The most influential and successful online stores – think Amazon, eBay, Rakuten and so on – manage to rake in countless sales every day. And if you want your own e-commerce store to gain even a fraction of their success, then it definitely doesn’t hurt to take a leaf out of their books.
Like these stores, for example, you’ll want to offer a wide range of quality merchandise, execute exceptional marketing strategies and also competitively price your products. Not only that: at some point, you should also consider serving a global audience and localizing your operations to fit each local market.
Going global is definitely easier said than done, though. That’s because there’s no way you can serve international customers if you can’t offer them efficient and flexible shipping.
After all, customers might not be willing to pay $20 in shipping costs and wait three weeks for their $30 package to be shipped to them from abroad. And if customers have a bad experience with product shipping, then they’re probably not going to have a good view of your business or remain loyal to it.
So in this guide, we’re going to cover how e-commerce stores can tailor their operations for an international market. In particular, how can you provide the right shipping methods, and present these in the languages of your local markets? Read on to find out.
How to set up an e-commerce store
If you don’t already have an e-commerce store, then you’ll definitely need to set up one before we can go any further. In this regard, using the combination of WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin is a great way of setting up a highly customizable e-commerce store, so that’s what we’re going to recommend in this guide:
1. Install the WooCommerce plugin for your WordPress website
Once you have the main structure of your WordPress website up and running, look for the WooCommerce plugin in the WordPress plugins database. Then, install and activate it.
2. Configure your WooCommerce shipping
The WooCommerce shipping options offered by the standard WooCommerce plugin are rather limited. Hence, you will need to also install the separate – and also free – WooCommerce Shipping & Tax extension.
This WooCommerce shipping extension will allow you to customize shipping settings such as your shipping zones, shipping methods, shipping costs and shipping classes. We’ll be going through these in more detail later, so keep reading!
3. Translate your WooCommerce store pages
Once you’re happy with your WooCommerce store, you can start translating your store pages (such as your product listings or checkout page) for an international audience. This can be easily done with a translation plugin like Weglot for all the languages of your choice – more info on this below.
What WooCommerce shipping options are available?
Here are some WooCommerce shipping options you can consider for your e-commerce store:
- Free shipping: As the name suggests, you won’t be charging a cent for shipping. This is ideal for digital products that can be downloaded instantly, or if you want to incentivize customers into buying more (physical) products from you.
- Local pickup: Customers will drop by a physical location to pick up their order from you. While you could charge a fee for local pickup, many businesses offer this option for free (subject to any local taxes payable).
- Flat rate shipping: This involves the setting of shipping costs as a fixed amount per item, shipping class or order. As an example, you could charge a base fee of $5 and an extra $3 for every product in the same order.
- Dynamic rates: Shipping fees will be calculated using live rates from logistics providers such as FedEx and USPS.
Using a WooCommerce shipping calculator can be useful for deciding the exact pricing for your shipping costs. You don’t have to stick with just one type of WooCommerce shipping option for your e-commerce store either – you can offer a combination of options.
For example, you could offer free shipping for certain products to attract customers to your store. Then, use a WooCommerce shipping price calculator to calculate flat rate shipping costs for products that aren’t part of this promotion.
Configuring your WooCommerce shipping
Once you’ve decided on your WooCommerce shipping options and calculated your shipping costs using a WooCommerce shipping calculator, it’s time to set these up. There are three main steps:
1. Create your shipping zones
Shipping zones are the geographic areas that you’ll offer shipping to, and they can be as broad as entire countries, or as specific as only certain zip codes. You can create as many WooCommerce shipping zones as you need. However, keep in mind that each customer will be sorted into the most appropriate zone based on their shipping address.
For example, let’s say you have these three WooCommerce shipping zones:
- Illinois state
- All United States states
If a customer orders a product to be shipped to their home in Illinois in the United States, then their relevant shipping zone would be “Illinois state.” This is even though they could also be sorted into the “All United States states” shipping zone.
2. Assign shipping methods to your shipping zones
With your shipping zones in place, you’ll need to add shipping methods to them. As mentioned above, your shipping methods could be free shipping, local pickup, flat rate shipping and so on. Each shipping zone can support multiple shipping methods too.
3. Set the pricing for your shipping methods
Finally, set up your pricing for each shipping method! You can use a WooCommerce shipping calculator to calculate how much you’d need to charge for the various shipping methods you intend to offer.
Advanced WooCommerce shipping options
By following the above steps, you’ll have your basic WooCommerce shipping methods set up, and your shipping costs calculated using a WooCommerce shipping calculator. But depending on your needs, you can also add even more customized WooCommerce shipping options.
