How do I set up Automatic Calculation of Shipping Charges?

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If you have not considered using automated shipping calculation, you may want to do so. If you specify one of the automated shipping calculation methods, the cost of shipping is displayed in the shopping cart to your customer and they will approve it while processing their order. Using automated shipping calculation generally will improve your order conversion rates. It's a great way to avoid that opportunity for "buyer's remorse" where a customer gets an email from you and decides after the fact that they don't want their order.

Your storehas four possible methods of automatic calculation:

  1. Per-item and per-order flat charges

  2. The shipper calculates the charges based on the weight of the shipment and the destination (Currently available from the US Postal Service and UPS)

  3. Sliding scale (shipping is calculated on the basis of the value of order)

  4. Table-based rates (this is a custom option that is not suitable for most sellers)

If there are multiple items in a shipment, their weight and/or value is added together and the shipping is calculated on the total. You can combine the charges from method 1 (per-item and per-order) with either method 2 or method 3 and get a combination of rates. This is commonly done as a method for recovering packing and handling costs.

In your shipping configuration, you can define certain countries as 'preferred' countries and then specify that the automated calculation shall be performed only for preferred countries. At your option, shipping to other countries can be custom quote. Additionally, you have the option of defining a list of countries that you will not ship to.

So what are the options?

Quote Shipping After Order is Placed: The customer is notified that you will contact them after they place their order and that you will quote the shipping then.

Add only per-item and per-order flat charges: This option allows you to define a fixed amount to be added to every order. You can also define fixed amounts for individual items, if you are so inclined. The amounts are added together and shown as a single charge to the customer. One common implementation is to set up automatic calculation is to have a basic rate for each order and then specify additional charges for specific items that are large or bulky. The elements:

  • A base shipment charge --essentially a charge per order -- in your site customization options (on your site maintenance menu) 

  • A charge per item.   This is defined during inventory maintenance and should reflect the additional flat charge (if any) for shipping a particular item. 

For instance, if you sold postcards, cannon balls and teacups, you might want to have a per item charge of $0.10 on the postcards, $10.00 on the cannon balls (because of extra weight) and $5.00 on the teacups (because of the extra packing required to keep them whole.)

The two charges are added together and shown as a single amount to the buyer.  

Per-order and per-item shipping charges can be combined with the other methods.

Shipper's calculation method: If you use this method, you need to be able to specify the packed weight of every item. You will also specify all the shipment methods that you are willing to use (for instance 'parcel post', 'priority mail' and 'EMS'. When the customer enters their zip code, the system will add up the weights of the item in the cart and send an inquiry to the shipper giving:

  1. the zip code from which you are shipping,
  2. your pickup or service characteristics (if appropriate),
  3. the customer's zip code
  4. the combined weight of the items.
The shipper will respond with the shipment charge for each method that you have selected. The charge is added to any per-item or per-order charges that would apply to the item or to the order. The customer views the list of method and the combined charge for each method and is allowed to select the method and price that they wish to pay. The amount is which is added to the order and displayed to the customer. Some special rules:

  • If you have a weight entered for an item, the shipping will be calculated.  Note that this should be the estimated packed-out weight -- that is including an average amount of packing for the item;

  • If you set a weight of 0 on the item, it will be treated as an item with free shipment;

  • If you don't put any value at all in the weight field, the shipping will NOT be calculated and the customer will see a message telling them that there are special shipping considerations and that you'll contact them to discuss the matter. Note that 0 is a value and it means "FREE"; wen we say "don't put a value" we mean that the field is empty and no value at all is shown in it.

For instance, if you sold postcards, cannon balls and tea cups, you might want to have 0 set as the weight for the postcards (free shipping -- or where you have the shipping charge really included in the price per item); the actual estimated packed-out weights on the teacups and nothing set on the cannon balls (because you need to discuss the issues of shipping ammunition with the purchaser and make sure that they are over 18).  Any shipment that contains only teacups and postcards would show shipping charges; any shipment containing cannon balls would require your approval and discussion with the purchaser.

Sliding scale shipping: Sliding scale shipping allows you to define an amount to be charged based on the merchandise price and/or shipping method for on an order. Sliding scale is commonly used in catalog applications where you want to state something like this:

We will ship to the U.S.; the shipping and handling charges are as follows:

Orders up to $ 5.00: $2.95
Orders between $ 5.01 and $15.00: $4.95
Orders between $15.01 and $25.00: $5.95
Orders between $25.01 and $50.00: $6.95
Orders between $50.01 and $75.00: $7.95
Orders between $75.01 and $100: $8.95
Orders between OVER $100: $9.95

You can set up different scales for different methods so you have different charges for 2 day shipping, for overnight, for tortoise- or hare-mail (should you wish to use these alternatives!).

You can also set up different scales for US domestic and international rates (you can tell which rates are international rate because it shows the word 'International' when displayed in the shipper list.) If you define sliding scale rules that use an international rate, this will be shown only to international customers; scales that use domestic rates are shown only to domestic customers. You may select methods and not define a sliding scale rules for them. The methods are displayed to customers as appropriate, but if there is no rule, the customer sees the rate name plus the message "We'll calculate and contact you for approval".

If you select this method, you may also enter per-item and per-order charges, but this is optional; you are not required to do so.

Table-based rates: These rates are useful if you have (for instance) different fixed-rate shipping plans for domestic as opposed to international shipment. They are not commonly used and require custom programming. Contact support for more information about this feature.

You can combine methods -- for instance, you can use sliding scale shipping for your basic rates and add per-item charges for specific items. If you are selling more than one of an item, the per-item charges are calculated multiplicatively.

