Should you offer a postal or parcel service to international online shoppers?

21 September, 2017

Young man smiling at front door while receiving a parcel delivery

There isn’t a one dimensional answer to this question. It really does depend on several factors, but there is a fairly simple solution to working out if you should offer a postal or parcel service to international customers.

If your products are low value or the market is extremely cost conscious and less focused on fast delivery, then a reliable postal service could be suitable. However if the value of goods is higher and the market less comfortable with buying cross-border then a tracked service is likely to go down well.

But in today’s competitive world this approach is too simple.

In reality a retailer isn’t selling to a market with one set of needs, it’s selling to individuals. Consumers within a country will vary in their habits, and the same person can have very different needs from one day to the next. For example one person’s low value purchase could be another’s biggest shopping spree of the month, and someone happy to wait a week for their order on one occasion could be desperate for their goods to arrive next time.

So which delivery services should a retailer offer?

The answer is both. Provide your shoppers with choice, so they have the freedom to select the delivery option that suits their current circumstances. Historically this was easier said than done, negotiating with an overseas postal operator and a separate parcel company was challenging; especially if they wanted guaranteed volumes to offer preferential rates. But many postal operators now have their own parcel and courier divisions in addition to their traditional untracked mail services.

Several postal operators have even expanded internationally with offices in the most important e-commerce regions of the world, making it easier to do business with them. La Poste (France) and Swiss Post (Switzerland) for example have operation in 15 countries including the UK, under the Asendia brand.

All your eggs in one basket?

Dealing with just one international parcel delivery supplier can provide several benefits. Of course for larger online retailers splitting out deliveries to multiple suppliers may provide savings, and the bigger delivery companies are happy to just handle certain countries or formats if there’s the volume. But for most retailers any per item saving could be swallowed up by additional management time, IT integrations and operational processes. It’s likely that you have to manage one or more domestic mail and parcel suppliers already.

Having said all this, there is a growing trend for shoppers – particularly when buying across borders – to choose a tracked delivery service over a standard postal service. Not an Express delivery service, but a service that sits between standard mail and courier services. So if you currently only offer an international postal service – which not so long ago was fine - you could be reducing conversion rates by not reacting to this trend. And it should be easy to adapt. As discussed before, your postal supplier should already be able to offer you both types of service; but now could also be a good time to shop around to get the best prices and service options available.

The benefits of tracked international parcel services

A tracked international parcel service provides a way to build customer trust and establish a reputation for great service. Businesses of all sizes and types benefit from using this kind of delivery to ship orders to destinations overseas.

There are many benefits that come with tracked international parcel services, including:

  • A choice of delivery options to suit your needs – opt for a mailbox delivery (without a signature) or a personal delivery (where a signature is required).
  • Tracking throughout the delivery process – you’ll be able to see where the delivery is at multiple stages throughout its journey.
  • Simplified customs – for parcels up to 2kg, the process of clearing customs can be simplified and speeded up.
  • Insurance – tracked international parcel services offer a range of insurance options to suit the needs of the business/customers/parcel content.
  • Versatile delivery – find the right provider and parcels can reach the ends of the earth and be delivered at home, to post offices and other PUDO points.

How can tracked international parcel services help you to improve your business?

Visibility at all times

Both you and your customers will know where the delivery is, from the moment of shipping, to the point at which it is delivered. This kind of clarity contributes to a positive customer experience and cuts down time spent on enquiries.


Reliable delivery is crucial for establishing the kind of customer trust that builds loyalty. Loyal customers contribute enormously to creating steady cash flow and helping to broaden out the customer base.

Peace of mind

Whether you’re dealing with a high volume of orders or a few, using a tracked international parcel service provides the peace of mind of knowing that every order is being well taken care of.

High value goods

Particularly if you’re shipping high value items, it’s important to make sure the process is as secure as possible. Tracked international parcel services provide a simple solution that ensures every item is delivered safely and on time.

Streamlining parcel delivery

From large retailers looking to simplify the delivery process and introduce new efficiencies, to smaller retailers seeking a way to offer customers a premium shipping experience, a tracked international parcel service has a great deal to offer. Intuitive processes, faster shipping times, more transparent delivery and a wealth of information ensure that both customers and business enjoy a better experience all round.

You get what you pay for, and not everyone will pay for it

We don’t apologise for reiterating the point again; not everyone wants to pay the extra for a tracked parcel service. It’s a growing trend, sure, and you need to offer it, but not alone. Unless of course you don’t ask your shopper to pay for it! Who wouldn’t choose a faster tracked service with better options if there was nothing extra to pay; but not all retailers can afford to offer free or subsidised delivery on every order!