Shipping abroad:

How to get the best for your customers
 |  11.07.2024  |  Time to read 7 Min

All online retailers are probably familiar with the stress of customs.  

Customs clearance costs do not make daily business easier, but are unavoidable:

As soon as shipments of goods cross the border abroad, you or the recipient inevitably incur taxes and customs clearance costs.

Surely you have already noticed that: The issue is quite tricky. Since Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, it forms a customs and VAT island in the middle of the EU.

For online traders, the biggest obstacle is no longer the Alps, but customs. In our blog article, we tell you what risks but also opportunities await you when exporting.

For this reason, many online shops give up and shy away from foreign markets. This destroys valuable market opportunities, yet this does not have to be the case.

This is because the customs and control regulations are complex, but can be overcome. We know how the whole thing works and are happy to help you on your way to new customers and new markets.

Read on and make more of your online shop

Like many other online shops, your shop has great potential for export. This should not be due solely to a regulatory factor.

Would you like to increase your online shop’s KPIs? Then read our blog about how logistics can influence your webshop. 

The following explanation will help you understand how customs and VAT work and how you can successfully overcome the obstacles involved.

You can find everything about the new IOSS and MOSS value added taxes in our blog. You are sure to find the right solution for customs clearance of your exports. 

In the following paragraphs you will find an initial overview of customs. They show you how you as an e-commerce retailer can market your products in the EU smoothly and successfully.

This should be taken into account when shipping abroad

Do you want to sell your products not only on the domestic market but also abroad?

Then you should consider some important points. In addition to customs clearance, it also covers questions such as “How do I declare and label consignments abroad?”

or “Which export accompanying documents do I need?”

In our blog article, we explain why we can help you export abroad.


It is important that your shipment has the appropriate accompanying documents. Which of these you need depends on your shipping method.

If you choose postal delivery without customs clearance, your consignment will start with the DAP Incoterm. For more information: DAP vs DDP shipping.

In the case of DAP shipping (Delivered At Place), as the sender you only pay the transport costs.

To ensure that foreign customs know what is in the consignment when it arrives in the country of destination, you must declare the contents correctly for each export consignment.

This is how customs clearance abroad works with the letter channel

If you send small goods up to 2 kg, you can use the inexpensive letter channel.

When sending parcels internationally, this is readily accepted  up to the dimensions of a shoe box (maximum dimensions: length + width + height = max. 90 cm, no dimension to exceed 60 cm).

In the letter channel you need an electronically generated customs declaration (harmonized label).

You can easily create the label with the Swiss Post Customer Login.

If the value of the small goods is more than CHF 400, you need the CN23 customs declaration form.

In addition, we recommend that you include a commercial invoice in triplicate.

How customs clearance in the parcel channel works

Do your items exceed the maximum dimensions of 90 cm (length + height + width together) and a weight of 2 kg?

Then we recommend you send them in the parcel channel. Depending on the product, you have various clearance options.

In the standard parcel channel, you as the sender only assume the transport costs (DAP shipping). A waybill is sufficient as a customs document.

This can be created in the Swiss Post Customer Login. You also need a commercial invoice in triplicate.

How to ship to Europe without the DDP solution

Commercial goods have been subject to VAT from the first EUR since July 1, 2021.

So it pays off when you deal with customs clearance. If you don’t, you will have trouble with your customers sooner or later. If consignments at the customs are blocked or not accepted by the customer, this will harm your business in the long term. That can be prevented!

We show you which hidden costs you or your customers can incur and how you can protect yourself from them.

A critical point is the cost of customs clearance. The customs clearance fee is a contribution towards expenses.

It honours the fact that the respective postal company clears your consignment through customs on behalf of customs and invoices the recipient.

Customs clearance costs are incurred in most EU countries if the value of a shipment is over 1 euro and you do not use an IOSS shipping solution. In addition, the respective value added tax applies in the recipient country.

This is country-specific and similar to Switzerland, with a reduced rate often applying to books and food. 

If you are interested in the Switzerland’s neighbouring countries, you will find all the important information in the country reports. 

If you send Swiss products to the EU, you have to pay customs duty on goods with a value of EUR 150 or more.

This is not a weight duty as in Switzerland, but depends on the declared value of the goods.

For consignments of goods with a value of less than EUR 150 and with a demonstrable origin from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, the EU and possibly Turkey, the following applies:

Here you can add a declaration of origin on the individual invoice.

