Times Square by HerrBuchta (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Times-Square-172802525)

You have to admit, some of the best things in life can only be bought from the United States. Things like this wonderous appendage that turns your cat into a unicorn.

See how enthusiastic little kitty is d’aww
But, if you live outside the U.S., you may have encountered this problem — it is very, very hard for you to buy this awesome thing that you really like from the U.S. Why is that so?

Problem 1: The cost of shipping internationally is prohibitively expensive

We always hear that globalization and technology has made the world a smaller place. That’s not 100% true — especially in terms of shipping items for the average consumer. Despite the advances in modern technology, “competition” between carriers, and the free market; prices of shipping products across the world for the average consumer has largely remained exorbitant.

It’s now cheaper to fly across the globe than to ship products. You’d be surprised.

If I were to ship a parcel, estimated at 2.5 lbs, from Boston (USA) to Reykjavik (Iceland), it would cost me at least USD$128.25 by FedEx

FedEx Shipping Quotes

and at least USD$127.05 by UPS.

UPS Shipping Quotes

In comparison, it would cost me only USD$99 to fly from Boston to Reykjavik via Wow Airlines.

Wow Airlines Flight Ticket Quotes

Granted, I oversimplified the scenario, but you get the idea. If I can ship my 183 lbs body to Reykjavik from Boston for USD$99, it should cost less, or at most the same, for me to ship a 2.5 lbs parcel.

The carriers get away with these ludicrous quotes largely because, what can you do about it?

If you need a parcel delivered, you need it delivered. You can’t turn to anyone else because there are only so many international carriers for shipping. So, you mortgage your house, sell your car, sell your kidneys, and pay for your delivery. *I’m kidding.*

Problem 2: The website you’re shopping on doesn’t ship to your country

I come from the sunny island of Singapore. Before I moved over to San Francisco, I recall trying months after months, attempting to get the first edition of the Amazon Kindle. It took almost a year for me to find someone to get it at 200% the original cost, before I got my hands on a now ancient (by San Francisco standards) Kindle.

What was I thinking. One year for a Kindle.

When I moved over to San Francisco years later, I wanted the Kindle Paperwhite for its backlight.

I hopped onto Amazon.com, placed an order, and…

Mind = Blown.
I see the Kindle in my mailbox the next day.

If you happen to be like my former self and reside outside of the US, you may find it hard to get your hands on US products from US retailers. I know that feeling, it’s really frustrating.

However, if I were born many years later and face the same problem of trying to import something from the US now, I wouldn’t have that issue anymore.

The reason? There are innovative companies crafting clever solutions to ease the frustrations of cost and logistical nightmares of purchasing U.S. products internationally.

Take for example Shypmate.


This Y Combinator start-up helps people ship products from the US to around the world by matching travelers with extra space in their luggage to people looking to get items shipped to them internationally. By paying a fraction of what be the standard shipping cost of a typical carrier, you get your products delivered to you without the breaking the bank.


Shipping and logistics veteran Aeropost has trounced this issue by becoming a vertically integrated company to get products to their customer base in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Aeropost handles the entire purchasing and delivery process end-to-end by managing a central hub in Miami and using their platform to calculate duties, customs, and international shipping to offer prices that won’t cost an arm and a leg. The best part? Packages are typically at your door within 5 to 8 days.

These companies are awesome. But for them to handle large volumes of products going through their hands each day, wouldn’t the order processing and logistical demands be an absolute nightmare?

This is where companies can leverage on technology to optimize!

The Semantics3 API can easily help companies determine the necessary product metadata (e.g. weight, dimensions, item value, category, where products are being sold) to coordinate what can be a complex process to something accessible for consumers.

We won’t be sharing all the secrets of our API openly here. But psst, if you want to find out more, click here to schedule a demo with us ;)

Lovingly made in San Francisco, Singapore and Bengaluru by Thaddeus Loh and the Semantics3 Team.