Export pricing and quotations

The right pricing and the way you provide quotes for your goods or services are both crucial for a successful and ongoing export business. This page outlines general export pricing information as well as for products, services, and issues to consider when quoting including using foreign currencies.

Export pricing

Export pricing and domestic pricing are different: different overseas market conditions, different costs, different quoting formats and different currencies all affect what you charge your customers for your products or services.

Pricing for any market requires an understanding of the relative costs, demand and competition of that market.

Many overseas contacts you meet will want to know your price, so it is essential to have your pricing determined before you approach an overseas market.

The total cost of exporting

Before you can determine the prices you should be charging for your goods or services, you must first be clear about the total cost to your business of exporting that product or service.

Developing your export markets can involve a range of costs that do not apply to domestic sales. These are general costs for exporting that are not specific to an individual contract or shipment. They could be considered your ‘fixed costs’ of exporting. How much you recover of these costs per unit or per order or contract is up to you, but these costs should be factored in before you start adding shipping costs, duties, etc. Costs may include:

  • Research into international markets
  • Travel to overseas markets
  • International communications
  • Production of export literature (including translations)
  • Modifications to your product or service
  • Packaging and labelling (products)
  • Product liability insurance or other insurances
  • Compliance with foreign standards
  • Credit checking
  • Export financing charges
  • Promotional costs

See sections below for more about pricing for products and services.

Different prices for different markets

Calculating a separate price for each of your export markets is important because:

  • For products, distributor, wholesale and retail mark-ups are often different in each market and industry, which will affect the final price of your products. Remember to include questions about these mark-up costs when you are doing your initial market research.
  • Your competitors and the way they price their products or services will probably be different in different markets, and you have to take this into account when setting your prices.
  • The price that end users are willing to pay for your products or services will not be the same in all markets around the world.

Price changes

Exporters need to adjust prices for many reasons including increases in the cost of production such as raw materials, currency fluctuations and inflationary increases. But customers don’t like surprises and although price increases are part of doing business, it’s wise to give as much notice as possible.

You will need to advise your customers or in-market partners when your prices change - and why. You will also need to give sufficient lead time for buyers to be able to pass price changes on to their customers.

Extending credit terms will have a real cost impact

As an exporter you may be asked to offer credit terms. Or you may find that you need to match your competitors on credit terms.

Extending credit terms will have a real cost impact on your company because cash flow is critical to any business.

If you decide to offer credit terms you will have to estimate the cost of the time it takes to receive payment at the end of the credit period and build this cost into your price.

Not always all about price

Although some products are sold purely on the basis of price, many exporters find that price is not the only factor that affects their success in attracting new customers. Credit terms, delivery speed and reliability, customer service and warranty, after-sales care and the quality of your product or service are all important in getting and keeping new international business.

Pricing for products

While most businesses spend the necessary time to gain a thorough understanding of price calculations for their domestic business, many do not put in the same amount of effort when it comes to their export markets.

Unfortunately, this can have a flow-on effect on both competitiveness and the profitability of the business.

Although some exporters simply charge their domestic price with no further thought, those who are successful over the longer term have almost always invested the necessary time to get their export pricing right.

Costs to include when setting export prices

Regardless of who arranges and pays for freight and costs such as import duties, you should know the costs your product attracts through the supply chain. Without knowing these costs, you can’t fully understand where your product fits into the market and therefore compare your price against those of your competitors.

Some examples of costs in the supply chain include:

  • Shipping ex-factory to port of departure
  • Air or sea freight and insurance
  • Import duty and taxes
  • Customs clearance/broker fee
  • Ground transportation from port of entry to the warehouse or the customer
  • Warehouse fees
  • Break-bulk fees, if third party warehouse applies
  • Agent's commission or importer's mark-up
Export quotations for products

The way prices for products are quoted in international business is different to domestic sales. To ensure that both the buyer and the seller are clear about who pays for which costs, and where ownership transfers from seller to buyer, exporters use terms known as Incoterms.


Some common Incoterms you may have heard mentioned include FOB and CIF. It is very important that exporters understand the details of each Incoterm they may use and their responsibility for each one.

One common mistake, that can lead to confusion, is not including a named place after the Incoterm. If you are using FOB and shipping from Sydney, then the correct way to communicate this is FOB Sydney. Not including a named place here means the buyer will not know where they have to arrange and pay for freight from.

Which Incoterm you use depends on your situation and that of the buyer. Whilst there is no rule about which Incoterm should be used for particular countries or industries, buyers will most likely have a strong preference for how they buy from overseas. Some Incoterms result in less effort for the customer, so require more arrangements to be made from the exporters’ side. This may be a good customer service offering from your business should buyers be seeking to have goods delivered right through to their door.

The most recent version of Incoterms is Incoterms 2010. For more details and some tips see the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) website . For short courses about Incoterms, see our Export Training page for providers.

