Adhering to customs rules can slow down international shipments of ecommerce orders. But AI is beginning to expedite the process, writes Emily Newton, a journalist covering how new technology impacts business.


Emily Newton

A smooth customs process is essential for getting ecommerce goods to their destinations in the expected time frames. However, standard customs forms are extremely detailed, with dozens of fields to fill. People are increasingly interested in how artificial intelligence (AI) could streamline things.

1. Completing Customs Forms More Efficiently

Even conscientious people make errors when providing information on customs documents. That might mean they put details into the wrong fields, use the wrong tariff codes to classify ecommerce documents, or make other mistakes, ultimately extending the time frames for parcels reaching their destinations or resulting in the packages getting returned to the senders.

Many optical character recognition tools have AI features to improve their functionality. People can use these options to pull data from electronic paperwork automatically and use it for customs forms.

Phlo Systems is a digital forwarder based in the United Kingdom working on a chatbot to fill out customs forms. Training is underway and responses have about an 80% accuracy rate, showing the solution’s potential. As of November 2023, the company’s CEO and founder expected to complete customs forms with the tool in three to six months.


Although AI can shorten the time necessary to complete customs forms, humans should always supervise the process and double-check the results. Well-trained algorithms are not perfect, so computing power and human oversight are an excellent combination to assist those dealing with exported products.

2. Linking Customer Purchases to Customs Form Data

Businesses may also expand the functionality of existing ChatGPT tools that bring AI to ecommerce, making them improve customs documents, too. Technology ecommerce brand Newegg released a customer-facing ChatGPT tool in July 2023 that suggests products for people wanting to build computers based on details they input about budget, performance requirements and other specifics.

The tool compiles all the options into a list people can review before checking out at the site. It is easy to imagine an accompanying AI product Newegg team members could use to populate customs forms based on what a customer ultimately purchases from the suggested list. Then, the items are more likely to be classified and described correctly on the customs forms. Tariff classifications determine duty rates and taxes on imports, making their accuracy critical.

Ecommerce leaders could also use AI to track trends that enable more accurate customs data. Perhaps a large percentage of overseas shoppers purchase a specific in-demand item and nothing else. AI might accelerate the process by automatically populating the product-specific customs form fields in such cases. Then, there is less to do because people only need to check the information that varies with each customer.


3. Stopping False Declarations and Counterfeit Goods

Possibilities also exist for customs agents to use AI tools to highlight abnormalities associated with illegal goods or items declared incorrectly. Artificial intelligence excels at processing large quantities of information and catching things humans would miss. Many banks use it to monitor for fraudulent transactions because it can detect those instances more accurately than people

If people make false declarations on customs documents, they typically do that to reduce their import tax and duty-related obligations. Many border patrol agents use artificial intelligence to assess which shipping containers to open for further inspection.

Some ships reach ports bearing 24,000 containers, making it impossible to inspect them all. However, the customs officials working at a Belgian port rely on predictive AI models to flag which ones to check. The algorithms make decisions based on customs declarations and data from goods previously requiring inspections.

Even so, illegal goods can slip past border agents, which may result in counterfeit products reaching ecommerce sites. More companies are responding by using or offering AI tools to combat these emerging circumstances.


One enterprise specializing in the luxury goods and sneaker markets built an artificial intelligence-driven product to compare photographs of legitimate items with those sold online. The software compares approximately 2,000 to 4,000 characteristics so consumers or retailers can feel more confident about authenticity.

Some ecommerce marketplaces could use counterfeit protection as a selling point to attract new customers. Suppose first-time visitors to a shopping website sees a banner informing them that all products above a specific monetary value receive anti-counterfeit screenings before getting shipped to recipients. Such a claim gives consumers peace of mind, particularly before buying high-value, unique or collector’s items.

Will Artificial Intelligence Improve Customs Processes?

AI for customs declarations and processing is still in the early stages, with decision-makers from many businesses still in the planning process. However, as more of them try real-world applications, artificial intelligence should make a bigger and lasting impact on paperwork and goods movement. The results could assist ecommerce companies with administrative tasks associated with import and export paperwork, plus support border patrol officials with spotting suspicious cargo or incorrectly declared products.

About the author:

Emily Newton reports on how technology disrupts industrial sectors. She’s also the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized, covering innovations in industry, construction, and more.


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