Exporting to Switzerland: how to manage it as an e-merchant

Exporting to Switzerland: how to manage it as an e-merchant

Julie Ribeiro

Julie Ribeiro

June 19, 2020

1. How to successfully export goods to Switzerland?

One of the particularities of Swiss e-shoppers is that they are highly outward looking when it comes to buying online. According to a study by E-commerce Nation, more than 61% of internet purchases come from foreign suppliers. So why not from your own company? 

Even though the Swiss market is open, a successful implementation is not an easy task. In Switzerland, the logistics rules are quite different which can be an obstacle to your integration.

Becoming a cross-border e-commerce seller means adapting your entire website to the many Swiss particularities: language, currency, delivery times, costs... And entering this market without understanding the regulations can be risky for your brand image and for your turnover.

To help you enter the Swiss market successfully, here are a few tips to consider!

2. Internal changes: small site update before exports  

Before you export across the Swiss border, it is important to modify several internal elements of your e-commerce site. Indeed, the import regulations are not the same as in France.Having goods delivered in Switzerland requires good organisation and several official declarations.

3. Customs documents

One of the first things to look into is the documents and declarations that need to be completed for delivery to Switzerland. 

Exporting to a foreign country (outside the European Customs Union) is regulated by specific rules:you must obtain an EORI number, declare the goods, etc. And as Switzerland is not part of the European Union, customs formalities are particularly strict!

Before even approving the delivery to Switzerland, please make sure that you can provide all the information required by the customs service. First of all, you should obtain an EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification)number from your regional customs office. This is an identification number required for all commercial transactions in and out of the European Union.

Besides your EORI number, you must attach the CN 23 customs declaration (available from La Poste) and a certificate of valuation (a bill, for example) to your package. This declaration must be easily accessible to the customs services. 

Here's what it should contain:

  • Your EORI number
  • The sender and recipient information: addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
  • The VAT number
  • The product HS code which indicates the price category of the goods.
  • Content description
  • The Incoterms which defines the responsibilities of the sender and the recipient in case of a problem.
  • The value of the product in Swiss Francs

Once completed, simply attach the declaration to the side of the package to allow customs agents to consult it easily. And that's it!

Bigblue Tip: These steps may seem time-consuming and difficult, but it is essential to carry them out each time to ensure the proper delivery of your package. In order to avoid forgetting, -remember to make an exhaustive to-do list of shipping conditions.  

Make sure you have the necessary number of copies of the CN23 customs declaration to attach to the package. Depending on the country, you can be asked to provide up to 7 copies of them!

Alternatively, you can rely on a logistics partner who can provide tailor-made offers and take care of customs procedures. By working with a logistician who knows the ins and outs ofSwiss customs rules, you are free from the burdens of heavy responsibility.Bigblue, for instance, does this automatically.

3. Adjusting the language to improve comprehension

Respect for customs procedures is no guarantee of a successful establishment in Switzerland on its own. From a more commercial angle, it is also important to adapt your e-commerce site based on the customers you are targeting - starting with the language of your website!

Four different languages are spoken throughout Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Romansh. And even if the Swiss are fluent in English, adjusting the language of your e-commerce site is an excellent way to boost your conversion rate.

To make the whole process easier, you can use translation software such as Weglot. This way, you expand the range of potential customers while ensuring that your delivery and return policy is understood!

Bigblue tip: If you manage to establish yourself in Switzerland, don't neglect to set up a newsletter! Contrary to theFrench, 79% of Swiss e-commerce subscribers have already purchased products following receipt of an offer by email. This could certainly be a good avenue to explore!

4. Using different currencies to facilitate international trade

The currency proposed at checkout can cause shopping cart abandonment. Let's take the example of aBernese customer who orders a pair of shoes from your French e-commerce site.Your site is written in German, the canton's official language. But when it comes making his payment, the customer realizes that he can only pay in Euros. This immediately turns him off because according to his banking contract, all foreign currency payments involve additional charges. What's more, he has no idea what the Euro's exchange rate is. In doubt, he abandons his shopping cart.

