The International Trade Blog arrow Export Compliance

Top Exporting Challenges [Survey Data]

On: March 27, 2024    |    By: Kari Crane Kari Crane    |    5 min. read

Top Exporting Challenges [Survey Data] | Shipping SolutionsExpanding your business internationally presents exciting opportunities, but the complexities of exporting can feel overwhelming. Have you ever wondered, as an exporter, how your way of doing business compares to others? 

Our recent survey polled exporters like you to understand their experiences, uncovering both common challenges and valuable resources to guide your journey. We're sharing the results because we think they offer insights into the real-world practices other companies have in place. The data will help you understand where you stand on the exporting map.

Today’s article focuses on questions about the volume of exports, the number of international destinations and the top challenges facing exporters. In future articles, we'll share insights across other key areas, including documentation, compliance, logistics and Incoterms.

Quantity and Reach

We asked exporters how many exports they average each month, and the survey revealed a diverse range in export volume. Nearly half (46%) average more than 20 exports per month. This suggests established companies thrive in the international market. However, a significant portion (28%) fall within the 1-4 exports per month category, highlighting the presence of smaller players or those venturing into exporting for the first time. 15% make 5-9 exports per month, while 11% reported 10-19 exports.

Additionally, the geographic reach of these exporters is impressive, with over half (52%) exporting to more Exporting Basics Survey Datathan 10 countries. Here’s how the other exporters responded:  

  • 7-10 countries (14%)
  • 4-6 countries (13%)
  • 1 country (8%)
  • 3 (6%)
  • 2 (5%)

We asked exporters which countries they export to and got more answers than we can list here—more than 100!—but here are a sampling of the results (we’ve written a number of in-depth articles about exporting to certain markets, and they're linked from this list): Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Ireland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.

If you’re one of the exporters selling in just a handful of countries, and you’re interested in expanding your reach, our free guide, Evaluating Export Markets: How to Assess Country and Customer Risks is a great resource. 

Key Challenges Faced by Exporters

While the rewards of exporting are undeniable, the survey also identified several key challenges faced by exporters:

Regulatory Uncertainty

The most prominent concern, expressed by 41% of respondents, was the difficulty of understanding and complying with complex export regulations. Navigating the intricacies of export controls, customs procedures and country-specific requirements can be daunting, even for experienced exporters. If you’re in this group of exporters, we have several resources that can help:

There are strict regulations regarding export compliance. Download this free  whitepaper to make sure you know what's required of you.

Payment Concerns

30% of respondents highlighted worries about getting paid by international customers. The potential for late payments, fraud and currency fluctuations can pose significant financial risks.

If you need help with the fundamentals of trade finance, you’ll find this guide useful: Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters.

Complexity and Confusion

30% of respondents described the overall export process as confusing and difficult. The sheer volume of paperwork, logistics coordination and legal considerations can be overwhelming, especially for smaller businesses.

Export Procedures and Documentation: An In-Depth Guide is a good place to start learning about every step of the exporting process.

Costly Endeavors

High costs associated with transportation, insurance and other export-related activities were a concern for 28% of respondents. Optimizing costs while ensuring compliance and efficiency is a balancing act!

Obtaining Certificates of Origin

15% of respondents struggled with securing certificates of origin, a requirement in some countries and crucial documents for claiming preferential trade benefits under free trade agreements (FTAs). We explain the process in our article When to Use a Certificate of Origin Form for Your Exports. (It includes links to quickly create an electronic certificate of origin, or if you need an FTA certificate, links to download free templates here.)

Quickly create an electronic certificate of origin form here.

Financing for Foreign Customers

12% of respondents identified difficulty securing financing to extend credit to foreign customers, potentially limiting their sales reach. (Learn about other trade financing options in Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters.)

More Insights from Exporters

Understanding these challenges is crucial, but the good news is that resources and strategies exist to help you navigate them effectively. And hopefully, these results show that you’re not alone in the difficulties you’re facing. To learn more about how exporters navigate international trade, watch for future articles sharing survey results related to export compliance, documentation, logistics, Incoterms and more. 

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Kari Crane

About the Author: Kari Crane

Kari Crane is the editor of Passages: The International Trade Blog. Kari joined Shipping Solutions after working as an editor, writer and designer at a major market newspaper in Texas. Kari has spent her career finding different ways to tell stories and make complex topics easy-to-understand, so she loves helping importers and exporters understand how to navigate the complex world of international trade.

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