address
  • Recipient’s details and address
  • Country of manufacture
  • Declared value and the currency in the country’s required currency
  • Harmonised System (HS) Code of Item
  • Item description
  • Item weight and dimensions
  • Item quantity

This information will be entered into a Customs Declaration form and shipping label by either you or the shipping partner if they offer this service. Always check that this information has been entered accurately. Incomplete documentation may trap your goods in customs.

It’s vital to be as accurate as possible when preparing these customs documents. Additional shipping charges could arise if the shipping company returns the packages to you. Under-declaring the value of the items of your shipments on the commercial invoice could result in fines if the custom clearance agencies correctly suspect it. The courier may also charge you additional fees for undervaluing your goods.

> Different countries in Southeast Asia may have different regulations depending on what you are shipping into the country. To find out more about each SEA country’s customs requirements, check out our latest Guide on SEA Customs Clearance or download it free for viewing offline.

Next: First Mile Delivery in the Origin Country

5. Printing and attaching shipping labels and documents to your package(s)

good labelling practice

The shipping label tells readers what the package contains, who the sender and receiver are as well as their addresses. This information is key for both international logistics service providers and customs staff as they need to know where and who the package needs to go, and in some cases how to handle it in the case of fragile or specialised products.

Shipping labels minimally show the following information:

  • Recipient’s name and address
  • Sender’s name and address
  • Item description
  • Item weight
  • Item quantity
  • Tracking number and/or barcode

If your eCommerce logistics provider or carrier offers real-time track and trace capabilities, the shipping label will have a tracking number or barcode affixed to it. At each step of the delivery, such as pick up or transferring it to customs, the delivery staff will enter the tracking number or scan the barcode to update their tracking system as to which stage the parcel’s delivery is at now. As such, the shipping label needs to be legible and easily scanned.

 

How about Commercial Invoices?

Commercial invoices are vital for your cross-border deliveries to clear customs and contain more detailed information compared to the shipping label.

Accurate commercial invoices prevent your parcels from getting stuck in your destination country’s customs. They ensure your items are classified correctly and the right taxes and duties are paid.

Commercial invoices at the minimum contain the following information:

  • The declared value of the shipment and its currency
  • Full descriptions of each item in the shipment
  • The consignee (recipient’s) name, phone number and address
  • Waybill Number
  • Shipper (sender’s) name and address
  • Shipping terms which mention if the shipper or the receiver is paying for delivery

Additional information:

  • Harmonised Code – a special code used by the World Customs Organisation to classify goods
  • Tax registration number (e.g. VAT number)

To get more labelling best practices, check out our full labelling guide.

Next: Passing the shipments to the carriers

6. Passing your shipments to your carriers

What is First-Mile Delivery in B2C Logistics

Depending on the delivery option selected and service level the carrier offers, they will collect the package from you either at the sender address you specified or at one of their drop-off points in the origin country.

Once your package is in the carrier’s hands, you’ll be given a tracking code to track your package on their tracking platform, unless the delivery option you chose does not offer tracking services. Your customer can also use this tracking code to find out if the package is still in the origin warehouse, transiting via air freight, or en route to their address.

 

After passing the package or order to your logistics service provider, the first step of international delivery, first-mile delivery can begin.

Check out our article to find out the best practices for first-mile delivery.

Next: Part 2: How B2C Cross-border Shipping Works

PART 2: HOW B2C CROSS-BORDER SHIPPING WORKS

Infographic flowchart comparing cross-border shipping or local distributionCross-border shipping occurs when goods are transported from one country to the next, with no inventory being stored in the destination country. The goods will go through customs and import duties may have to be paid depending on existing trade agreements and de minimis values. In the case of cross-border eCommerce, cross-border shipping only needs to occur when a sale has been made.

The other option to cross-border shipping is a traditional local distribution model. This involves setting up warehouses and managing fleets to manage deliveries in the destination country. Often, this is done to reduce shipping times when orders arrive as the inventory is kept closer to the country. It is vital to estimate demand carefully to prevent stock-outs or oversupply.

