Online Business Blues

Well, after doing a LOT of reading online and digging through Shopify documentation, I found out that it's difficult to service smaller overseas customers. (Warning:  This is a long-ish post that will be more interesting to people who like to think about business practices.)
Sure, when I do a bulk order for large boxes of possum yarn from New Zealand, it's only a few percent per ball of yarn because it comes in a relatively large box, and yarn has a somewhat low specific gravity. It's pretty typical for 150 balls of yarn to cost $50 to ship. But the system is completely set up for relatively large shipments.
A potential customer in Australia wanted to get some of the color changing yarn and it's their fall, so perfect fit, right? Well, after digging, if I need to send her 4 balls of yarn (which would make a relatively small project like a scarf) shipping the most economical way was $30 (Postal Service) and could take a month. The next fastest option which would take a week was $45 (DHL.) The shipping of small quantities easily outpaces the value of the goods, unless it's a bigger order. I found that I could add up to an extra 2 pounds of goods before the shipping fees bumped up again. It really seems that the bulk of the cost is "the last mile."
I found interesting information about programs that optimize shipping discounts. That seemed somewhat interesting, but they were pricey and until abandoned carts become more regular, I don't even have enough data to know which product is the best fit for customers. And I hate the idea of lost customers being the source of the data!!! Eep!
Another suggestion was to establish a presence in the country that the goods are being sent to, and send a bulk shipment to the partner in that country, after which items can be delivered using the country's post. That one made me think a little bit because I could see a really mutually beneficial partnership forming with another fiber arts seller.
I even looked at freight forwarders, wondering if any of them had a system set up to consolidate smaller orders, but no. The ones that I found didn't seem like they even had a mechanism set up for anything less than a pallet.
The best thing I could do was offer a decent discount to help with the shipping cost, which was not optimal, but I hope it helps.
So, yes--it's the most exciting and frustrating part of having a small business. The setup stage is when a person finds all the parts and pieces then tries to find the best way for them to all fit together and run well. I'm usually pretty good at finding ways to work on a puzzle like this, but the best I could do still wasn't satisfactory. Hoping to get input from others because my joy comes in being able to say yes to a customer.

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