For business owners whose online shop requires them to ship out their products, you want to be able to organize your shipping options by what type of product has been bought. Other things to consider are postage, label printing, the convenience of delivery for both the business owner and customer and speed of delivery.
WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce plugin available in today’s market. With over 75 million downloads, this plugin is perfectly suited for just about any type of online store and can satisfy all of your online shopkeeping needs, including shipping products.
However, in order to have more than just the basic shipping options available, you may need to look into extensions called WooCommerce Shipping.
What is WooCommerce Shipping For?
Let’s say you sell hand-crafted jewelry. Most of the objects you sell are likely going to be on the small side and won’t require much variation in the shipping method used to deliver the products to the customers who buy them. However, perhaps you sell automotive equipment or furniture or artwork of varying shapes and sizes. This is where shipping gets a little tricky, and it’s time to try something a little more suited for your needs.
WooCommerce Shipping is an extension of the popular eCommerce plugin that essentially acts as the next step up. This free extension sets you up with easy integration (since it would be built into your WooCommerce dashboard) as opposed to you having to rely on copy/paste mechanics to fulfill orders. Additionally, it gives you access to USPS discounts on shipping rates and labels, so you can easily print off your own labels at home or at the office and drop them off at the post office hassle-free.
One needs to understand that shipping per se is already built into eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce and Shopify, but this extension creates support for printing labels. If you’re interested in understanding the differences between the two platforms, Shopify and WooCommerce, there are plenty of good articles that compare the two such as this one.
So How Does It Work?
As most other features of WooCommerce are, shipping is fairly straightforward. Once you’ve added an extension that will allow you to calculate more accurate shipping rates based on the weight and size of the product you’re selling, you can streamline the whole process.
Once you’ve added the extension to your WooCommerce plugin, you just need to activate it. To do so, go to your Settings (from the plugin itself), then the General tab. From there, you’ll set your basic settings like where you’re based, where you’re willing to sell and ship to, default settings like addresses and tax permissions, and even sitewide messages. Save any changes you made to these settings, then navigate to the Shipping tab to select zones and regions, which you can be as general or specific with as you place. Once all of this is done, you’re able to look at shipping rates and methods.
Shipping Rate Calculation:
WooCommerce Shipping more or less takes care of this for you. Since one of the most common reasons for a shopper to leave their cart unpurchased is discovering shipping and handling fees they weren’t aware of while perusing, the extension has done its best to eliminate these kinds of surprises from the equation.
You can choose to either run your shop using Standard Shipping Methods (a.k.a. Your basic flat rates, free shipping options if certain parameters are met, and local pickup availability) or Premium Shipping Methods. Premium is what will base the rates shown to the customer on the products’ actual measurements using a third-party API (such as USPS).
If your product sizes and weights vary enough that you would worry about your customers finding hidden fees, opt for the Premium option. At the very least, if they have to pay a bit more for shipping, they’ll be aware of it from the get-go.
There’s another option referred to as User-Defined Shipping Methods, which gives you even more control over what shipping parameters are set for your site. You can still set guidelines by the usual parameters like weight, dimensions, and shipping class, but you can add factors like the number of items purchased and total cost as well. You can even fix the shipping rate per line item, as a set percentage of the total cost, or by the weight specifically. If the types of products you sell require more personalization, there are Custom Shipping Methods as well.
Other Options and Settings:
You’ll find that you have options in your settings that allow you to show a shipping calculator on the cart page or hide all shipping costs until the customer has entered an address. While you want to be upfront about costs (potential or actual), choosing to hide shipping costs until the address is input can be helpful in avoiding sudden drastic changes to whatever estimate the customer would be shown in the meantime.
WooCommerce Shipping Classes:
Being able to set shipping classes is one of the most useful features available to those whose products come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but can be grouped into customizable classes. There are plenty of options available to set classes for, including bulky items like furniture or sculptures, lightweight items that are too big or oddly-shaped for an envelope but won’t require much shipping cost, items that need to be packaged in specific ways such as posters, or packages containing fragile or expirable materials.
Setting a Shipping Class:
This process is fairly straightforward as well. First, go to your Settings and Shipping tab again, then click on the sub-section appropriately named “Shipping Classes.” From there, you’ll be able to add as many classes as your store needs by selecting the type of class, a nickname (or “slug”) for that class, and the defining parameters of the class before adding it to your list.
Now, when applying these classes to your products, you can do so either one at a time or in bulk. If you want to do each one manually, just go to the product’s settings to edit it, then to the product’s Shipping tab, and select the proper class from the drop-down menu. To edit several products all at once, go to your main Products screen and select all of the products you want to group together. Then, you can click “Edit” and “Apply” from the top of the screen and select which shipping class you want to apply to that group of products.
These will cover all of your basic and intermediate needs for eCommerce shipping, but WooCommerce has numerous other plugins and extensions (also WooCommerce plugins available for popular cms WordPress) that can help you with bulk editing hundreds of items’ shipping classes, setting additional parameters, shipping to and from more places, and so much more.
The basic WooCommerce plugin and its free extension for Shipping should be more than enough to get your online store operational, however. Then again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from the world’s top eCommerce plugin!