For example, you can create WooCommerce shipping classes for having special shipping rates for certain product types, such as bulky products or products that need to be packed on poster tubes. However, keep in mind that products can have only one WooCommerce shipping class at any one time.
You can also create conditional WooCommerce shipping rules, where certain table rate shipping costs and methods will kick in when particular conditions are met. As an example, you can use conditional table rate shipping methods to offer free shipping only for orders worth at least $100. Again, use a WooCommerce shipping calculator to decide on financially feasible shipping conditions for your business!
Issues to consider when shipping internationally
It generally isn’t too difficult to ship orders locally. But the challenge arises when you start selling to an international base and have to ship orders internationally.
That’s because you’ll need to carefully define your shipping strategy for each destination market. In other words, what shipping methods will you offer and how much will you charge for them?
Shipping products abroad generally incurs higher shipping costs than shipping them locally, so you may not be able to fully absorb the shipping costs and offer your international customers free shipping. Instead, you can use a WooCommerce shipping calculator to decide how to charge for international shipping – be it flat rate shipping, variable rate shipping or something else.
When doing your WooCommerce shipping sums, don’t forget to consider these:
- The product weight and size: The heavier and larger a product is, the higher its shipping cost will tend to be.
- Packaging type: Perishable or fragile items may need to be packed extra carefully using protective packaging, and will hence have higher shipping costs.
- Logistics: Factor in the shipping cost for packing and labeling, dropping packages off with the carrier and scheduling package pickups.
Not only that – for a smoother customer experience, you may also want to ensure that your e-commerce store clearly states any taxes payable, uses an intuitive payment gateway, supports multiple currencies or even allows customers to track their orders. If so, your WooCommerce shipping costs will need to cover the costs of implementing and maintaining all these features.
So as you can see, that’s a lot to keep in mind when deciding on your shipping costs! Don’t forget that at the end of the day, shipping has an impact on your margins. You don’t want to charge too much for shipping such that potential customers decide not to shop with you, or too little such that you can’t cover your shipping costs. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of using a WooCommerce shipping calculator when setting your shipping costs!
Tips for choosing the best WooCommerce shipping options for international customers
When deciding on the WooCommerce shipping options for your international customers, it’s also worth looking into how you can adapt these to fit their local communities.
For example, explore direct partnerships with local carriers in those countries for your order fulfillment needs. These local carriers will often have well-established delivery infrastructure and optimized delivery schedules for their markets, which will help your customers get their orders as quickly as possible.
Also, consider if your shipping options are adapted to local habits and needs. People in some towns may love local pickup because it allows for human connection and a more personal touch in the fulfillment process. Local pickup may also be an ideal option for busy professionals who may not be home in the day to receive their packages, and would hence prefer to collect their packages in person after work.
Translating your e-commerce store’s WooCommerce shipping info (and more) with the Weglot translation plugin
You’ve installed the WooCommerce plugin for your e-commerce store, decided on your WooCommerce shipping methods and calculated your shipping costs using a WooCommerce shipping calculator. But before you officially declare your e-commerce store ready for international customers, don’t forget to translate your e-commerce store pages!
The Weglot translation plugin is fully compatible with WooCommerce (including all its themes and extensions), and allows for effortless translation of not just your WooCommerce shipping methods, but also for the contents of your entire e-commerce store. This includes the translation of crucial web pages such as your store page, product listings and checkout pages, too.
Simply install the Weglot translation plugin in WordPress and select which languages your WooCommerce store pages should be translated to. The Weglot plugin then uses a proprietary mix of machine learning translations to give you the best translations for your e-commerce store content in all the languages of your choice. You can also preview these translations in a visual editor, and fine-tune these before you roll them out for your e-commerce store.
A dedicated and customizable language switcher that’s displayed on your e-commerce store pages also makes it convenient for customers to switch your e-commerce store to their preferred language using just a few clicks.
Ready to set up international WooCommerce shipping methods for your e-commerce store?
Your e-commerce store may do decently if you operate only in your local market, but going global might just be what you need if you’re looking to supercharge your store’s growth and revenue. Of course, this comes with more challenges, with shipping being a major one as you now have to look at sending your packages across borders.
Use the right WooCommerce shipping options to offer flexible shipping methods for international customers. Then, calculate competitive shipping costs using a WooCommerce shipping calculator. Afterward, take care to ensure that your WooCommerce shipping methods cater to each destination market as far as possible.
Finally, once you have your e-commerce store – and your WooCommerce shipping options – set up, translate your web pages using the Weglot translation plugin so that they speak the language of your destination markets. Get started with Weglot by signing up for a free trial here.