Shipping charges for online retailers

At Eastcoast I.T. we get quite a bit of work setting up and customising WooCommerce online stores with WordPress. I’ve been doing some work on a regular client’s WooCommerce shop, a very effective site that provides a considerable income for it’s owner, a sole trader. He has spent many years honing his business and is very diligent in keeping it up to date and functioning well.

He sells paper stationery products that are shipped from a central warehouse in Melbourne to locations all over Australia. He doesn’t sell offshore, has no desire or need to, so his freight requirements are confined to this country.

There is however, an ongoing problem that has been difficult to resolve.

Understandably, he charges different shipping fees based on distance from the warehouse. He keeps his fees as low as possible, but obviously he has to cover his costs. To accomplish this, we have divided up the country using WooCommerce’s built in Shipping Zones options, while the Flexible Shipping plugin allows us to set costs based on how many packs of paper are sent.

Because he wants to keep freight charges to a minimum, we have set up separate zones inside states, for example, Metropolitan Melbourne and Country Victoria, Queensland from the NSW border to the Sunshine Coast and North and West Queensland, etc.

This all works great, except when a new suburb or town pops up with a new postcode. You see, we can’t rely on any of the plugins that connect to Auspost’s database to bring up the postcode, because they divide the country up into states and that postcode will be tacked on to the relevant state, but that won’t put it into one of the custom zones. It might be in Queensland, but which part, the border to the Sunshine Coast, or Northwest?

So how do we allocate it? Well, we have to compare the latest postcode list with the one the database uses, look up the towns, see where they are, then add the postcode to the appropriate zone, so that when the customer enters their address, the correct freight charge will be applied.

This is an excellent example of how unique every client’s website can be, even with all the great off the shelf platforms and add-ons available, custom web design and development work will often be required.

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