Online shipping can get more complicated when your store is selling either heavy products or bulky products.
Shipping providers are competing for your business, trying to put together attractive services that meet expectations for fast and low cost delivery. Many of these services focus on the most profitable segments – the high volume standard parcel sizes. So if you have some non-standard products, you need to use a different shipping provider.
Perhaps you sell a combination of products – some standard size/weight products, but some products that don’t fit the requirements. So what do you do? You might decide to them into the too hard basket and not sell these products at all. Or you put together a shipping plan that allows your customers to get real-time online quotes for shipping costs for all your products, standard, bulky or heavy.
Weight vs Volumetric Weight (or Dimensional Weight)
Weight limits are often applied to keep things simple for the freight provider. And because bulky products can take up lots of space compared to their weight, they are often costed based on their ‘volumetric weight’ or ‘dimensional weight’. Consider shipping popcorn – if you are shipping the kernels, you would get charged by weight. It might not take up that much space, but the van/truck can only carry so much weight. If you were shipping the popped corn (very light, but takes up a lot of space), the carton of popped corn takes up space in the van/truck so you get charged by the volume it uses.
Heavy products that are 20kg or more can face restrictions from shipping providers. For example, USPS restrict domestic parcels to 70lbs. Australia Post have a maximum parcel size of 22kg for domestic parcels or 20kg for international parcels.
Planning your Shipping Approach
To come up with a plan for all of your products, you need to consider:
- shipping quotes (giving your customers a quote for shipping as they add items to the cart)
- order fulfilment (processing an order once it is received)
When you are looking at third party shipping providers, check what level of integration is provided for WooCommerce. Shipping providers might provide you with a custom rate card, or they might publish standard pricing that you can reference. That helps you understand what you will be charged, but you still need to be able to set up WooCommerce to provide real time shipping quotes. Some shipping providers offer integration that provides real time quotes based on the weights and dimensions of products in your cart. If they don’t, you’ll need to set up your rate card in WooCommerce to match.
But what if your high-volume shipping provider does provide real time integration of rates, but doesn’t support heavy or bulky products?
Use Virtual Products and include shipping costs in the price
Virtual products can be configured with a price that includes shipping. They are then ignored for real time shipping quotes.
Using Shipping Classes for Large or Bulky Products
To define rules that only apply to certain products, you need to create Shipping Classes. For example, you might have classes for:
- One Tonne Ute
- Truck With Extra Person
Once you have set up Shipping Classes, you can use the Table Rate Shipping plugin to set up rules for the classes. Once products get this large, handling several products at once can often be managed by simply charging the delivery fee for the largest products. So if a cart contains Standard products as well as products that need a One Tonne Ute, you would set up rules so that as soon as the largest product is found in the cart, calculations stop. That is because the smaller products will likely fit in the larger delivery.
Combine Shipping Provider Quotations with Table Rate Shipping
Using a shipping provider plugin such as the Australia Post plugin will automatically calculate Australia Post shipping rates for all products that have a weight and dimensions recorded for them. If you leave off the dimensions Australia Post will ignore them.
You can use this behaviour to combine Australia Post rates for standard size products with larger products by setting up larger products with a weight, no dimensions and a shipping class. Use the Table Rate Shipping plugin to set up rates for the shipping classes you need to use – these can calculate the costs for the larger products based solely on weight.
Overall, there are challenges to be faced when managing the costs of shipping for large or bulky products.