So, you’ve just launched your first WordPress eCommerce website and keep hearing about what a tremendous difference WooCommerce table rate shipping can make to the way you get your goods out there.
Yet when you start looking into how to incorporate it into your site, you find yourself instantly put off by the high price tag of the official WooCommerce table rate shipping extension.
Honestly, we don’t blame you. At $99, it’s not exactly the most affordable tool on the market, and if you’re not already a WooCommerce whiz, then that’s a lot of money to spend on a tool that can seem a little tricky to set up.
Fortunately, there is a better way.
In this guide, we’ll look at the easier, more affordable way to set up flexible shipping using the best alternative plugins around today.
Before we do that, however, let’s ensure we’re all clear about exactly what we mean by ‘table rate shipping.’
What is Table Rate Shipping?
Out of the box, WooCommerce’s flat rate shipping options are pretty basic and don’t account for the sheer number of possibilities that need to be considered when determining the shipping costs of any individual item.
Since most courier services like UPS or FedEx charge by weight/size, flat rate shipping involves little more than looking at the weight of an item, looking at how much the preferred service charges to ship that item, and marking that down as your shipping costs.
That’s all well and good if you’re shipping a limited number of items to the same shipping zone. For example, if you’re using WooCommerce to sell hard copies of that book you just wrote or a monthly subscription box which always weighs pretty much the same, then your shipping rates are never going to change until your career changes their rates.
In other words, if you have a book that weighs 2 lbs or a subscription box that weighs 10 lbs, those items are never going to get any heavier, thus it’s never going to cost you any more, or less, to change them.
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So far, so good, but what if you sell products that vary in size/weight like furniture, food, or entertainment equipment?
You then have multiple different shipping prices for the same product, prices which can easily be complicated further.
For example, if a customer adds multiple products to the same order, then it’s one thing to add up the weight and say “ok, this total order weighs 15 lbs, therefore add $20 shipping costs.”
But what if it costs more to ship a 15 lbs order to one location than another. Then you have to come up with another rule.
What if a client orders more than 10 items in one order and you want to offer a discount for that – how do you calculate that discount when there are so many other variables at play?
As you can see, it soon gets pretty complicated. And if you think it’s complicated for you when you’re the one in control of the shipping costs, imagine how your customers are going to feel – confused, perplexed, and probably pretty overwhelmed.
This is where WooCommerce table rate shipping comes into its own.
As the name implies, this method puts down all of the potential shipping rules into a table which can then be used to calculate the final shopping cost and display that cost to your customers. This helps you maintain transparent pricing and even use shipping as an advertising point to entice customers.
So, that’s what it is, but how do you set up WooCommerce table rate shipping?
There is, as we’ve already mentioned, an official extension, but in our experience, at $99 it’s pretty expensive compared to other models and -to be honest- not at all that easy to use.
Instead, we decided to opt for the Table Rate for WooCommerce by Flexible Shipping plugin by WP Desk, which, in our estimation, is the best free WooCommerce table rate shipping plugin around.
Here’s how we came up with that assessment.
Choosing the Best WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping Plugin
With over 70,000 active installations, WP Desk’s Flexible Shipping plugin is by far the most popular free tool of its type, and for good reason. It boasts more free features than any other similar plugin, including many that other developers restrict to their paid version.
For example, you can:
- Create unlimited shipping methods and cost calculations
- Determine shipping costs based on any combination of cart total and weight
- Offer free shipping based
- and more.
If you decide to upgrade to the pro version, you’ll pay $89 for a one-year, single-site license which allows you to determine shipping methods based on:
- Line item count
- Per item
- Cart line item.
You can also use the pro version to determine shipping methods based on WooCommerce coupons so that you can, for instance, send customers a “free shipping with your next order” coupon when they buy from you.
What’s more, we simply find this plugin the easiest one of all to use, so if you’re just dipping your toe into the world of eCommerce for the first time and need a quick and easy way to learn how table rate shipping works, this is a great starting point.
How to Set Up Table Rate Shipping in WordPress
To begin, we’re going to assume that you’re familiar with how to install WordPress plugins. Simply activate and install it in the usual way, then head to Woocommerce -> Settings -> Shipping.
By default, this section is set up to show the shipping zones you likely already configured when you first set up WooCommerce.
What you need to do next is go to whichever shipping zone you want to set up flexible shipping for and click edit as illustrated below.
On the next screen, click “Add Shipping Method” and select “Flexible Shipping.”
When that’s done, click “edit” underneath “Flexible Shipping.”
Configuring Flexible Shipping
On the next screen, next to “Shipping Methods” click “Add New” as illustrated below.
From here, we’ve got a lot of things to consider, including:
Enable the Shipping Method
By default, your new shipping method is disabled, so you’ll need to enable it in order for it to work.
This is the title that your customers see when they reach the checkout stage, so you choose something relatable that makes sense to customers.
Again, this is for the customer-facing part of your WooCommerce setup. You can use it to list all of the potential shipping fees (say “$10 US, $20, EU, $25 worldwide”) or any other pertinent information that you think users might need to know when they’re making their shipping choices.
Free Shipping Requires
In the free version, you can enable free shipping based only on the amount. For example, if a customer spends $200, they get free shipping.
With the Pro version, however, you can determine any number of conditions that could trigger free shipping such as by reaching a minimum order amount or using a free coupon.
Here, you can also set “and/or” rules. For example, you might give a customer a coupon that entitles them to free shipping on orders over $200, in which case both rules would need to be in place. Alternatively, you might just give them a “free shipping, no minimum spend” coupon in which the “or” rule would apply.
