WooCommerce: How To Set Up Complex Shipping Rules

WooCommerce inbuilt shipping settings are quite simple – too simple, sometimes.

WooCommerce merchant often require a complex shipping setup, depending on the industry or the (very expensive) courier fees.

But shipping is much more: conditional logic, marketing, user experience.

Setting shipping costs with a handy “table rate” plugin, combining them with cart-based marketing actions and guiding your customers through the buying process can help you sell more and reduce your return rate. 

Explaining to your customers why they can’t buy a certain product, or encouraging them to add another one to the cart to get a discount, or blocking certain shipping rates so that your courier doesn’t overcharge you… there are so many needs for a more advanced shipping setup.

In this article, we’ll tale a look at the importance of shipping costs, why conditional logic is a game changer and why customers love to get free shipping. Enjoy!

1. The importance of setting up shipping costs correctly 

Without the right tools, you may find difficult to set up shipping costs or to take advantage of better rates from different shipping companies.

Besides, many online stores end up losing money on some sales by undercharging for shipping; others overcharge shipping costs and lose customers.

By configuring shipping costs correctly you can avoid these losses and abandoned carts. In addition, you can beat your competition on products where shipping cost is a decisive factor. 

You can also incentivize cross-selling by taking advantage of flat shipping rates if you combine it with effective communication. 

There are many advanced shipping cost calculation plugins available. The most versatile are the ones based on table rates. With this type of plugins you will have the flexibility to set the pricing rules with your conditions. Here are 4 free plugins you can find on WordPress.org:

2. Cart-based conditional logic: toggle shipping rates based on conditions

Maybe your store has some products (for example: fragile, perishable or very heavy) incompatible with a shipping rate, with a certain courier, or a specific geographical area. Or a combinations of products in the same order are not possible.

Some stores waive to sell certain products because they cannot block certain conditions (with the default WooCommerce settings). Others take risks and then, in certain cases, have to contact the customer and issue refunds.

Establishing a correct blocking system under certain conditions, will allow you to squeeze the possibilities of cheap rates, expand the product range, as well as eliminate the possibility of wrong purchases, saving you hours of customer service and unsatisfied customers.

There are specific plugins for blocking specific shipping methods. With them, you can set the blocking conditions based on certain shopping cart rules:

3. Communication and marketing strategies around the cart contents

Establishing an intelligent and interactive communication with your customers can convert better/more.

For example, if you tell your customer that you don’t ship perishable products to the island where they live, they will probably understand and go ahead with the canned goods purchase. If, on the other hand, they see the message “no shipping options available” at checkout, they will abandon their shopping cart and – possibly – never come back.

You can also increase sales by setting up messages that incentivize the purchase. For example: advertise free shipping or flat rate shipping under certain conditions, which the customer is about to reach. Or apply discount coupons automatically, and be able to announce it before if, for example, your customer is missing a single product in the basket to get it.

There are specific plugins to display messages under certain conditions or to apply coupons automatically:

4. The problems of combining so many plugins

Until now, all these strategies have translated into using distinct plugins to enable distinct functionalities.

Configuring different plugins to work in a coordinated way can be complex: conflicts, updates, documentation, support.

Having several plugins at the same time implies spending a considerable amount of money (they are usually paid), a long learning curve and having a logical framework that consumes us more time, is more difficult to maintain, and that perhaps in the future we will not dare to modify… as long as it works.

Many stores end up settling for a very simple setup to save themselves all these hassle, largely forgoing in-store marketing actions, greater usability, lower shipping costs or the incentive of cross-selling.

5. Fish and Ships: the all-in-one advanced shipping plugin

Fish and Ships is a plugin that offers you all we’ve seen so far.

Based on a really flexible shipping table, you can define special actions within the same conditional logic. This way you can add the actions in a simple, visual and orderly way:  

With Fish and Ships you will have all the possibilities in one plugin: in an easily understandable and modifiable way in the future, without “gaps” between conditions of different plugins. This allows you to save time, money, updates, errors and incompatibilities.

Among its most outstanding options, you can have all the actions seen in the article: automatic coupons, messages, blocking of your own shipping rates, flat rates and free shipping under the same conditions that we use to define the shipping costs.

Simple costs, compounded or even with mathematical formulas if necessary. You can set all these conditions by size, volume, weight, shipping class and much more, combined with AND/OR logic if needed.

Finally, it includes a packaging algorithm that places the products in boxes that you have predefined, being able to take advantage of the flat rates of the shipping companies. 

In addition, the cost is much lower as it is a single plugin, with a much faster learning curve, and that will be valid for any future project. With Fish and Ships, you will have all the potential: you will sell more and better, saving time, money and headaches.

There is a free version with the basic options, and you can upgrade to Pro when you need those extra options.

If you are a professional specialized in WooCommerce, you can take advantage of better prices with multi-license rates, have the peace of mind of being able to configure any future needs of your customers and you won’t have to test, learn and buy new plugins for each new project.

Rodolfo Melogli

Business Bloomer Founder

Author, WooCommerce expert and WordCamp speaker, Rodolfo has worked as an independent WooCommerce freelancer since 2011. His goal is to help entrepreneurs and developers overcome their WooCommerce nightmares. Rodolfo loves travelling, chasing tennis & soccer balls and, of course, wood fired oven pizza.

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