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Shipping Orders in One vs. Multiple Shipments

When multiple shipments exist

There are different scenarios in which an order might need to be shipped in multiple shipments.

  1. When there are one or more oversized items
  2. When the total order weight exceeds the Maximum Weight Per Package set in the Shipping Options
  3. When an order contains products that can be shipped immediately and back-ordered products

Oversize items

When you flag a product as being “oversized”, ProductCart automatically considers it a separate shipment when it goes to calculate shipping charges for the order. This happens regardless of whether the product packaging dimensions really match the “Oversized” definition according to shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS. If the product does not end up being an oversized package, UPS and FedEx will return regular shipping rates for it, but it will still be treated as a separate package from the rest of the order.

ProductCart always considers an oversized product a separate package, even if multiple units of the same product are purchased. So if a customer purchases 2 units of an oversized product, ProductCart will ship the order in 2 packages.

Flagging a product as “oversized” can be useful to more accurately calculate shipping charges, even if the product is not an oversized product. Whenever you know that a product will be shipped in a separate package, use the “oversized” flag to tell ProductCart to separately calculate shipping charges for it.

Maximum Weight Per Package

The Maximum Weight Per Package feature allows you to make a good guess on how many packages will be used to ship the current order. This helps you more accurately calculate shipping charges during the checkout process. This setting is set under Shipping > Shipping Settings. You should enter the weight above which you typically start packaging the remaining goods in a separate box.

The Maximum Weight per Package feature does not apply to oversized products. ProductCart will use the Maximum Weight per Package to calculate the number of packages for the portion of the shipment that excludes the oversized packages.

Orders containing back-ordered and immediately available products

The following assume that the store has been setup:

When a store is setup this way, there can be a scenario where a customer purchases both products that are immediately available for shipment and others which are not (back-ordered). When a Pending order contains both a product that can be shipped immediately and a back-ordered product, the Product Details tab of the Order Details page in the Control Panel shows the following information (in blue)

Single vs. Separate Shipments
Your store is setup to allow customers to request that back-ordered products are shipped separately. If the order contains more than one product, the customer will be asked to specify whether to receive one or separate shipments when you process the order.

When you process the order, the Order Confirmation e-mail sent to the customer contains a link that allows the customer to indicate his/her preference. When the e-mail is sent, but the customer has not yet clicked on that link, the Product Details tab of the Order Details page shows the following:

Single vs. Separate Shipments
The customer has been alerted to indicate whether he/she wants one or separate shipments. The system is awaiting for the customer response.

When the customer clicks on the link included in the Order Confirmation message, he/she is taken to a page that shows two options: (a) ship the order in separate packages; and (b) wait until all products are available and ship the order in one package. See the image below as an example of what the customer sees.

Customer preference on one versus multiple shipments

Once the customer makes a choice, the order information is updated according to the customer's preference. An e-mail is sent to the store administrator indicating what the customer chose to do, and the Product Details tab of the Order Details page in the Control Panel is updated accordingly.

Calculating exact shipping charges for multiple packages

As mentioned above, ProductCart gives you some control on determining how many packages will be shipped by using the “Oversized” option at the product level (which tells ProductCart that the product will shipped separately), and by entering a value for the “Maximum Weight Per Package” setting in your “Shipping Settings”.

However, there is a limitation to this feature: there is no way to tell ProductCart exactly how to calculate the weight and dimensions of the various packages that will be shipped. ProductCart makes a calculated guess, but it cannot go further than that.

This is a limitation that is quite hard to remove. The problem is that the logic used to determine how products will be packaged can be really complex. For instance, assume that you are selling “iPods” and “iPods accessories”. How will the following orders be packaged (number and size of the boxes)?

- Order 1: 2 iPods, 2 sets of extra headphones, 1 set of portable speakers - Order 2: 1 iPod, 1 set of speakers, 1 Bose SoundDock Portable music system - Order 3: 3 iPods, 3 sets of Bose noise-canceling headphones

How many boxes will each order be made of? Which boxes?

There is no way to know until the people in the warehouse make the final packaging decisions. Which also means that calculating totally correct shipping rates is close to impossible.

Could there be rules to set which products go with what? Sure, but if you have more than just a handful of products, the number of rules could be impossible to manage.

Truly, setting up “packaging” rules is practically impossible. This is because you are facing an almost endless number of scenarios depending on which products are added to the shopping cart.

Instead, we recommend the following:

  1. Use the “Oversized” setting when you know that the product will shipped in a separate box. That's even if the product is NOT oversized according to UPS or FedEx's definition of oversized. Those services will calculate shipping rates correctly if the product is not oversized. Don't worry about that.
  2. Use the “Maximum Weight Per Package” by setting the value to the weight that you know typically triggers the use of a different shipping box.
  3. Set the “Your Packaging” box size in the shipping options for the shipping providers that you are using to the most common size used by your company (or by your drop-shipping partners).
  4. Finally, you can even let the customer know that shipping charges are an estimate and that final shipping charges will be determined after the order has been placed. In some cases they will be lower, in others they might be higher. You can edit the order in ProductCart and communicate with customers using the built-in Help Desk.

Of course, the other option is to introduce packaging logic that is specific to your store by custom programming the logic into your ProductCart installation. This will not be a simple custom programming project by any means.


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