Export price lists and written quotations

Some tips for preparing an export price list:

  • Show which currency you are quoting in. If using Australia dollars then A$ or AUD should be shown. Some buyers may assume ‘$’ alone means US$;
  • GST should not be included for export sales. Ensure any mention of ‘GST included’ is removed if using your domestic price list as a template, this confuses buyers;
  • Even if Incoterms are used, when quoting it is recommended include clear details about what the price includes as some buyers may have incorrect understanding of the terms used. An explanation should be included in your price lists and contracts as well.
    Include validity for pricing, when is the price list valid until?
  • Include any minimum order quantities you may require or quantity the pricing is based on
  • Item codes make it easier for buyers to place an order and result in less confusion
  • Clearly show your company name, address (including Australia) and contact details for placing an order or enquiry

Providing quotes in currencies other than Australian dollars can be risky for those who don’t understand the risks. See the ‘Quoting in foreign currencies section below for some general information on this topic.

Different methods for calculating prices for products

While there are many different ways for calculating prices, the methods listed below are some of the most common.

Cost Plus and Top Down

Cost Plus and Top Down are two of the best costing methods to calculate your export price, but they are best used in parallel; do two separate calculations and then compare one against the other to achieve a finely-balanced result. Here is what you do:

  • For Cost Plus : you work outwards from your ex-factory price to the end customer.
  • For Top Down : you work from the ideal end customer price backwards to you.

The reason that these two methods in parallel are better than using one method alone is that each method individually has its weaknesses.

Using the Cost Plus method alone, for example, may result in a price that is too high, which means that you won’t have many customers.

And, if you sell at a price that customers would ideally like and calculate by using the Top Down method, you may end up losing money on each order.

So, calculating your final selling price between Cost Plus and Top Down is a balancing act that all sellers must face.

Top tips about export pricing for products
  • Set a price that reflects your brand and promotion, but bear in mind that an unknown brand from Australia may not be able to charge the same prices as well-known competitors, particularly those in-market.
  • Before you start quoting prices to your customers, be sure to factor in the promotional costs associated with supporting your products in-market.
  • You could create a problem for yourself if you quote a low price initially in order to get business, and assume that your prices will naturally increase over time. Buyers tend to expect the exact opposite: that is, they expect to get a price reduction to reward them for ongoing business, particularly if their orders increase in size and volume.
  • It is important that you know your profit margins and break even points; if you don’t have this information readily to hand you will not be able to make an informed decision if a customer asks you for a discount.
  • Discounts are a cost; before you offer a discount to a customer reflect on the effect it will have on your bottom-line.
  • The wise exporter learns about Incoterms so that they can quote using the correct international trade language. Both you and your customers should know who pays for what, and be absolutely clear at what precise point in the transaction ownership of the goods transfers from you to your customer.
  • If you have a website and successfully sell on-line you need to be careful that you don’t undercut either your in-market suppliers or in-market retailers.
  • And a final tip? We know that shipping costs can change quickly and exchange rates can fluctuate alarmingly. Both of these will affect your end costs, so be sure to regularly review your prices.
Pricing for services

A service export is an activity where there is a high degree of human involvement in the development and delivery of that activity. What is being provided tends to be less tangible (than products) and there is more variability in quality.

Pricing considerations may include:
  • Specific costs associated with services – withholding tax, visas, flights, establishing a presence (local or virtual), accommodation, transport, pre-sales visits, freight, insurance, wages, translation, IP protection, currency/exchange rates.
  • Business and cultural practices specific to the country eg. fixed price or negotiable, pre-sales effort required.
  • Competition within the market – local and international companies.
  • Ease of entering markets – local barriers, regulations, language etc.
  • Maturity of your industry in the target market – frontier v’s established.
  • Unique service offering – ability to charge premium prices, perception you want to create about the service offering.
  • Accounting for after sales costs.
  • Meeting the costs of complying with applicable international standards.
  • Opportunity costs – impact on domestic business, existing commitments, hiring of additional local staff.

Pricing models for services:

Cost plus – Cost plus pricing requires an accurate understanding of your total costs for delivering the service into the target market and ensuring sales success. Once the cost is decided, then a margin is added to reflect a price that is compatible with your perceived market position. It is important that you have an understanding of the average margin for your industry in the export market. In calculating cost plus you:

  • need a good understanding of costs, margins and overseas expenses
  • may not be competitive in some markets (under or over-priced).

You might be able to reduce the price or match a competitor’s price if local resources are cheaper than in Australia. Calculate final pricing by finding a balance between affordability for customers and your profit.

Competitive pricing - Competitive pricing can be good for market access, especially if new services can be released shortly after market entry with demonstrable benefits and features. Competitive pricing is acceptable if you can deliver at a similar cost structure to others in the market, otherwise you may experience margin squeeze. Competitive pricing can make premium pricing difficult in the future as it often signals a “value for money” or “affordable” market position. Input from market research, competitive analysis, discussions with representatives and customers about the competitiveness and positioning of your services will increase your understanding of the competitive pricing point of your service.