Free Shipping and Free Shipping label
Here, you set the minimum order amount that triggers free shipping and gives it a customer-facing label.
This is an important box if you want your free shipping calculation to ignore any discounts off your products before determining the shipping costs.
For example, you set your free shipping minimum at $200. A customer buys $200 worth of products, but also has a 50% off coupon, putting their new order at $100 and meaning they’re no longer eligible for free shipping.
This checkbox would override that rule so that your customer can use their 50% discount and still get free shipping.
‘Left to Free Shipping’ Notice
Available exclusively in the pro version, this can be useful for upselling by informing customers of how much more they’d need to spend to get free shipping.
Imagine if you’re a customer and you’re about to spend $190 on products plus $20 shipping but then you see that you only have to spend $10 more to get free shipping. Wouldn’t you take advantage of that offer?
Another Pro feature, this lets you set the maximum cost that this shipping method can be used for.
Here you can determine how the plugin will calculate your shipping rules. In the free version, you can only choose “Sum” which means that all of the rules which match will be applied.
In the pro version, you can set it so that only the lowest or highest cost of matching rules are applied.
You can also choose to determine the rules calculation value based on the cart value.
Shipping Cost Calculation Rules
Finally, we come to the shipping rules. In the free version, you can only come up with shipping rules based on price or weight, while the pro version will also allow you to determine rules based on the number of items in the cart, the number of cart line items, and shipment classes.
Minimum and Maximum Values
First up, select a minimum and maximum value for that pricing rule.
For example, if you’re setting shipping rules based on price, it may be that you have one rule for orders between $10 – $20, the other for orders between $21 – $30, and so on.
In the pro version of this WooCommerce flexible shipping plugin, you can also add in any additional costs such as insurance, customs fees, etc.
Here, you can determine which shipping classes your rule applies to.
Finally, all you need to do is add in a cost for this particular rule and you’re good to go.
From here on in, whenever customers from that particular shipping zone order from you, it will be these rules that are applied. All you need to do now is go through your other shipping zones and configure more shipping rules.
Do that, and congratulations, you’ve successfully set up WooCommerce table rate shipping on your brand new website.
Alternatives to the Flexible Shipping Rate Plugin For WordPress
While we love the Flexible Shipping Rate Plugin thanks to how effortless it makes setting up flexible shipping rates, we have to admit that we know it’s not the perfect choice for everyone.
With that in mind, you might want to consider these popular alternatives.
The Flexible Shipping Rates plugin may be the most popular free option out there, but when it comes to premium plugins, it’s Table Rate Shipping for WooCommerce by developer BolderElements that has the biggest audience.
Boasting 19,000 sales, this best-selling plugin costs just $25 with an optional extended 12-months support for just $7.99, as well as free lifetime updates.
It offers all the flexibility you could ever need in terms of creating custom shipping rules based on no less than 15 different criteria including:
- Shipping class
- Cart total
- and more.
We also love that it will let you set shipping rates for a particular date range or even a single day of the week, giving you the freedom to create special deals such as “Free Shipping Friday.”
We’re also big fans of the drag ‘n’ drop functionality which allows you to take full control over the priority of your costs and conditions and rearrange them however you see fit.
With over 12,000 sales and a solid 4.91 rating based on 450+ reviews on CodeCanyon, the WooCommerce Advanced Shipping plugin certainly gives the others a good run for their money.
Speaking of money, it’s also the least expansion paid-for option around, costing just $18 for the usual Envato license plus an optional 12 months extended support for just $4.88.
What we like about this one is that it more than lives up to its promise of making table rate shipping easy and accessible even to those who are new to the world of WooCommerce.
Again, all of the standard shipping rules are present and correct, including weight/size, product, shipping class, and more.
You can use this one in conjunction with any free shipping coupons you decide to give away and even set shipping rules for individual users or specific user roles.
As we mentioned earlier, this is a great way to reward your most loyal customers or even offer staff discounts.
We’ll be honest with you, when we first started this guide, we actually began using the Advanced Flat Rate Shipping plugin from Dotstore before deciding that the WP Desk option was simpler and much more affordable.
After all, if there’s one thing that does work against this plugin, it’s the cost. A one-year, single site license will set you back $119 which, if you’ve been paying attention, is $20 more expensive than even the official WooCommerce table rate shipping extension.
Still, we do have to admit that it offers good value for money.
The limited-use free version will allow you to set up multiple (but not unlimited) custom shipping rules based on price or weight, while the premium version also allows you to factor in all of the following:
- ZIP code
- User or user role
- Cart total
- Shipping class.
We also like that it lets you easily clone existing tables so that you can put them to work for other shipping zones, as well as calculating tax and displaying all of the shipping settings in a very customer-friendly way.
On the whole, we also found it to be very easy to get to grips with, but again, there was something about the Flexible Shipping Rates plugin that we just found to be more intuitive which is why we eventually decided against this particular product.
Otherwise, a very worthy -if expensive- contender indeed.
The Final Word on Setting up WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping
To the untrained eye, table rate shipping can seem like one of the more complicated aspects of establishing a WordPress eCommerce store.
If you’ve found yourself trying to make sense of it and getting nowhere, don’t worry, you’re not alone. When we first started looking into it, we had to admit that it was one aspect of selling with WooCommerce that comes with a somewhat steeper learning curve than most others.
Still, once you get to grips with it, it’s amazing what a big difference table rate shipping can make to the core offer you put out for your customers. With so many potential variables influencing the shipping costs, using a simple plugin to establish shipping rules and using those rules to calculate a single cost can save shoppers some major headaches, making your store a more attractive place to shop time after time.