To avoid this scenario, be sure to adapt your rates and currency of payment to the geographical area of your customers. For example, you can opt for Shopify's multi-currency and multi-shop options. It is then possible to select different currencies, such as the Euro and the Swiss franc, which can be used on the same e-commerce site. The conversion is done automatically (usingIP address location) or manually (in the form of a drop-down menu), and take into account the exchange rate in real time.

Bigblue tip: Don't forget to offer different payment methods! According to an Ecommerce News magazine study, one of the main reasons for shopping cart abandonment is the lack of a Swiss customer's preferred means of payment. So don't hesitate to offer payment by credit card and PayPal, but also by platforms exclusive to Switzerland, such as PostFinance. By adapting to Swiss buying behaviour, you massively increase your chances of successful integration!

5. Changes for customers: transparency in the export process

Before offering delivery inSwitzerland, it is important to learn about the regulations and adapt your e-commerce site to the customers you are targeting. But make sure you also communicate about any changes related to an international delivery!

Otherwise, any potential delays and additional costs will inevitably lead to negative comments.

Delivery time for exported goods

Delivery times are always subject to the unpredictability of transport. And even more when your package crosses the borders of a non-Customs Union country!

With import rules being different and strict, customs controls may take longer. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is strongly advised to have an entire page of your website dedicated to shipping conditions in Switzerland. When specifying delivery times, be sure to take into account any unexpected events.  

Let's take again the hypothesis of your customer and his pair of shoes, and imagine that you forgot to attach the CN 23 declaration to his package. When it arrives at Swiss customs, several scenarios are possible if the declaration cannot be found.Either the package will be opened or it will be returned directly to the sender or the customs department will contact the sender to obtain the missing documents. While waiting for the answer, the parcel is stored in a warehouse atLa Poste. Once the documents are sent by email, the taxes are calculated and the package continues its journey.

From its arrival on Swiss territory to the actual delivery to the recipient, several days or even weeks may pass! Not to mention the added taxes.

Additional costs for customs clearance

Indeed, if a declaration oran invoice is forgotten, the package is immobilized and taxes will accumulate.According to Swiss law, all imported goods are subject to customs clearance tax and additional value added tax.

Before delivering a parcel, Swiss Post handles customs clearance. In other words, it calculates the taxes applied to it based on its value and the type of merchandise.

Your Bernese customer's pair of shoes will therefore be in the warehouse for a few days. Once the postal customs clearance service has an estimate of the goods' value, they can revalue the taxes before delivering the goods. 

The customer can receive his package, but he's going to have to pay some taxes:

  • The converted price, including the transport price
  • The customs clearance fee, depending on the sending country
  • The surcharge for the goods value, according to its HS Code
  • Taxes for estimating its value and storing it for several days
  • The VAT associated with the category of goods

All of these taxes can be quite expensive for your client. That is why honesty is the best policy. If your customer orders with complete knowledge of the facts, he will not be surprised by the Swiss delivery price, or the tax on the receipt. In any case, be sure to explain all the services included in the price. Be transparent with your customers and enter the Swiss market worry-free!

Bigblue tip: Please be careful with offering deliveries to Switzerland! In any case, there is a good chance that the customer will have to pay taxes when receiving their package. And even if you offer delivery, it will be taken into account in the calculation of taxes, so it is taxable. Select delivery options carefully: Swiss people are very observant about delivery rates. If their order exceeds €7, there is a risk of shopping cart abandonment. It's all about finding the right balance! 

6. In brief, how can you export goods to Switzerland with complete peace of mind?

Before you export to Switzerland or any other country outside the Customs Union, it is important to check the regulations in place.

If you start out on this adventure without taking any precautions, you may encounter un pleasant surprises at some point along the way. Open parcels, damaged parcels, return to sender, delays... Examine the customs declarations required, as well as any potential additional delays and Swiss customs fees.

Once you have sufficient knowledge on the subject, make sure you adapt your e-commerce site to your customers' needs. Language, currency, and even the products themselves play a decisive role in shopping cart abandonment. Take your time, target your buyers, and successfully establish your company in Switzerland!

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