For most online stores, shipping costs are one of the most important costs to the business. Before you launch your store, you will need to decide what your policy on shipping rates is going to be: how you will charge your customers for shipping:

  • Free shipping: This is attractive to customers but it's expensive for you. It's vital that you earn enough margin per sale to make this viable.
  • Flat rate shipping: All orders are charged at the same rate, $8 for example. It is simple to communicate, easy to understand and you get to cover or at least pay some of your costs.
  • Variable rate shipping: With this approach, you charge based on the value or the weight of an order. It helps pay your costs but it can be more difficult for your customers to understand.
  • A combination of approaches: Or you come up with your own combination of more than one approach. Flat rate or variable rate for orders to a certain value and then free shipping above that value. Or perhaps two or more different flat rates to encourage different types of orders.

The balance to be found is between clarity and simplicity for your customers on the one hand and covering your costs on the other hand. Some stores even make money on the shipping: it really depends on what you are selling and to whom.

Let's go and look at the shipping settings by clicking into Settings and then Shipping in the navigation panel. You'll notice there are three main sections: shipping rates, carrier calculated shipping and fulfillment/drop shipping.

Set Up A Shipping Address

For a new store, your shipping address, as in the address that you ship from, will not yet be registered. You'll see at the top of the page "You currently have not setup a shipping address". Click on Add one now and fill in the address that you ship from. This will be used for carrier calculated shipping but it's no harm putting it in, even if you're not planning on using that.

Shipping Rates

In this section, you will define the shipping rates for the countries that you would like your store to sell into, or in other words, the countries that you are ready to ship to. For a new store it will be set up for two destinations: "Rest of World" and the country of your business, the one you listed when you opened your Shopify account. "Rest of World" is a catchall to which one set of shipping rates can be applied. This is useful if you want to ship worldwide but depending on the shipping costs you pay, you may be better off to specify more individual destinations.

You can see in the screenshot above, there are two shipping rates for orders to be delivered in the United States. For orders between 0 and 5lbs, "Standard Shipping" will be applied at a cost of $10 to the customer. For orders between 5 and 20lbs, "Heavy Goods Shipping" will be applied at a cost of $20 to the customer. For orders from everywhere else, the "Rest of World" shipping rate is applied: $20 for orders between 0 and 20lbs.

There are two different types of shipping rates: those based on order price and those based on order weight. Clearly the examples we have just gone through are based on the order weight. To use shipping rates based on order weights, every product in your store must have an accurate weight listed in the admin. Alternatively with a shipping rate based on order price, you could specify the price to be charged to ship an order of a value within a certain range. For example, orders of a value between $100 and $200 should be charged $8 for shipping.

Remember it's in the general settings that you can set whether your store uses imperial (pounds) or metric units (kilograms) and also what money, or currency, is to be used in your store.

You can adjust the shipping rates in the following ways:

  • Edit a shipping rate: Clicking on the name of an existing shipping rate, the link "International Shipping" under "Rest of World" for example, will reveal the detail for that rate for editing.
  • Delete a shipping rate: With a rate open for editing, you will have the option to delete it by clicking on the Delete rate button. You will be asked to confirm before it is deleted.
  • Add a shipping rate: For each country listed, you can add a new shipping rate by clicking on the Add shipping rate button.
  • Add a country: You can of course also add new countries by clicking on the Add a country button on the left-hand side.

You can add as many rates as you want for any particular country. You can also create multiple rates for the same weight or price ranges. In this way you can offer a choice of different shipping options if you like: economy or express for example.

Adding A Shipping Rate

Let's take a look at how shipping rates are defined. To do so, we'll add a new rate:

  • Click on the button Add shipping rate to the right of the country to which you would like to add a new shipping rate.

  • This will open up the details for the shipping rate. The shipping rate name is the name for the shipping seen by the customer during the checkout process.
  • Next the dropdown "Criteria", defines if this is a shippingrate based on order price or weight. To the right of the dropdown,there are the fields to specify either the price or weight range, depending on which you chose.
  • For a rate based on order price, you can define the price range as anything above a particular price. Fill in the starting amount for the price range and leave "and up" as the ending amount.

  • Or if you prefer to define an ending amount for the range, click on the link "and up" and it will be replaced by a field where you can fill in an ending amount.
  • If you change your mind and want to get "and up" back for the ending amount of the range, just leave the ending amount blank and it will be treated as "and up".

  • Put in the shipping price that you would like to charge for that range and click the Save button to create the new shipping rate.

For a shipping rate based on order weight

  • For a rate based on order weight, select "Based on order weight" in the "Criteria" dropdown menu. You will now have fields for the starting and ending amounts of the weight range.

  • You will need to fill in both amounts. In the screenshot below, I put in a range of 0.0lbs to 9.99lbs. More on that below.

  • Fill in the shipping price for this shipping rate and click on the Save button.

