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Ecommerce Forum

Shipping Charges
Looking for opinions on different options

 8:15 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

We are struggling with shipping costs on our e commerce site.

I've researched this in the past and am wondering what people think about the following scenario:

We are a national niche wholesaler using a proprietary warehouse/sales software. Part of this software is an e commerce module. It is not possible (as far as I know) to use a third party shopping cart system. They only allow one shipping zone (we ship to eight from the east coast) with shipping prices controlled by a weight table. The software company is not very interested in supporting the product anymore (they bought the original company to get something else), but there is a reasonably large and active user base, so minor improvements do happen occasionally.

Because of the large and varied inventory we carry, it is very difficult to estimate shipping costs based solely on item weight, even dimensional weight, due to the need to bundle multiple items into one box or strap together multiple boxes as one.

Currently, we do not quote a shipping charge at checkout. We recognize that this is not a good business practice and has probably lost us many orders. There seem to be only a few options at this time:

1) Do nothing – keep telling people there will be a charge for shipping but not telling them how much it will be.
2) Create a Rate Based Table that uses actual or dimensional weight for a specific zone (we have to pick one zone – can’t use all 8)
3) Create a Dollar Based Table that uses the selling price of each item to calculate the $ amount charged for shipping
4) Use some combination of B & C to calculate the $ amount charged for shipping.

Any opinions on the best option and why would be appreciated. Can you think of an option we are not considering? Thanks.



 8:20 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

jdkuehne how do you ship Ground only?


 8:58 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

bwnbwn - we don't, and that is actually part of the problem. The software does provide for different shipping options, just not different zones. We've had people select 1-Day and think it would be no charge because of our not providing a cost. I'm not certain how it calculates the different options, but probably from another table. It certainly is not getting real-time amounts from UPS or anything.


 9:07 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

It may be your really not connected into the UPS database for the shipping rates but have an old database on the server pulling old shipping rates. I have a feeling since what you said above this is the case.
I'm not certain how it calculates the different options, but probably from another table.
This would be the very first thing I find out. Without knowing how the shipping is being done to your own site is a big problem.

I would advise you to begin looking for a provider that is intrested in your business and get the site were a customer knows what they are gonna be charged. There is no telling how much business your losing. I know I wouldn't buy from you not knowing what the final charge might end up being.


 9:15 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

This may not be practical for your product/industry, but it works well for us so I thought I'd mention it: is flat-rate shipping workable?

For us, it simplifies everything (for both customers and us), and encourages larger orders.


 9:31 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

I know I wouldn't buy from you not knowing what the final charge might end up being.

I agree. I wouldn't buy from me either at this point.

Raza - A flat rate is not very practical for us, because we offer an extremely wide range of widgits in all sizes, shapes, and weights. We've considered just raising our prices by 20% and offering free shipping, but that is really not an option for a web based business where someone else selling the same thing for less is always a click away.


 9:40 pm on Apr 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

free shipping, but that is really not an option

I wouldn't be too sure of that. Consumers are pretty savvy in determining delivered price. I've seen commodity products with a higher price & free shipping outperform their lower price plus shipping counterparts. No guarantees, of course, but maybe something you should consider testing.


 1:06 pm on Apr 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I regularly buy from a couple of distributors who are unable to calculate shipping at the time of purchase, for some reason. I have often wondered why they don't just add 20%. Maybe not even to the prices, but as the shipping charge. It might not come out right on every order--you might underestimate sometimes--but it should work out across all orders. This is what I have to do with international orders. I lose money on the shipping if they buy something heavy, but if they buy something not heavy, I make money on the shipping, so it works out.


 1:42 pm on Apr 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

HRoth - I'm not sure if the software allows the capability to charge shipping based on a percentage of the order total, but I agree that would be a reasonable way of handling it. I'll have to check it out.

arieng - Free GROUND shipping is a possibility, but every time I see that, I think "who do they think they're fooling? I know they've just added it into their product price." Which means that if someone is shopping solely for price, our price will be higher than someone who is not offering free shipping. Shipping cost is not a primary decision factor. It is an add-on that most people accept as a necessary part of the transaction. I'm just not sure how doing this would affect orders.


 3:21 pm on Apr 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I recently finished an ecommerce site for myself with products ranging in weight from less than 100 gr to over 6 Kg.

In order to offer the customer the closest to real shipping charges I made 3 areas, local country (standard mail), surrounding countries (airmail) and rest of the world (airmail)

In order to not force the visitor to register before buying and for the system to know their location, the first time they view their shopping cart they are asked to select their location from the 3 areas.

The shopping cart totals the weight of all the items it holds and selects the shipping cost from the dbase table where that weight is between a min and max range for the chosen area.

It works very well and I suppose that a coder in your company could set up a similar system with 8 areas.

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