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Best Practices to Handle International Returns Shipping


International returns are difficult for online shoppers and merchants alike. Different rules and regulations, longer wait times, extra costs and fees, and additional documentation during customs clearance in each country make the process seem impossible. What makes the process notoriously difficult is the lack of centralized and efficient tracking of the returns because of the fragmented courier and carrier network.

Tip: It's advisable to check with your fulfillment partner to see if they can provide a nearby facility or warehouse for handling returns. This way, your customers won't have to ship returns internationally. Additionally, it will help you save a lot of transportation costs as they'll manage the majority of your returns within the destination country. By the month's end or another agreed-upon timeframe (such as two weeks or 90 days), they'll ship all your items back to you in one go.

Despite all the custom limitations and additional costs, global returns and refunds can be easily managed with the right returns management tool like the AfterShip Returns that allows you to optimize a major part of your returns process from generating shipping labels, and packing slips, to printing commercial invoices for your customers.

In this guide, we will run you through some of the best practices to make the most out of international returns and how you can achieve them with AfterShip Returns.

Route returns with routing rules policy

The AfterShip Returns Routing Rules feature is designed to help merchants provide suitable return methods to customers who are returning products internationally. When a return is coming from a specific country or region, you want to offer customers with the suitable return methods depending on the shipping costs and tax duty associated with the cross-border returns shipping, so you can offer a good customer experience with manageable return handling costs.

With AfterShip Returns, you can set up and offer customers the following return shipping methods.

Ship with the carrier customers choose: Under this return method, customers have to ship the return item(s) themselves. They must manage all aspects of carrier logistics and customs paperwork to ensure the return reaches your warehouse. This approach is suitable when managing international returns on a tight budget.

Green Returns: With this option, customers aren't obligated to physically return the item; instead, you'll issue a refund or exchange based on your assessment. This method is suitable for low-value items where the return shipping cost outweighs the product's value.

Ship with a return label: This return method involves the brand providing an international shipping label and handling the complex customs clearance procedures. Brands must coordinate with carriers to streamline the international shipping process and provide customers with clear instructions on managing shipping labels and customs documentation.

International return label setup

AfterShip Returns has integration with all major carriers that ship internationally. You will need to do required configurations in Shopify and AfterShip Returns admin to successfully generate shipping labels for international returns.

Shopify instructions

Sign in to your Shopify account.

Navigate to the Product section.

Access the detail page of the product variant you're selling internationally.
Ensure the Shipping details in the product variant page are filled:

Country of origin
Harmonized System code

AfterShip Returns instructions

Link a carrier account with AfterShip Returns on the Return Shipping page.

Make sure you've chosen carrier services that offer international shipping. For assistance, consult your carrier representatives.

Activate Generate packing slips in Shipping documents.

Update return shipping information within your configured return routing rules for specific countries/regions.

Update return instructions to clearly outline how your customer should prepare the returns for shipping internationally.

AfterShip Shipping instructions

Log in to your AfterShip Shipping account.
Go to Settings and select Shipping .

Update Custom purpose to “Returns” and Duty and tax to “DDU” (If you are covering the import duty).

(Optional) Update the default item declarations if you would like to provide a fallback value when these fields are missing from your Shopify store.

Customer Experience

AfterShip Returns seamlessly detects when international shipping is necessary by cross-referencing the Ship to and Ship from addresses. This triggers the automatic commercial invoice generation, complete with custom item details. Customers can access and download this commercial invoice from the return detail page, ensuring a smooth and transparent process.

Custom product information will not feature on the shipping label. Both international and domestic return shipping labels will look identical.

Updated on: 07/06/2024

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