Running a business is hard. And when your business is an online store, there are many additional aspects you need to take into account. Shipping is probably one of the most overlooked yet it is critical for an online WooCommerce store selling goods to customers. Therefore, it requires you to invest a bit of time to have it configured properly so that everything will work smoothly and, most importantly, the way you need.

When it comes to configuring your WooCommerce shipping options, it's mainly a matter of 3 elements that you need to act on and set up.

Let's dive in with the help of a WooCommerce developer!

1. Shipping zones

First and foremost, it is vital to define the areas and countries in which you intend to ship to. In WooCommerce, these are called "Shipping zones" and, if it's your first time trying to set them up, the WooCommerce dashboard will prompt you to define them. WordPress developer and Codeable expert Shadi Manna explains:

WooCommerce introduced shipping zones in version 2.6, which allowed customers to add zones to their shipping sort of logic. And what that allows you to do is basically define different shipping methods per zone. The zone can be defined as a country, as a city, and even as a postal code. So, it can be as detailed as you need it to be in order for you to be able to ship potentially at different rates or not. Within the WooCommerce wizard, it prompts you right away to go set up your shipping zones to ensure that shipping is set up correctly.

As you might have already anticipated, if you're selling a digital product such as an eBook, a plugin, or anything digital that will eventually be in a downloadable format, you'd just need to mark it as "Downloadable" in your WooCommerce store as there won't be shipping options for that product.

If that's your case, here's the official documentation from WooCommerce.

2. Shipping methods

Once you’ve configured the shipping zones, you're requested to add shipping methods to each of your Shipping zones, which cover how your product will be delivered to your customers. WooCommerce has three shipping methods by default:

Shipping zones match customer address from top to bottom based on how you set things up in your WooCommerce backend. That means the first one matching your customer address will be the one that gets used. WooCommerce easily allows you to reorder these option by simply drag and dropping each shipping zones up or down to reflect your needs.

If no custom zones are a good fit, then the default "Locations not covered by your other zones" will be used.

3. Weight and size

Unlike the previous two, this aspect isn't something that all WooCommerce store owners and managers should configure. Still, if you need to take into account the weight and size of your products, and want to show them to your customers, things get a bit trickier because your specific settings should be dictated by the shipping provider you're using. Highlights Shadi:

In the United States, we have for example FedEx and UPS which may require the weight, and the dimensions of the products. There is some logic to add products and ship them in different packages. And it is through the carrier's API that you can pass that information over so that you'll get rates dynamically returned to you, assuming you have an account with that carrier.

As with setting up payment gateways, many of the technical aspects are handled by official WooCommerce extensions provided by the shipping providers themselves. Shadi, who's the developer for the official DHL for WooCommerce plugin, elaborates it a bit more:

Establishing and managing the API connection is done through the plugin. You just need to be sure to put in all information within the settings tab under "Shipping". That's all you need to do. Obviously, you must have the weights and dimensions entered into each product in order to ensure that the accurate information and dimensions are being passed to the provider that then returns the corrected rates.

Major shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc. all provide plugins for your WooCommerce store that can be configured to make shipping much easier for you. It saves you the hassle of managing the process separately and you can simply integrate it into your store.

One thing, though, you want to know in advance is that the majority of these plugins comes as premium (paid) plugins starting at $79 USD for a single-store license, with the exception of DHL that's released as a free product. Shadi further notes:

The major shipping carriers have paid plugins you can use developed either by WooCommerce or trusted third-party partners. The plugin from DHL, which I'm specifically developing, will be given away for free because DHL wants merchants to use their services. So it really depends on the carrier, and this is the sort of the conversation you should have with anyone you want to use as a provider for shipping, and then they'll usually point to the best plugin to use.

Wrapping up

The configuration of the shipping process for your WooCommerce store might seem as an easy task for anyone who's a bit experienced with WooCommerce. And, in a theoretical way, setting up shipping preferences isn't that hard if your shipping doesn't account for discounts, bundled offers, specific rules triggered on your customers' selection, and shipping classes, and so on. On the opposite side, the more options, granularity, and consistency you need your shipping to have, the more advanced its configuration will be.

This blog post features Shadi Manna who is the founder of Progressus Marketing. He's also a Certified WooCommerce Expert and Consultant with more than 10 years of experience working with WooCommerce Development, Conversation Rate Optimization (CRO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Shadi is focused on creating an optimized User Experience (UX) for your eCommerce website by considering both CRO and SEO implications, in order to ensure you are getting the most from your store.