Solutions for Common Issues with WooCommerce Shipping

There are few areas of WordPress Development that cause more frustration and annoyance than WooCommerce shipping options. It’s understandable, complete customization is one of the primary reasons people choose WooCommerce as a platform, and many stores have shipping needs that are custom enough that no single plugin or settings panel could cover all their needs. However, for anyone who’s not a seasoned expert in the intricacies of WooCommerce, shipping is often incredibly confusing. Here solutions to a few of the common issues our team members have run into while building literally hundreds of WooCommerce shops. Hopefully we can save a few headaches.

Products that Ship in Multiple Boxes

Shipping in multiple boxes is pretty common for large or complex items like consumer electronics, furniture, exercise equipment, and industrial tools. There are really two separate situations that are lumped under this heading.

If boxes are shared between multiple products or ship from different locations, you’ll probably need to be able to manage inventory and shipping for each box separately. In that case, You may want to use a bundling plugin like Product Bundles ($49). You create each box as a separate hidden product, then sell them together as bundles. It’s frustrating that each component product is visible on the bundle page, by default, and on the customer’s invoice, but it allows several bundles to share individual boxes, and to go out of stock if any of the component boxes is out of stock.

If boxes aren’t shared between multiple products, you can still use Product Bundles if you want, but maintaining separate component products for each box when you don’t need to manage inventory independently is incredibly complicated. To simplify the process, we released our own plugin, Multi-Box Products ($49). It lets you simply add multiple box sizes/weights/values on each simple product’s shipping options.

Dropshipping from Multiple Suppliers

When it comes to Drop Shipping, IgniteWoo is the plugin developer to know. Their plugin, Dropshipping Suppliers Pro ($59), handles importing inventory CSVs, emailing suppliers when their products sell, and can generate and attach pdf packing slips to those emails. If you provide live-rate shipping, they also have companion plugins for the major US shippers, that support setting different origin zip codes for each supplier: FedEx ($89), UPS ($99), USPS ($99).

Restricting Shipping Options for Specific Products

Some stores may carry products that cannot be shipped by all available providers. Alcohol, firearms, batteries, Aerosol cans, and plants are a few examples of such restricted products. The plugin Shipping Gateway Per Product Premium ($24) allows you to restrict specific products to certain shippers only.

Using the Customer’s Shipping Account

In general, this is a bad idea for e-commerce stores. Shipping account numbers are a lot like credit cards, in that if they are leaked, people can use them to ship at your customers’ expense. Because there is no gateway involved to mitigate your liability, we strongly urge clients to avoid this feature. However, if they insist, there is a plugin by IgniteWoo, called Use my Shipper ($79), that allows customers to provide their shipping account number on checkout. It is tempting to provide additional options like storing the customer’s shipping account number with their user profile or some sort of company profile that could be applied to multiple users, but it is important to keep in mind that there is a potential liability in storing this data at all, so minimizing that integration is a good thing.

Working with Independent Shipping Companies

If you are using a shipper other than USPS, UPS, Fedex, or DHL, you may not be able to find a live-rate plugin for WooCommerce. In that case, the easiest route to provide relatively accurate prices is to use Table Rate Shipping ($99). It is complex to implement all the necessary rules, and to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, so many stores just offer Flat Rate shipping, or even Free Shipping to avoid the hassle.

Some clients, especially those selling large items, insist on providing a shipping quote manually. We recommend against this, as giving your clients any pause in the purchasing process is bound to lose you sales. However, if it is absolutely necessary, you can use RFQ Toolkit Plus ($45) to convert your store into a quote request system. The customer requests a quote for their purchase, at which point an administrator can generate a quote for shipping and add it to the total, before converting the quote to an invoice. One benefit of the RFQ system, is that you can use it to contact the customer before the purchase, if any of your products require consultative selling.

Simplifying Shipping Options

It’s important to be aware that overly complex shipping logic can be just as harmful to your business as higher shipping prices or lower margins. Even if a complicated and custom set of shipping rules seems like a good deal to the customer, if it adds confusion, it will cost you sales.

Overall, it’s better to make shipping as standardized as possible, even if it means slightly lower margins or slightly higher prices. Consider that most large e-commerce retailers offer a single shipping provider, with live rates, and free shipping for any order over a fixed amount. Matching their formula can help you stay competitive.

Let us know in the comments if there are more common shipping issues that you’d like us to cover in the future, or if there are more confusing parts of WordPress or WooCommerce configurations you’d like us to take on.

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