Tapping into the enormous US market is an excellent opportunity for Canadian retailers, and the U.S. dollar is strong, which makes Canadian prices more attractive to American shoppers. Whether you have a brick and mortar store, a strong online presence or you participate actively in trade shows to get exposure and increase sales, managing logistics efficiently will ensure the success of your business.
These are 6 tips to help you figure out the ins and outs of exporting to the US.
1. Determine what goods are allowed into the U.S.
Whatever you are selling, you must make sure you are allowed to export it to the U.S. It used to be complicated figuring this out, but Canada Post has consolidated all the information from different sources into a single online spot. Another good resource is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, which provides information on customs and exporting to the United States.
2. Provide as much detail as you can on customs forms
When your goods are held up at US customs, it can be an unnecessary hassle for you, turning off customers and costing your business money. To avoid costly delays it is a good practice to be as detailed as you can on the customs forms and as honest as possible. It tends to speed the process up and avoid costly snags.
You can download your customs form on the Canada Post website. Include your phone number on the customs form, especially for express shipments, in the event customs has any questions about the content of your package.
3. Use eCommerce Platforms
Using eCommerce platforms such as Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay can be incredibly convenient, as they have distribution centers in the U.S. that are closer to your customers. They may handle the logistics in return for fees and notify you when to restock. Another option is that they sell via the site and you do the shipping. Which brings us to #4…
4. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
You sell it, they ship it. Amazon has one of the most advanced fulfillment networks in the world. With Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you store your products in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, and they pick, pack, ship, and provide customer service for these products. FBA can help you scale your business and reach more customers.
BorderBuddy aspires to be the Amazon of Customs Brokers.
We get you set up as a Non-Resident Importer, apply for your Business Number, deal with all of the paperwork and tax issues – so you can do what you do best – sell.
Getting started is easy, just fill out this form and we’ll get started.
If you’re new to FBA and need to know how FBA works, you’re also in luck because we have FBA experience – from setting up Fulfillment by Amazon accounts, to helping determine your selling cost in Canada.
Once you contact us, we will guide you through the steps to start importing your goods.
How to get started:
- You contact us.
- We set up your account so you can start importing into Canada.
- You transmit or send us the invoice for the goods crossing the border to Amazon’s fulfillment center(s).
- We help you get accurate quoting and pricing for the Canadian market.
5. Documents you need for US-Canada cross-border freight shipping
- Bill of Lading (BOL)
This document lists the goods that are carried in the shipment. Essentially, enter the address where the shipment is getting picked up, pertinent specifications like the size and weight, and contact information. Freightera can generate a 3-part BOL (1 part each for the shipper, driver, and consignee on the other end), with fields for each person to sign.
- Proof of Delivery (POD)
Essentially, this is the receipt portion of the BOL, which indicates that goods have been received in good order. The signature confirms the date and time of delivery. As soon as the carrier uploads a POD through Freightera, notification is sent to the shipper.
- Commercial Invoice (for shipping from Canada to the USA)
This is effectively an invoice showing a full description of the shipped goods, including their value. One copy goes with the BOL and the other accompanies freight heading into the USA.
- Canada Customs Invoice (for shipping from the USA to Canada)
One copy goes with the freight from where it is picked up to where it clears customs. A second copy is attached to the BOL.
- Certificate of Origin
As you would expect, this document shows where the shipment is coming from, in order to ensure accurate collection of customs duties according to NAFTA regulations.
6. Communicate with your customers
U.S. customers are used to instant gratification, with same-day or next-day shipping available on many of their purchases. It’s important to communicate the value of your product and to explain the process so your customer appreciates you are doing everything properly. If it’s a custom item, explain the process of making it, and make sure they understand the time that is involved in fulfilling and shipping the order. Maintain communications throughout the transaction process and try to anticipate your customers’ concerns. Canadian friendliness goes a long way, so always play that card!
If you still find customs forms or navigating U.S. regulations confusing, give your buddy at the border a call to help expedite the exporting process and give you peace of mind.