Premium pricing - Premium pricing is developed around a strategy of what the market will bear. This is a good export strategy not only because it is more profitable, but also provides more margin to cover cost increases, and may allow you to maintain a price in a foreign currency, absorbing negative impacts of changes in exchange rates. It will allow you to establish a premium brand in the market and allows you to reduce pricing to loyal clients without damaging your profit. There is perceived value in innovative and uniquely packaged services. If you can charge premium prices for your services, you can meet competitive threats over time.

Beachhead pricing - Beachhead pricing means pricing your service so that it is perceived as excellent value for money. Beachhead pricing can reduce the time to get market entry, while sacrificing early margins. The process must be tightly controlled so that your representatives/partners understand that market success will bring future price increases to cover lost margins and achieve rightful market positioning. It is a useful pricing strategy for your representatives / partners as it will allow them to get access to distribution channels at the launch of your service in the export market. It is recommended you use this strategy with caution.

As your company’s presence in an export market matures, you may revise pricing strategies for existing and new services.

Top tips about export pricing for services

  • Set a price that reflects your brand and promotion, but bear in mind that an unknown brand from Australia may not be able to charge the same prices as well-known competitors, particularly those in-market.
  • Before you start quoting prices to your customers, be sure to factor in the promotional costs associated with supporting your services in-market.
  • You could create a problem for yourself if you quote a low price initially in order to get business, and assume that your prices will naturally increase over time. Buyers tend to expect the exact opposite: that is, they expect to get a price reduction to reward them for ongoing business, particularly if the amount of business they give you increase in size.
  • It is important that you know your profit margins and break even points; if you don’t have this information readily to hand you will not be able to make an informed decision if a customer asks you for a discount.
  • Discounts are a cost; before you offer a discount to a customer, reflect on the effect it will have on your bottom-line.

Quoting in foreign currencies

Exchange rates can be a complicated and tricky area for exporters. Discuss exchange rate issues with your bank or financial adviser and make sure that you understand exactly what is involved.

Note : Austrade strongly suggests that exporters develop foreign currency policies and procedures within their company to ensure all foreign currency transactions are managed as agreed.

Quoting in foreign currency can be hazardous: if the Australian dollar appreciates, or goes up in value against the foreign currency you are quoting in between order confirmation and payment date, you will receive less Australian dollars than you expected.

This is exchange rate risk and can be very costly for exporters if not managed appropriately.

Quoting in Australian dollars will avoid this problem, but it passes the risk on to your customer, who may not be prepared to take it on.

Options to address exchange rate risk

Options to manage your exchange rate risk should be discussed with your bank. If you are not confident talking about exchange rates, you can research more online before approaching the bank. (The International Trade section of your bank’s website will provide information about their exchange rate products.)

Here is a quick overview of some of the most common options available for managing exchange rate risk:

Quoting in Australian dollars

The option of quoting your prices in Australian dollars carries the least risk and cost for you as an exporter. You are guaranteed the amount you will receive in Australian dollars; your customer is the one who has to bear the exchange rate risk.

If the Australian dollar appreciates against the importer’s currency, your buyer will have to pay more than they planned for your goods.

The result: an unhappy customer, who may decide to take their business elsewhere and will look for a supplier who offers pricing in their own currency.

Forward exchange contracts

Forward exchange contracts are a low risk option for both the buyer and seller, although there are costs involved for the seller.

Also known as hedging, this option locks in the exchange rate with your bank for a given day in the future. The pricing of these contracts is determined by the difference in interest rates between the countries of each currency.

Once the rate is locked in by a forward contract you will receive the agreed amount of Australian dollars, regardless of what the exchange rate is on the day.

Remember this option works both ways; that is, whether the Australian dollar depreciates or appreciates against the foreign currency. So, in some cases you may receive less than you would have using the spot rate on the day, but you will have certainty about the amount you will be paid in Australian dollars.

Note : There are also risks if your payment doesn’t come in on the day expected as you won’t have the foreign currency to close out the contract. In this case renegotiation of a contract is required.

You should speak to your bank about the options they may suggest based on your circumstances.


Austrade does not endorse or guarantee the performance or suitability of any introduced party or liability for the accuracy or usefulness of any information contained in this Report. Please use commercial discretion to assess the suitability of any business introduction or goods and services offered when assessing your business needs. Austrade does not accept liability for any loss associated with the use of any information and any reliance is entirely at the users’ discretion.

Why You Need To Know About Foreign Bribery and its Implications:

Bribing, attempting to bribe or facilitating bribery of a foreign public official is a serious crime and amendment to the Australian Criminal Code in 1999 makes acts of this nature overseas punishable in Australia. Companies can also be held criminally responsible for the acts of their agents. The extraterritorial nature of these penalties reflects the serious criminal nature of bribery and the detrimental effects it has on Australian trade and reputation, and international governance.

It is no defence that such acts may be common practice in some countries. You must be aware of the types of activities that are legal and illegal when interacting with foreign officials. The offence applies regardless of the outcome or result of the bribe or the alleged necessity of the payment: companies and individuals may be held liable regardless of whether or not the bribe obtains the advantages sought and whether or not the bribe was considered necessary to do business. Refer to Attorney-General’s Department Foreign Bribery website