International Fulfillment – Choosing a 3PL Provider

If your business is looking to expand internationally and you’re not sure how to accomplish this, it can be super helpful to work with an international fulfillment partner or a Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider.

Handling global order fulfillment and logistics requires expertise in complex areas like customs regulations, duties and taxes, shipping rates, and more. This is where partnering with a knowledgeable third-party logistics (3PL) provider can deliver major benefits. An expert, such as Print Bind Ship, can make the process super simple – allowing you to focus on what you do best for your business.

In this guide, we’ll explore best practices for leveraging a 3PL to efficiently scale your eCommerce order fulfillment across borders. Take a look!

What is International Fulfillment? How It Works

International fulfillment refers to the process of managing global order fulfillment and shipping for eCommerce businesses selling to customers located in different countries worldwide. It incorporates many complex moving parts, including:

  • Global inventory storage and management. A 3PL can provide secure warehouse spaces near key market regions to store merchandise.
  • Understanding import/export regulations. A knowledgeable 3PL stays on top of the specific duty taxes, customs clearance protocols, and required documentation for shipping products to buyers across borders.
  • Localized packaging and branding. Adapting product packaging and inserting instructions/warranties translated for the destination language provides a smoother customer experience.
  • International shipping carriers and rates. Choosing cost-efficient carriers while meeting customer delivery speed expectations levels can be tricky without the right global logistics expertise.
  • Last mile delivery. Having an on-the-ground carrier network in the buyer’s country to facilitate final delivery is key for international fulfillment.

By leveraging global fulfillment solutions, such as working with a 3PL, eCommerce businesses can tap into the benefits of accessing a global market while also being able to smooth out the complexities traditionally associated with worldwide order fulfillment and shipping.

Why Should You Consider a Global Fulfillment Partner?

Using an international fulfillment partner for global shipping can give your business a competitive edge, especially as you break into new markets. Unless you’re an expert in logistics, your company will most likely spend unnecessary resources trying to accomplish fulfillment. Many international fulfillment partners are also 3PLs, and here’s why you should consider working with one for your global eCommerce needs. 

Lower Costs

3PL companies tend to have business deals with the main carriers. They usually have a bulk discount that is offered on international shipping, which in turn leads to lower costs. You can piggyback on this relationship that they already have established and take advantage of that discounted rate. 

Another reason costs will be reduced is if a 3PL company has an international distribution center near where you are selling. A big driver of costs is the distance between where the order is coming from to where it needs to go to reach the final customer. If this distance can be lowered, then the cost will be reduced.

Increase Efficiency

On top of all of the shipping cost savings, your operations will be much more efficient. Most customers expect speedy delivery on their orders. If they aren’t guaranteed a fast turnaround time, they may look elsewhere. By using a 3PL company, international orders get fulfilled much faster since inventory and shipping locations are much closer. 

In addition to the speed at which customers receive orders, you are almost guaranteed limited to no errors in shipping. 3PL companies are experts in fulfilling orders, even on the international stage. Customers will end up with fewer returns or mistakes with their orders and ultimately will be much happier.

Inventory Storage

If you attempt to manage inventory internally, within your business, you may run into issues down the line. Perhaps your company is scaling up at a tremendous rate, you could run out of storage space for your products. It is much easier to allow a 3PL company to store your inventory at a much larger scale. The storage space could potentially be limitless.

Scale Faster 

Growing your business should be your main focus, as opposed to worrying about logistical operations. With the help of a 3PL, you can focus purely on growing your own operation. There is no need to waste unnecessary resources that go into the fulfillment process. This could ultimately limit your growth potential, whereas you want to be looking to expand your business globally. 

International Fulfillment Costs and Important Factors

You may have a small business in the heart of the Midwest of the United States. Or perhaps you are located abroad and looking to burst into the US market. Either way, several variable costs are associated with global fulfillment. 

Package Dimensions

The way shipping rates are calculated is by multiplying the length, height, and width of a package, then dividing by a dimensional factor (called a DIM divisor). This provides you with the Dimensional weight (DIM weight), which is used for pricing on both domestic and international shipments. The amount of space is limited when you are transporting internationally, thus the DIM weight uses the package density to determine the shipping rate. 

