If you have an e-commerce store, then there’s a really good chance that you are going to have to deal with shipping in one form or another. And this is, in my opinion, one of the more complicated aspects of e-commerce. How do you ship? Who does the shipping? What do you charge for shipping? It can get very confusing and very hard to explain but I’ll give it a shot.
When it comes to shipping, you have to decide if and how much you want to charge for shipping and then what method you want to use for shipping, where you’ll ship to, if not everywhere. Some people do just the continental US, some do the whole world!
Here’s an overview of some of the shipping options available in WooCommerce:
- Free Shipping: You can offer free shipping to your customers, either for all orders or for orders over a certain amount. This can be a great way to incentivize customers to make larger purchases.
- Flat Rate Shipping: With flat rate shipping, you can set a fixed shipping fee for all orders, regardless of the weight or destination. This is a simple and easy option to set up.
- Table Rate Shipping: Table rate shipping allows you to set up different shipping rates based on a variety of factors, such as weight, destination, or shipping class. This can be a more complex option, but it gives you more flexibility and can be more accurate.
- Local Pickup: If you have a physical store or location, you can offer customers the option to pick up their orders instead of having them shipped. This can be a convenient option for local customers and can save on shipping costs.
- International Shipping: WooCommerce also supports international shipping, allowing you to set up shipping rates for different countries or regions. You can also use third-party shipping providers to handle international shipments.
- Shipping Zones: You can set up shipping zones to define different regions and assign shipping methods and rates to each zone. This can be useful if you want to offer different shipping options to customers in different areas.
- UPS, USPS, Fedex or other options. WooCommerce has different modules, some paid and some free, to allow you to pull real-time shipping rates for products and pass those fees along to your customers.
- Third-party shipping software. These systems integrate with WooCommerce and generate the pricing for various shipping companies. Popular options include Shippo and ShipStation.
Those are a lot to consider. Your choices are going to boil down to what’s most convenient and economical for you.
Whenever possible, I recommend offering free shipping. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are shipping for free, in most cases this means rolling your shipping costs into the price of your item. Offering “free shipping” is a huge incentive for people who are shopping online and it requires almost no additional set up in your WooCommerce store. However, if you have a retail store where folks and can go pick in person, this doesn’t work because you will have different prices, so you may need to add in UPS, USPS, FedEx, or some kind of flat rate shipping.
How to set up Free Shipping in WooCommerce
- Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to WooCommerce > Settings.
- Click on the Shipping tab.
- Click on the Shipping Zones tab.
- If you haven’t already set up a shipping zone, click the Add Shipping Zone button. If you have already set up a shipping zone, click on the Edit button for the shipping zone you want to set up free shipping for.
- Name the shipping zone.
- Add the countries or regions that you want to offer free shipping to.
- Click on the Add Shipping Method button.
- Select Free Shipping from the dropdown list of shipping methods.
- Configure the free shipping settings to your liking. You can set a minimum order amount, choose which shipping methods to offer free shipping for, and more.
- Click the Save Changes button.
If you don’t want to or can’t offer free shipping then my second recommendation is to use a third-party solution like Shippo or ShipStation. The reason I suggest this is because these companies have software that integrate with your Woo store, have a variety of carriers to use, and will calculate all the shipping costs for you, allow you to print labels, and will take a lot of the hassle out of figuring out shipping. Once you choose your shipping settings, you can install their plugin in your site, follow some simple integration instructions, and your site will have shipping set up.
Shippo offers a free level, which may or may not meet your needs, and Ship Station starts at $9.99 per month. This can add up, but keep in mind that most of the WooCommerce shipping extensions are going to have an annual fee as well. (Usually around $99 per year.) So when you factor in that, the cost difference isn’t that big.
Flat Rate Shipping
If you have items that are generally sold individually and are relatively the same size, flat rate shipping can be an excellent and easy option for you. Flat rate shipping is a shipping method where a fixed rate is charged for a package, regardless of its weight, size, or destination. This means that the shipping cost is the same for all packages that meet the criteria for flat rate shipping, regardless of the distance or shipping zone.
How to set up flat rate shipping in WooCommerce
To set up Flat Rate Shipping in WooCommerce, you can follow these steps:
- Login to your WordPress dashboard and go to WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping.
- Click on the Flat rate shipping zone you want to configure or click on the Add shipping zone button to create a new zone.