Both methods have their pros and cons. Before choosing one method or the other, take into account some of the below considerations:

Inventory Exposure and Initial Investment Required

  • Setting up local distribution networks require greater investments and lead time compared to cross-border shipping – such as investing in warehouse rental, set up and getting the appropriate licenses.
  • The local distribution method also has you hold inventory in the target country, which increases your inventory exposure more compared to operating with a regional hub that relies on cross-border shipping.

Speed of Deployment

  • Since cross-border shipping does away with setting up fleets and warehouses in the target country, this method’s shorter set up time is key if time to market is an important consideration for you.
  • For instance, in countries like Indonesia, it could take 6 months before you can obtain your import license needed for a local distribution model, not counting the time needed for teams, warehouses and fleets.

Geographical Reach

    • While local distribution models are great if you have an established market in your target country, it doesn’t provide you flexibility in terms of geographical reach.
    • Operating with a regional distribution hub in say, Singapore, allows you easily reach other countries within Southeast Asia through cross-border shipping.

 

Next: International shipping to different SEA countries

International Shipping to Different SEA Countries

This section covers the basics of shipping to almost any country but no two Southeast Asian countries are alike. Differences in geography, regulations and infrastructure pose different challenges to deliveries in each country. For your convenience here are the general steps for international shipping.

Guides to specific countries can be found in the list below.

  • First-mile delivery –
    The shipment moves from your origin address (e.g. your office, warehouse, or a supplier’s address) to the airport or port. Find out more about first-mile delivery
  • Customs clearance at country of origin –
    Clearing goods for export from the origin country.
  • Freight –
    The shipment is transported, either by air or sea, from the origin country’s airport or port to the destination airport or port.If a land connection exists between your origin and destination countries, cross-border trucking is another option available.
  • Customs clearance at destination country –
    Clearing goods for import in the destination country.Get country-specific customs details at our Southeast Asian customs clearance guide
  • Distribution –
    The shipment is sent from the airport or port to the domestic distribution centre to be sorted and assigned to vans and motorcycles for the last mile delivery stage. For LCL sea freight shipments, they are unpacked at a container freight station at the port before being collected by the last mile delivery vehicle.
  • Last mile delivery –
    The shipment moves from the distribution centre to the customer’s doorstep.
    Find out how to get the most from your last mile delivery services

 

To help you find out how best to ship to each major Southeast Asian country, we’re preparing a growing list of individual country guides. These guides also include guides for different origins into these destination countries too. Stay tuned for more!

 

Next: Section 3: Additional Resources

PART 3: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Shipping to different countries in Southeast Asia involves many steps. Below are more links to other resources we think you’ll find handy.

  • Guide to Customs Clearance in Southeast AsiaEach country in Southeast Asia has its own customs regulations and keeping up with their requirements could be challenging. To help you out, we’ve put togetherr some best practices and the documentation requirements for most of the countries in SEA, ranging from Indonesia to Vietnam in this guide:Customs Clearance in Southeast Asia
  • Should you offer cash on delivery?Some countries in Southeast Asia like Indonesia and Philippines for example, still rely a fair bit on cash payments for online shopping. Before you decide to offer this payment method, it’s good to understand the situation and what’s involved. To find out, read more here:Should eCommerce merchants offer cash on delivery?
  • An Overview of ASEAN FTAs and what they mean for eCommerceASEAN countries are part of many free trade agreements with major economies such as India, China, Japan and more. With these agreements, goods that originate from ASEAN countries can get customs and duties reductions which can help companies be more competitive in partner markets. But how do we make use of these agreements and benefits and what’s involved?Free Trade Agreements in Southeast Asia
  • Shipping Delays and how to deal with themAny eCommerce merchant would hate for delays to happen to their customers. This experience would break the trust and reputation of any online store. But what are the causes of these delays? Is there a way we can prevent or at least mitigate delays and the problems that come with it?Find out in our list of shipping delay tips
  • Should you deliver with Courier or Postal Service? Private courier companies and postal services each have their strengths and weaknesses, but which ones are best suited for your eCommerce needs? We provide a breakdown of each type of logistics service provider’s strengths and weaknesses in this article.Private Courier vs Postal Services

Questions about Shipping to Southeast Asia

Should you require more detailed information or assistance on shipping your B2C items internationally, you may contact us or schedule a free consultation.

Contact Us!

 

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