At the start of 2019, we started working with our channel and shipping partners to make sure we are ready for the UK leaving the European Union. With around 6 weeks to go before changes kick-in, we're still left without a unified, official requirement, however the consensus is to treat shipments from the UK to Europe (and vice versa) in the same way we would treat rest of the world shipments. While the financial details regarding product tariffs are still being agreed upon, online retailers are wise to prepare their product data.
In our post Brexit Checklist from February 2019, we recommended a number of basic checks to retailers, such as making sure you have a EORI number and Shiptheory knows about it. The checklist is aimed at all retailers shipping internationally, regardless of if they use Shiptheory or not. This post is geared towards retailers that use Shiptheory and draws heavily on the work we've been doing to enable retailers to ship easily post-Brexit, and introduces several new tools that are intended to make it easier for retailers to find and resolve potential issues in their product data or current operations.
Brexit Data and Documentation
If we consider shipping into and out of the EU in the same way we would approach deliveries to the rest of the world, then we need the appropriate export/import documentation. Shiptheory has always provided Customs Documentation in the form of CN22 and CN23 forms, Commercial Invoices and Electronic Paperless Trade Documents (where the carrier and country supports it). This means that Shiptheory already has you covered in terms of international shipping documentation, but, and this is important, only if you have the right product data downloaded into your Shiptheory account.
There is more to international shipping that than the above documentation. You may not be aware, but Shiptheory transfers data in the background to your carriers when booking both domestic and international shipping labels. This data is then given by the carrier to border authorities, where appropriate. That data is used by the border authority in calculating import and export duty. If that data is inaccurate, or missing, you and your customers may pay more tax than you should and can lead to shipments being delayed, returned or even destroyed.
You Need to Check Your Product Data!
A challenge for retailers is knowing not only what data is required but also what background data is actually being sent to carriers. To assist with this challenge, Shiptheory has developed an International Product Data Checker.
Regardless of if you ship from Magento, Xero, QuickBooks Commerce, directly via our shipping API, or any other source, you need to ensure the product data in your Shiptheory account is correct if you want to reduce friction when shipping internationally. You can access this tool from the Products -> International Data option from the main menu when you are logged in.
If you identify issues with your product data, you have a number of options:
- Update product data in your sales channel
This is the most common approach. Connect the fields in your sales channel that contain the relevant product data to Shiptheory. Once you have updated product data in your sales channel, Shiptheory will update the product data it holds next time an order is sent to Shiptheory containing new or modified product data.
The caveat here is that not all sales channels support product commodity data. For example, Xero does not support storing product weights or HS Tariff codes, yet Royal Mail still requires that data. In these cases, you will need to explore options 2 and 3 below.
- Update product data in Shiptheory manually
You can view and modify product level data directly in your Shiptheory account by browsing to Products -> View Products from the main menu when logged in. At the start of November, we released a new tool that lets you export all of the data we have on file into one CSV file, accessible via Products -> Export Data.
- Update your product data via the Shiptheory API
You can import, export and update product level data into and from your Shiptheory account using our API. In early November 2020, we released a number of updates to the API to make this easier, including a dedicated set of Product API endpoints.
Not all carriers are ready for Brexit, but work continues
We work incredibly closely with our shipping partners. We're proud to be an official Royal Mail Integrator, a FedEx Compatible Partner, directly approved and endorsed by DPD, Parcelforce and many others. As such, we continue to work with these partners to make sure any changes to their specifications are supported by Shiptheory, or at least will be by January 1st. There are however some carriers that are still working on updating their operations and technical specifications to support Brexit. As and when we hear from such partners, we will prioritise any work required on our end.
If you have questions regarding your current shipping process, the carriers or channels you use, or need help understanding your product data, please reach out to the Shiptheory support team, we're standing by and happy to help.