Note: If the ranges for two shipping rates overlap then the customer will be presented two options for shipping if their order is within the overlapping range. So it's best not to overlap if you want to avoid this. For example end one range at 9.99lbs and start the next one at 10lbs or end a range at 10lbs and start the next one at 10.01lbs. It depends how you decided to do your product weights or prices, if you round up product weights or prices for example.

Edit An Existing Shipping Rate

You may need to adjust a shipping rate that you already have in place. To do so:

  1. Click on the name of an existing shipping rate to reveal the detail of that rate for editing. I clicked on the link "International Shipping" under "Rest of World".

  1. You will now have the same details that we saw when we added a new rate: they're just laid out a little differently. Update the details as you need and click the Save button to finish.

Edit And Existing Shipping Rate For A Country With Regions

Editing the shipping rates for a destination with regions defined in Shopify, for example the United States, is a little bit different as you can also control the rates for each of the individual regions. When you click the name of the rate (for example "Standard Shipping" for the United States), you will see the same as you saw earlier but also a list of the regions and their respective rates.

For countries that have regions listed in Shopify, like the United States, you can adjust rates for individual regions.

From here you can:

Edit the overall settings for the rate: The same as before, here you can edit the name, range and price for the shipping rate. If you change the shipping price it will be copied across to the price for all the regions.

  • Adjust shipping rates for a region: You may want to adjust the shipping rates for individual regions as some may be more expensive for you. Type in the amount you want to adjust by in the "ADJUST RATE" field for the particular region. You can adjust negatively using a negative number, "-2" to have a rate $2 less than the rate for the country overall.

  • Disable / enable shipping to a specific region: You may not want to ship to certain sub-regions. In this case, you can disable shipping to a particular sub-region by deselecting the checkbox to the left of the region name.

When you have finished editing the shipping rate for the country and its regions, make sure to scroll down and click the Save button to finish.

Enabling Carrier Calculated Shipping

If you are using UPS, USPS or FedEx to ship your orders, you also have the choice to integrate your Shopify account with that service and offer shipping rates in real-time. This service is an option only available to those using the Shopify "Business" plan or higher. To use this service, you will need to make sure there is an accurate weight listed for each of your products: remember to include the weight packaged.

To activate carrier calculated shipping, click on the Activate button for the carrier of your choice. You will need to fill in your credentials for your account with the carrier and click the Save button. The integration with each carrier is a little bit different. You will be brought through the steps required.

Fulfillment/Dropshipping Services

Fulfillment services can stock, pack and ship your products for you and so free you up to focus on other aspects of your business. They can also stock and ship from warehouses throughout the world, enabling you to sell to customers around the globe. You'll find the settings for this among the shipping settings.

Shopify integrates with fulfillment services by Amazon, Shipwire and Webgistix. It also provides a basic integration with other fulfillment services by emailing them directly with the full order details.

To activate fulfillment services for Amazon, Shipwire or Webgistix, click on the activate button for that particular service. For Amazon, you will be brought through to the Amazon site to carry out the integration. For Shipwire and Webgistix, you will need to enter your account details.

Activating a custom fulfillment service

The custom fulfillment service, at the bottom of the "Fulfillmen/Dropshipping" section provides a basic integration with other fulfillment services: it emails them the orders for products they fulfill. To put in place a custom fulfillment service:

  • Scroll down to the bottom of the shipping settings till you get to the custom order fulfillment. Click on the Activate button.

  • Enter the name for the service and the email address that you would like orders to be sent to. Click the Activate button.

  • If you need it you can follow the same steps to activate another fulfillment service. In fact you can have as many as you like. I added two in the screenshot: "Warehouse One" and "Warehouse Two".

The only other step required to put in place your new fulfillment service is to let Shopify know which products should be fulfilled by them.

Who fulfills each product
For each product in your store, you can choose who will fulfill, or pack and ship it. Once you have put in place your fulfillment service, a fulfillment policy will be added to each product variant. As standard, these will marked as fulfilled by "me": that's you and your warehouse. But there is a dropdown to choose the other fulfillment services.

To change the "Fulfilled by" policies one by one:

  • Go to the products section by clicking on Products in the navigation panel.
  • Click the product name to edit the product and scroll down to the "Inventory & variants" section where you will find the variants for the product.

  • Click the edit link on the right-hand side of the variant you want to edit.

  • You will notice a field "Fulfillment" with a dropdown menu. Select which service you want to fulfill this product variant in the dropdown menu. Click the Save button to save the changes.
  • Use the arrows on the left-hand side to move back or forward among the variants for this product, adjusting the fulfillment for each as necessary and saving the changes each time. When you are finished editing all the variants, click the Save and close button.
  • Repeat this process for each product that you want fulfilled by a service other than your own warehouse.
If you need to change a lot of products then it is probably well worth trying out an export, edit and import of your products: see the end of the section on products for more on this.