If you’ve read my iThemes Exchange Pro Pack Review, you know that I love the ease-of-use you get with Exchange, but there are some tradeoffs to using it versus other eCommerce plugins. Order management and import / export functionality doesn’t scale as well as other plugins (yet), and shipping was previously an issue for me.
However, iThemes has released a beta of Exchange Table Rate Shipping that I’ve tried out, which addresses the issues I had with shipping methods in Exchange. I’ve written up an overview of the add-on, as I think it makes Exchange a far more viable competitor for shops that sell physical goods.
Previously Exchange could only create per-item shipping charges using the “Simple Shipping” add-on. While this works well if your typical order only consists of a couple items or you mostly sell digital goods, it doesn’t work well for shops that sell several shippable items, as customers are essentially penalized for ordering more from the store. Now shops that sell physical goods can create several types of shipping rates and promotions to address almost any shipping need.
If you have the Exchange Pro Pack, you can download this as well to check it out. If not, you’ll have to wait until it’s officially released 🙂 . In the mean time, you can get an idea for how it works from the documentation as well as this review.
So let’s start with what this doesn’t do: you don’t get live rates integrated with a shipping provider. That’s not how Table Rate Shipping works. Instead, you can set up rates based on several criteria and make them effective for a particular shipping zone.
When you activate Table Rate Shipping, a default rate will be provided and cannot be deleted. This rate will only be used if none of your shipping rules meet the criteria set forth in your rates. For example, if all rates are US-based, this default will be used for international orders, so I set it up as a “Worldwide” rate. You can edit the fees for this if desired, then move on to creating your new rates.
When you create a new rate, you can enable the rate per order, per item, or per line. Per order rates will apply one rate to the order, per item rates will add a fee for every item ordered, and per line rates will only add a rate for each line item (so ordering higher quantities of an item will not increase shipping). Each new rate can have a base cost, per item cost, and handling cost associated with the rate.
Each type of rate can also contain associated conditions based on price, weight, number of items, or number of products. You can set minimum and maximum thresholds for each of these conditions to apply.
I started with a “USA Ground” rate for my orders. I want to charge this only on a per-order basis, so I can set it up as an “order” method. I then determine what conditions can trigger this (if any). As my shipping costs are based on weight, I usually add a weight condition with a maximum, then add a “heavy” or “freight” rate for orders above this weight maximum.
Once I’ve created my conditions and pricing, I can then add zones. I only want this to apply to the contiguous US states, so I can create a zone solely used for these states by clicking “Edit Zones”. I can add as many zones as needed.
Once I’ve saved that rate, I’ve successfully completed my first rate addition 🙂 . I’m also going to set a similar rate, but enable it for Alaska and Hawaii only so I can sell to the rest of the US. You can do the same thing, but add new zones for the rate so that you cover both Alaska and Hawaii.
I continued by setting up several rates to test out all of the different conditions available. For example, I used a price condition to create a free shipping promotion for any order over $75, and applied this only to orders for the contiguous US.
Once you’ve created your entire rate schedule, you can view it under Settings > Shipping > Table Rate, and can edit rates or enable / disable them as needed.
By default, these rates will apply to all physical / shippable products in your store. You can set up weight or disable shipping for these products completely while editing a product.
Here you can also override the available rates if needed. This can be great if you want to exclude certain items from a shipping promotion, or you don’t want to ship those items internationally.
When a customer goes through your checkout process, they’ll submit their address and receive all available rates. If there are no table rate methods that apply to their location, the default rate will be shown. If only one rate applies, then that rate will be forced for the order. For example, my “Alaska / Hawaii” rate is forced for any customer with an address in Alasak or Hawaii:
If customers meet criteria for a rate, it will be shown within the shipping dropdown. For example, customers that meet my $75 threshold for free shipping will be able to select this for their orders:
If you’ve overridden some settings on a per-product level, more than one shipping method may be required. For example, if you’ve disabled free shipping for some products, customers will need to select an alternative method for the product. Exchange takes care of this for you by using a multiple methods selection. When customers are forced to choose multiple shipping methods, they’ll be able to select the method for each product.
I also really liked the ability to drill zones down to the postcode level. This is super-useful if you over local pickup or delivery services, as customers will see these methods available when they have an eligible zip or postal code.
The customer-facing side of the plugin is just as easy to use as the rate setup, as customers will only see eligible rates, and will be guided in rate selection if multiple rates are required.
Administrators will be able to view the selected shipping methods when they view an order to fulfill it. However, these will not be shown on the “Payments” screen:
Instead, shop employees will have to view the order, then will see which shipping method has been selected for each shippable item in the order.
I liked that Exchange Table Rate Shipping is easy to set up, and rules creation is simple for the shop admin to understand, yet flexible enough to meet most needs. You can enable and disable rates so that you have a complete schedule of typical rates and promotions to run as needed.
The rate conditions are also very handy to ensure that your rate adjusts based on your shop needs; the ability to use a combination of price, weight, or item / product counts allows you to have standard rates and promotions while still protecting against edge cases (like orders that end up weighing 30 pounds that you need to ship).
As for cons, I would have loved to see a way to enable shipping instructions when particular rates are available. This would be really helpful when rates like “Local Pickup” or similar are available so that customers know if they should select this rate and what’s required.
There’s also no quick way to view shipping from the “Payments” screen, which would be helpful if you offer something like “expedited” shipping so you know the order needs to go out now and can prioritize it first. Finally, the ability to set multiple conditions for a rate could provide a pretty advanced usage (i.e., a rate if available if a price is met and the weight is low).
Exchange Table Rate Shipping has a really exciting future ahead of it. It vastly expands what Exchange shops that sell physical products can do in terms of shipping, and provides several shipping types and conditions to work with. While I did list some cons above, the plugin is brand new and will need time to mature and see which features are needed by the user base — no version 1 will include everything that the plugin could possibly do.
If you’re using Exchange to sell shippable products, this is a must-have for your store. I recommend checking it out as part of the Exchange Pro Pack so you can try out the beta version, or snapping it up at the official release. It will be part of the Exchange Pro Pack, so you can even get it for 40% off during December with the HOLIDAYS40 coupon code!