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We wrote a direct interface into UPS/FedEx to calculate rates, but we still needed weights.
Initially I set default weights to like .4 lbs, since shipping rates go in 1lb increments. That way the third item in the cart went to 2lbs. Then we put in estimated weights for all the heavy items.
Next we tied shipped orders into the tracking api's, which also report the package weight. If we shipped one item in one package, we would drop this weight in as the new package weight. So our system improved as we shipped.
And of course the last thing we did was request shipping weights from all our vendors and to start weighing items ourselves. We still override with the shipped weight from the tracking because this brings in the shipped weight, not just the item weight.
By calculating accurate shipping, we can charge a small premium on every order, without having to gouge our neihbors while giving a deal to someone across the nation.
But then again, they hit $75, and we give free shipping, lol.
What delivery methods will you use? For example, say a next day courier cost £5 and this covered up to 20Kg of goods, would this be about the maximum you would send in one go? And would the minimum be the cost of a jiffy bag and a first class stamp?
Under the above circumstances, we charge a flat rate on all orders of £3.95 with free delivery for orders over £50 in total (our gross margins allow for this).
This is fairly standard in our industry.
I suggest you work out the maximum and minimum costs, and set a price that means that you at least cover your costs averaged over all orders. And check your competitors to be sure you have it about right :)
There's another good thread here [webmasterworld.com] that has some discussion on delivery charges.
Consumers like flat rate shipping. Unless your parcels range all over the field in weight, then pick an average weight, that will give you a break even point on the shipping.
Yes, Yes. Yes! Easy for us to understand; easy for the customer. Only the smallest customers get a bad deal.
If our average UPS shipment costs $6 (easy to figure) and we charge a fixed $7 then we know we are covering shipping costs.
I can't believe some of the unnecessarily complex shipping schemes I see on websites. Fixed cost makes it easy with telephone orders too.
Fixed cost makes it easy with telephone orders too.
We explain that shipping will be calculated when the order is packed. We can give them an estimate, based on experience. But in the end we weigh and charge accordingly. I am working on a local order system for telephone orders, and the rate charts for all the major carriers are available online, so that is getting added to the system. But still, the inventoried items need a weight for this to work.
FWIW, it was a PITA to set up all the weights. But it's a one time task.
We have used a flat rate shipping for all our orders. One thing that was working for us is that our shipping charges are based on the each incremental pounds. ie, 1.5lb is the same rate as 2lbs. We figured out what the average weight of our orders and adjusted our flat rate accordingly.
Also, this method will also encourage customers to fill up their shopping cart. They know that paying shipping charges on a $10 item is the same as a $100 item.