You import the goods in the destinations mentioned duty free or with reduced duty.

On the one hand, you can inspire your customers with a customer-friendly IOSS process.

A clean IOSS shipping solution optimises the customer journey: the shipment does not get stuck at customs and the customs clearance process is accelerated.

This motivates your customers to recommend you to others or to buy again. On the other hand, with your investment in IOSS logistics, you already stand out from the competition when it comes to customer acquisition.

This is how to make your foreign customers happy.

The delivery costs play an important role in the purchase decision, but other factors are also of great importance. 

Jan from Crazy Factory tells you in his case study how he was able to make his customers more satisfied.

Online shops are trying hard to increase their conversion, recommendation and repurchase rates or to increase the cost per acquisition.

This can only be achieved if all elements of the purchasing process are optimally coordinated with one another.

A very important point is the best possible transparency around the customs clearance costs.


This includes the product mapping up to the possible return processing of the consignment.

As logistics experts, we specialize in optimizing logistics processes. We also have many years of experience in cross-border mail.

From a shopper’s point of view, the following points are particularly important for a successful shopping experience:

  • Type of customs clearance in Switzerland (DAP vs DDP shipping)

  • Transparent total cost

  • Delivery punctuality

  • Your shipping partner network infrastructure 

  • Simple return solution

Shoppers carefully check cross border online shops for these factors before the purchase is completed. As a logistics specialist, we explain the most important point – customs clearance – during export.

Successful cross-border e-commerce stands and falls with optimal customs clearance. 

So get rid of the tax and customs barriers. This brings a lot: more comfort and transparency for your shoppers and a lot of positives for your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Optimum clearance brings many advantages:

  • It increases your repeat purchase rate.
  • It increases the referral rate.

The conversion rate and the click-through rate climb when all taxes and duties are included in the checkout.

On the one hand, you can use a customer-friendly DDP customs clearance process. Win over your customers.

A clear-cut customs clearance solution optimizes the customer journey: the consignment does not remain at customs and is already cleared at the border crossing. This saves unnecessary trouble with the recipient, who receives their consignment without problems and without additional charge.

This is how you motivate customers to recommend you or to buy again. On the other hand, your investment in DDP logistics sets you apart from the competition when acquiring customers.

You pay more when exporting in the parcel channel

Optimize your shipping prices by sending your consignments in the inexpensive letter channel.

The precondition for this is that the majority of the goods weigh up to a maximum of 2 kg and do not exceed the dimension of 90 cm (length x width x height).

Avoid missing customs documents and customs information

If the consignor forgets to supply the correct customs documents, the consignments in the country of destination are blocked by the customs.

In most cases, the consignee is advised that a shipment to be cleared is present and the customs authorities require an invoice. For you as a retailer this means unsatisfied customers and complaints.

Therefore, transparent information about the shipping and customs clearance in the checkout of your shop is essential. Would you like to know more about customs? Then read our article.

Pay attention to the packaging when trading across borders

Another and unfortunately frequent mistake is false economy in packaging.

According to experience, postal items are processed several times during the entire shipping process. They can fall from a belt conveyor.

Injuries due to insufficient packaging are very common. Therefore good, stable packaging – ideally with a beautiful design – is particularly important.

We recommend the use of a robust, stable cardboard material. If a consignment has a lot of empty space, you should always use air cushions, newspapers or another stuffing material. Read our blog post about sustainable packaging.

Incorrect declaration of your goods

An important point in customs clearance is the correct declaration of a goods consignment abroad.

If, for example, the Swiss VAT is invoiced when a consignment is exported without a customs clearance solution, this is incorrect. Exports are always exempt from Swiss VAT. 

Please note that customs will never accept a declared value of zero francs as a basis for customs clearance costs. This is independent of the type of shipment. Accordingly, repair consignments or gifts also have a customs value.

Always declare the correct customs value on your consignments!

Note that returns must be declared as well! If a recipient in the EU sends a consignment back to Switzerland, it is not liable for VAT up to a value of EUR 1,200.

It is important that the consignment is marked as a return. Otherwise, the customs authorities will not recognize that the consignment is a return shipment.

Correct recovery of VAT

Did you buy goods abroad, import them into Switzerland and then export them as small goods?

In this case you can claim back the already paid Swiss VAT when exporting from Switzerland. 

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