A guide to shipping handmade products internationally

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Handmade crafts are a reflection of culture and creativity, and have a special place in the hearts of both the creators and those who appreciate them. Pakistan has a rich and diverse heritage of handcrafted goods, ranging from intricate embroidery or leather products to home decor pieces such as wooden work, marble carving, carpets, ceramics, and pottery. The handicrafts industry in Pakistan is filled with numerous talented Pakistani artisans and craftsmen who create beautiful and unique pieces made by hand. 

The appreciation of such handicrafts is not exclusive to Pakistan. In fact, the global handicrafts market has experienced significant growth, reaching an impressive size of US$752.2 Billion in 2022, according to IMARC Group. This considerable demand is driven by an increasingly discerning global consumer base that values the unique and artisanal over generic, mass-produced items. Today's shoppers are not merely seeking functional items; they're in pursuit of pieces that narrate a story, embody a tradition, and reflect individuality.However, while the demand for and appreciation of Pakistani handicrafts are substantial, one cannot overlook the challenges inherent to distributing these pieces internationally. In this guide, DHL Express Pakistan walks you through all you need to know when shipping handmade products, ensuring that your handcrafted goods arrive safely and on time.

1. Create an online presence for your handicrafts

Marketing your handmade crafts is essential to reach a wider audience and increase sales. In today's digital age, creating an online presence for your handmade products through social media platforms and marketplaces is key. Let's take a closer look at how to do it.

Tip #1: Understand your target market

Who are your potential customers? Are they individuals who appreciate artisanal, handmade products? Or are they retailers looking for unique items to stock in their stores? Understanding your target audience will help you tailor your branding and marketing efforts.

Tip #2: Create a strong brand 

Consumers are increasingly interested in the stories behind the products they buy. Highlight the cultural heritage, craftsmanship, and traditions behind your handicrafts. Share stories about the artisans who make the products. This can create an emotional connection between your customers and your products, and can help to enhance your brand's image.

Tip #3: Post your handicrafts on social media

Start by creating social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Share pictures or bite-sized videos of your creations and use relevant hashtags to increase visibility. Social media platforms allow you to localise your business for overseas markets, engage with your customers directly and build a community around your brand.

Emphasise the skills, techniques, and dedication that go into creating each product. You could do this through videos, behind-the-scenes photos, or detailed descriptions. This not only showcases the quality of your products, but also educates your customers about the craftsmanship involved.

Make sure to post regularly and respond to comments and messages promptly. You can also use paid advertising to increase your reach and attract new customers.

Tip #4: Sell your handicrafts on marketplaces

You can also sell your products on top e-commerce platforms like Etsy and Amazon Handmade. These marketplaces are popular among handcrafted goods sellers, as they provide a ready-made platform to showcase and sell your products. However, keep in mind that there are fees associated with using these platforms, and you may face stiff competition from other sellers.

2. Package your handicrafts properly

When it comes to shipping handmade crafts, proper packaging is crucial to ensure that your products arrive at their destination in one piece. Fragile items like ceramics, pottery, wooden work, or marble carving require extra care and special handling during shipping.

To package these items safely, you need to choose suitable packaging materials, apply the right packing techniques, select a sturdy packing method, and add special handling labels.

Tip #1: Select the right packaging materials

When it comes to shipping handicrafts, selecting the right packaging materials is crucial to ensure the safe arrival of your goods. DHL Express offers a range of boxes, flyers, and envelopes in various sizes to suit your shipment's needs. 

It is important to use high-quality corrugated cardboard boxes, especially for fragile or heavy items. Double-wall or tri-wall constructions are recommended for added protection. Avoid reusing old boxes as they may have lost some of their rigidity, and choose a box with the right size for the content being shipped to prevent collapsing or bursting.

In terms of internal packaging, use foam and corrugated inserts to strengthen the box walls and protect your items. Airbags, bubble wraps, cardboard, and foam pellets/peanuts are commonly used as packaging materials, but it is essential to select the right one for your specific shipment needs. Determine which material will provide the ideal internal packaging for your fragile handicrafts by using the table provided:

Tip #2: Use the correct packing techniques

To ship handicrafts securely, it is important to use correct packing techniques to ensure that your items arrive at their destination safely. One of the most important tips is to avoid leaving any empty space in the box. This can be done by using void fillers to prevent the items from shifting around during transit.

Additionally, always be sure to place items in the centre of the box and leave at least 6cm of space between the items through the use of fillers and the external walls or corners. It's also crucial to wrap each item separately and use dividers, such as corrugated inserts, to prevent damage to individual objects during travel.

If shipping multiple items in a single package, consider placing loose objects in an inner container to avoid them splitting during transportation. By using these correct packing techniques, you can ensure that your handicrafts arrive in pristine condition at their destination.

Tip #3: Choose a sturdy packing method

It is important to use a sturdy packing method when shipping handicrafts to ensure that the items arrive at their destination undamaged. The box-in-box method is highly recommended for fragile items as it provides an additional layer of protection. To use this method, you'll need to place the inner box, which should be sturdy and appropriate for the item being shipped, in the centre of the outer box. The outer box should be 14 cm larger than the inner box to provide enough overpack protection. 

Use a double-walled box if possible, but if you have to use a single-walled box, make sure it's strong enough to support the weight of the contents. Fill the void space on all sides of the inner box with cushioning material, such as bubble wrap or foam, and then pack the outer box with more cushioning material. This will help to restrict the movement of the inner box and provide additional protection during transit.

Tip #4: Stick special handling labels on your shipments

It is crucial to properly label your handicrafts package with the appropriate handling instructions to ensure that your shipment is handled with the necessary care during transit. 

Affixing a "fragile" sticker or label on the package will inform the couriers that the contents are delicate and require careful handling. In addition, attaching a "handle with care" label and a sticker with upward arrows that indicate the correct orientation of the shipment is highly recommended. Properly placing these labels on the top of the box will ensure that they are easily visible to the courier team. Remember that these labels should be applied by the shipper prior to courier collection to avoid any confusion during transit.

4. Take note of the customs regulations

Business owners have to check the customs regulations of the destination country before shipping handicrafts. Customs regulations vary widely from country to country, and it's essential to understand the rules and regulations in the destination country to avoid any issues.

For example, some countries such as Australia may have restrictions on certain materials, such as wood products, due to concerns about pests or diseases. It's important to check with the local customs office of the destination country for more information on their specific regulations.

In addition, you may need to obtain certain permits or licences to ship your handmade crafts to certain countries. It’s thus important to read up on the guidelines of the destination country before shipping to prevent any delays or shipment confiscation at customs.

Accurate completion of customs declarations is vital for a smooth shipping experience. Providing all necessary documentation, such as a commercial invoice that lists the value of the goods being shipped and is used for customs clearance purposes, is also essential.

5. Work with a reputable shipping specialist

DHL Express is a leading logistics partner in Pakistan, and can help you ship your handmade crafts overseas with ease. With DHL Express, you can enjoy fast and reliable shipping services to over 220 countries and territories worldwide, enabling you to leverage intra-Asia trade opportunities and tap into emerging markets for international business growth. 

Through MyDHL+, you can book shipments online, print labels, and track your packages. DHL Express also offers insurance options to protect your shipments. Our track and trace system also allows you to monitor your shipments in real-time, so you always know where your packages are.

With the right partner, strategies and tools in place, you can grow your handcrafted goods business and share your unique creations with the world. Open a DHL Express business account today.