Commercial Invoice

Commercial invoice forms are for any shipments containing non-documents. They document valuation, importation control, and determination of duties, serving as the primary identifications for products. The form requires descriptions of the item, the reason for export, contact information for all parties, country of origin, etc. 


Customs is an agency or authority in a country that is responsible for controlling the imports, and exports, as well as collecting tariffs. They authorize the flow of goods of animals, personal items, hazardous materials, etc. into a country. When shipments arrive in a country, customs inspects them and reviews the invoice. The shipment can be delivered to its final destination only after customs clearance and the duties have been paid.


A tariff is a tax that is levied on an imported good. This special kind of tax on goods applies to goods based on the geographical location from where they come. It is a percentage of the product’s total cost. The total cost of the product thus includes freight, insurance, and this tax. A business can either pass costs onto its customers or prepay the international duties and tariffs themselves.  


A duty refers to a form of tax on goods and services. Oftentimes, corporations are required to have customs duties on imports and exports, in addition to other taxes. The rate of the duty is determined by the total value of the goods paid for in another country. Sometimes these costs can be unexpected. If they are levied, it may deter potential customers from paying more money to get their shipment.

International Shipping Options

When you talk about shipping internationally, you must consider cost, speed, reliability, and service. What are some of the most common shipping options available to me though? We are all probably aware of the top few shipping carriers, but how do they stack up when it comes to international delivery? Let’s see how USPS, FedEx, UPS, and top carriers compare in this regard.

Print Bind Ship

Although not a traditional international shipping carrier, Print Bind Ship is not your traditional shipping carrier. Instead, we’re an all-in-one solution for eCommerce businesses offering custom product printing, warehousing, custom packaging, international fulfillment services, and more. Functioning as both a 3PL and a global fulfillment partner – we manage all stages of the order fulfillment and shipping logistics processes.

Our solutions are seamless, and we work closely with businesses to streamline order processing and integrate with your online storefront. Curious to learn more? Get in touch for a free consultation on how our solutions could help your business scale into global markets.


When is USPS the best option for your business? This is probably the most suitable option for small to medium businesses. USPS is probably one of the most competitively priced carriers with packages weighing less than 2 pounds. They offer Priority and Express Mail packaging, many different delivery options, as well as free pick up. 


When is FedEx the best option for your business? FedEx is most suitable for a larger business seeking volume-based discounts. FedEx ships any day of the week as a bonus. They do offer competitive pricing for small and lightweight packages for their international shipping as well.   


When is UPS the best option for your business? If you value speed above all else, then this is the correct option. UPS offers next-day services. For international customers, the shipping can be extremely quick, albeit at a higher cost.   

What’s Next: International Fulfillment with Print Bind Ship

At Print Bind Ship, we have over 60 years of experience fulfilling and shipping orders to customers around the world. Whether you’re a small business aiming to expand globally or a larger company seeking to outsource complex fulfillment operations, Print Bind Ship has the solutions to scale your eCommerce business globally.

Our global fulfillment services leave no detail unaddressed, we take care of everything from order processing to last-mile delivery with our trusted partners worldwide. Plus, we also have a track record as a trusted partner for international companies looking for a U.S.-based eCommerce distribution center

By leveraging our turnkey global order fulfillment services, your business can start selling internationally with ease. Our global fulfillment services take on the heavy lifting so you can concentrate on sales while reaching new worldwide customers.

Get in touch for a personalized quote for your business’s shipping and logistics needs – contact us!


What are some key benefits of using a 3PL for international fulfillment?

Some major benefits include leveraging the 3PL’s expertise in complex customs procedures, accessing better shipping rates through their carrier contracts, using their overseas warehouses near target markets, and having a turnkey solution allowing you to scale globally with ease.

Can international shipments be tracked?

Yes! At Print Bind Ship, we always track all shipments. We provide full shipment visibility including tracking numbers and status updates across each shipping mile as well as final proof of delivery.

How can a 3PL help optimize costs for international shipping?

Leveraging their large shipping volume discounts, knowledge of duty-friendly product classifications, and consolidating shipments can yield significant long term savings over directly handling global logistics. They also advise on overseas fulfillment center locations to balance costs and delivery times.