ECommerce and Shipping - What Store Owners Need To Know


When customers buy products from your online store you are going to need to add the cost of shipping to the purchase. Here's what you need to consider when calculating those costs in your ECommerce website.

1. Customers need to be offered the lowest price to ship goods and have the widest range of shipping methods so they get what they want when they want:

  • Standard mail ($10.00)
  • Overnight bag ($20.00)
  • Super express ($30.00)
  • Courier ($40.00)
  • And so on...

2. Shipping depends on the length, width and height of your item as well as its weight. So all products need to have these values recorded to accurately calculate shipping.

3. When you are shipping multiple items in multiple package sizes the size of the box they fit in needs to be automatically sized so shipping costs can be accurately calculated.

4. Certain hazardous products such as chemicals and fragile items cannot be shipped by all shipping methods.

5. Thus if a shopping basket contains fragile items or chemicals, the types of shipping methods offered to a customer may need to be restricted.

6. The shipping type also depends on the state (region/province) and country you are delivering to. So again the types of shipping offered to a customer may need to be restricted depending on their location.

7. For really high volume and heavy weight items you will need to phone your shipping provider and get one off quotes e.g. refrigerators. Shipping companies don't always provide fixed prices for large items.

8. Shipping companies distinguish between delivering to residential and commercial addresses. Residential addresses can incur a surcharge and this is becoming increasingly common. The term "residential" is in fact ambiguous because if someone is working from home, the driver may still consider it a residential address at their discretion. You better indicate this to your customers.

9. Residential addresses may also incur a redirection surcharge. If someone is not home, the shipping company may charge you to reship the item back to you or they may add multiple charges for each time they try redeliver to the customer. Each of these attempts adds to the shipping costs. The full extent of this charge is not known at payment.

10. Given the full shipping charge to residential addresses is not known at payment, you need to make sure the type of payment you offer in your website can be used to add charges to the customer. For instance PayPal does not allow you to make future charges so you should exclude this form of payment when customers have selected to ship to residential addresses. However you wouldn't want to remove the PayPal option for commercial shipping as it's quite popular because of the customer guarantee and the minimal charges PayPal offers buyers.

11. It's worth adding a big, fat confirmation box at the end of the order so the customer can doubly confirm whether they are shipping to a commercial or residential address.

12. The highest cost express courier orders to nearby destinations are indicative of fake credit card orders. From our experience, more than 50% of such orders are fakes.

13. Shipping APIs such as and may or may not consider all the issues above - make sure you check!

14. Finally, make sure the back end of your ECommerce website allows you to verify and increase the cost of shipping orders prior to sending out products. Sometimes it is necessary to notify the customer that shipping prices are higher than calculated  and get them to pay the difference or cancel the order.

What all this means is that:

  • The types items in your shopping basket may control available shipping options.
  • The shipping options may control the payment options.
  • It may not be possible to accurately calculate shipping until after the order is processed.

The variations are complex and need to be considered carefully.