This sounds complicated -- how about some examples!

Using these options, you can set up some very sophisticated choices and everything will be automatic when your customer sees it.  For example, one dealer asked:

The way that I charge shipping on my items is based on a sliding scale except for jewelry where I only charge $3.50 for the first jewelry item on the order and .50 each additional piece. I also have items that I need to charge shipping on based on price (they are large and heavy) but the more expensive items are heavier, so price is a good way to estimate the shipping cost.  I would also like to be able to charge a premium for priority shipping.

1. Sliding scale ( charge for order value) is charged only on items that have the weight set on. If you want to exclude an item from the sliding scale calculation, simply set the weight of that item to 0.   In your sliding scales, you need to be sure to set up a price to be charged for items that don't have any value.

The same is true, incidentally of the USPS and UPS calculation, except that you don't set the rates there, they do.

2. If you want to simply have a per order charge of $3.50 (always), put that in the section titled "Fixed ('Base') Shipping / Handling Charges' in the 'site customization options' page on your site maintenance menu.  This charge will be added to whatever method you've chosen (or you can chose a method where only that is added, nothing else. First, for any automated shipping to work, you've got to select a method.) If you select the method titled 'Add only Per-Item and Per-Order Flat charges' is selected and you only enter a flat fee of (say) $3.00, the buyer will see this as their choices on the shopping cart if they pick an item with no individual item shipping charge. (in this example, there are six shipping methods defined):


3. If you want to have a charge of 50 cents for certain items, put it on each item where you want to charge it. Use the field 'item specific shipping charge'. As with (2), you can combine this with other methods or you can charge just this.   In the example, if there is a charge of 50 cents per item, when the shopper puts an item into the cart, they will see this:

As they put more things in the cart, the price they see will increase by the amount you have in the individual shipping/handling fields.

One possible use of sliding scale is to charge a premium for priority shipping and to do custom quotes on international shipping.  If you wanted to do this, here is how:

  1. Select your calculation methods: In your site customization options, select the method you want to add to. this can be either sliding scale or shipper's calculation method if what you are doing is adding a handling charge to the basic UPS fees or something. There is one primary method per store -- either Shipper's Calculation Method rates +  Per-order and per-item adders, or sliding scale + the adders; you cannot mix Shipper's Calculation Method and Sliding scale.

  2. Select your shipping methods: On the same menu, select the shipping methods you'd like to give the customer the choice of using. For the sake of this example, sliding scale is used.  But it might be something like USPS priority mail insured or USPS parcel post.

  3. Set the rate scales you are using if necessary:

    • If  Shipper's Calculation is your primary method, you need to set the rate scale(s) you are using (this is done on the same place in your site customization options). This is where you select your counter options etc.

    • In the case of Sliding Scale, the setup is a bit more elaborate. After you choose sliding scale for an option, you'll find an entry on your site maintenance menu called 'Set Sliding Scale Rates' (it only appears if you have the preference set on). Select that.  Then:

    • For those methods where you want to have sliding scale figured, you need to enter a method. In our example, we want to add an amount to all priority shipments, here shown as an extra charge of $15 for priority shipments. So we create a scale where the rate for USPS Priority Ins has a rate that of $15 for all shipments up to $1,000,000.. Note that sliding scale supports price breaks, so you could set it up to be $5 for priority shipments valued up to $25, $10 for ones between $25.01 and $99 and $15 for bigger ones. In this demo, we set up the $15 for each priority shipping methods,  $0 for the standard ones, and for your overseas methods, we did not enter a scale.  This last action (no scale) causes the message 'contact seller' to be displayed on the order form so you can quote the price after determining the buyer's location and choices.

      It is very important to note that you don't have to calculate sliding scale on all items.  If you want to have it calculate, the item needs to have a weight. (Note that this is true of UPS also -- you must have an approximate weight for the item so their rate calculator will work). If there is no weight and you have a scale for $0, then no extra shipping will be added.  If, however, you omit the $0 entry, the shipping will be.  This latter feature allows you to add premium charges to all items in a certain method, if you want to.

  4. Set your item weights: Item weight tells the system whether you want shipping calculated for an item or not

    • In the case of sliding scale, the weight is just used to tell the system to do the calculation so it does not have to be accurate. There is a button on the sliding scale maintenance page to set weights 'on' for all your items.

    • In the case of shipper's calculation method, you can use the batch optiones when maintaining inventory to do so or use the special program on your inventory maintenance menu called 'Set Wt/Shipping Charges' to update 50 items at a time. Remember:

      • If you have a weight entered for an item, the shipping will be calculated.  Note that this should be the estimated packed-out weight -- that is including an average amount of packing for the item;

      • If you set a weight of 0 on the item, it will be treated as an item with free shipment;

      • If you don't put any value (0 is a value), the shipping will NOT be calculated and the customer will see a message telling them that there are special shipping considerations and that you'll contact them to discuss the matter.

    Having made these choices,  the table of shipping options now looks like this:


  5. You can also define free shipping for items over a certain price range.  This is effective for your whole store, so you need to do this in the Site Maintenance menu choice 'site customization Options'  There are several choices involved:

    • The free shipping threshold:

    • Whether free shipping is offered to only to customers who shipping country is the same as yours;

    • What the free shipping method is.

If you are using free shipping, the shopping cart will tell the customer this several times during the order process as part of the routine "up-selling" process and invite them to increase their order to get the free shipment.

Its really pretty flexible, down to the individual item basis, but it may take some experimentation to understand.  We recommend,  setting it up and trying it on several items to make sure that it is really doing what you want it to.

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