- Give your new shipping zone a name and select the region(s) it will apply to.
- Click on the Add shipping method button and select Flat rate from the dropdown menu.
- Enter a Title for your shipping method. This will be displayed to customers during checkout.
- Set the Cost for the flat rate shipping method. This will be the fixed cost charged for shipping, regardless of the weight or size of the package.
- If you want to offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount, you can set a Minimum order amount.
- You can also add additional costs based on the Shipping class, if you use them, and/or per Item, if you want to add an extra cost per item.
- Click on the Save changes button to save your settings.
Once you have set up Flat Rate Shipping, it will be available to customers during checkout and will automatically calculate the shipping cost based on the flat rate and any additional costs you have configured. You can set up multiple flat rate shipping methods if you want to offer different rates for different regions or shipping classes.
How to set up USPS or UPS Shipping in WooCommerce
There are additional extensions for USPS or UPS shipping that you can add to a WooCommerce site. These each cost $99 a year, so if you want to offer both, that’s $198. You need to purchase and download the plugins and install them on your site in order to use them. Then you have to configure them to connect to your existing USPS or UPS accounts. (You might take a look at the documentation for these, as it can be complicated to get your API credentials. UPS document | USPS documentation.)
- Purchase and install the plugin or plugins of your choice.
- Navigate to WooCommerce > Settings.
- Click on the Shipping tab.
- Click on the Add Shipping Zone button, or click on the Edit button for an existing shipping zone.
- Enter a name for the shipping zone, and select the regions that you want to ship to.
- Click on the Add Shipping Method button, and select USPS or UPS from the list of available shipping methods.
- For USPS, enter your USPS Web Tools username and password in the appropriate fields. If you don’t have a Web Tools account, you’ll need to sign up for one on the USPS website. For UPS, enter your UPS account details, including your UPS account number, username, and password.
- Select the shipping services you want to offer, such as Priority Mail, First Class Mail, UPS Ground, etc.
- Configure the settings for each shipping service, such as weight and size limits, handling fees, etc.
- Click the Save Changes button.
Additionally, unless you are using flat rate boxes, you will need to be sure that you have weights (inclusive of packaging) on all your products in order for rates to be calculated accurately.
There’s also a FedEx extension, also $99 per year, that you can set up and use for your site if you prefer FedEx shipping. I have set up this integration for people before, and it is one of the more complicated ones to set up. I would definitely read up on the documentation if you plan to use it.
Obviously, there are still other options for shipping, and you can see all the available ones at WooCommerce here. There are some premium third party options as well if you want to investigate them.
What about Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product using the dropshipping model, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer.
Here’s how dropshipping typically works:
- A retailer creates an online store and lists products for sale.
- When a customer places an order on the retailer’s store, the retailer purchases the product from a third-party supplier (the dropshipper) at a wholesale price.
- The dropshipper then ships the product directly to the customer on behalf of the retailer.
- The retailer keeps the difference between the wholesale price paid to the dropshipper and the price the customer paid for the product, as profit.
You can use Dropshipping with WooCommerce as well. There are a number of options that will depend on what company you are using for this service, but you can check out Drop Shipping plugin options on the WooCommerce website.
What about Third Party Shipping?
Third-party shipping, also known as third-party logistics (3PL), refers to the outsourcing of logistics and fulfillment services to a third-party provider. In other words, a company hires a third-party logistics provider to handle its warehousing, shipping, and delivery processes.
Third-party logistics providers offer a wide range of services, including transportation, warehousing, inventory management, order fulfillment, and shipping. They have the expertise and resources to handle these processes efficiently and cost-effectively, allowing companies to focus on their core business operations.
The benefits of third-party shipping include reduced operating costs, increased efficiency, improved customer service, and access to advanced technology and logistics expertise. Third-party logistics providers can also offer flexible solutions that can be tailored to the specific needs of the company, whether it’s a small business or a large corporation.
Some companies have their own plugins that you can use with WooCommerce to set up third party shipping, or there may be one on the WooCommerce website.
As for me, I’ve never actually set up Drop Shipping or Third Party Shipping on an ecommerce site, so while I have a pretty good idea how it works, it’s not something I have experience doing.
Setting up shipping for your products in WooCommerce is probably going to be a lot more complicated than you expected when you decided to start an ecommerce site! I wish there was an “easy” button that you could click to make it all work, but that’s not the way of the world when it comes to ecommerce shipping.
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