There are quite a few shipping options available in Magento Core. Here we are focusing on what is available to the UK market place but we will also cover the key Extension provider extensions and how they add value and support more complex shipping needs.
Magento Shipping Method Types
By default, Magento offers the following basic shipping methods:
- Flat Rate - a fixed charge that can be applied per item or per shipment
- Free Shipping - free shipping can be configured to be offered based on a minimum purchase, or in conjunction with a shopping cart price rule
- Table Rates - allows for the import of a table rates csv to calculate shipping off of the available combinations.
- Online Rates - the dynamic retrieval of rates from third party shipping providers (e.g. UPS, USPS, FedEx or DHL). Configuration required and options available are specific to each provider.
The above options can all be found by navigating to System > Configuration > Shipping Methods. A combination of, or all methods above can be used to satisfy your particular shipping requirements.
Of all the above options, Table Rates is arguably the most dynamic. Table rates allow you to import a table/matrix of rates based on the combinations of:
- Weight vs. Destination
- Price vs. Destination
- # of Items vs. Destination
It is important to keep in mind (as this is typically the number one reason merchants resolve to using a shipping module), that you can only select ONE of the above combinations to be used for your table rates csv. Read more on Table Rates here.
If however, Magento core shipping methods will satisfy your stores shipping scenario see follow up article here for how to configure each method, and important things to keep in mind when doing so.
Matrix Rates vs. Premium Matrix Rates vs. Product Matrix
There are 3 shipping modules that we typically recommend to merchants who feel as though Magento do not satisfy their more complex shipping scenario. All 3 modules are developed by the company Webshopapps (WSA) and are priced according to the features and functionality offered. While I have summarised the main distinction cause merchants to look towards upgrading, please click here for a full list of all differences.
Matrix Rates extends off of the Magento table rate functionality in that, while is also only allows shipping rates to be calculated using the same combinations as Table Rates, however Matrix Rates will allow you to define more than 1 method (e.g. Next Day Delivery, Saturday Delivery, etc) whereas Table Rates will not. Matrix Rates is offered as a free extension, and because of such is unsupported by the Webshopapps team. Also worth notin is that it does not support the use of algorithms, so in the instance you want rules to deviate in unique circumstances, Premium Matrix may be more fit for use.
Biggest Pros: Allows for multiple shipping methods to be used based on locations, & the extension is free.
Biggest Cons: Condition combinations is still limited to a choice of 1 combination (Price vs. Destination, # of Items vs. Destination or Weight vs. Destination) & extension is not supported by the WSA team.
Premium Matrix Rates
Premium Matrix Rates, like Matrix Rates, extends off of the Magento Table Rate functionality in that it allows for you to define more than 1 method, but it does one better than this in that it allows you to customise your rates based on any combination of price, quantity and weight rules. The module also allows for basic algorithms should you need to make use.
Biggest Pros: Allows for multiple shipping methods to be used based on locations & gives versatility to customise rates based on any combination of price, quantity and weight.
Biggest Cons: Does not allow for rates to be set up for single products or groups of products (through the use of shipping groups) & does not support advanced algorithms.
Product Matrix, like both extensions above, extends off of the Magento Table Rates functionality in that it allows you to define more than 1 method, and as well as enabling you to use any combination of destination, product, price, quantity and customer group in your rules. Uniquely, Product Matrix also allows for the creation and assignment of 'Shipping Groups' for the categorisation of groups of products (or individual products) for shipping purposes. Allows for you to more effectively tailor your shipping rates to your product range and customer base.
Biggest Pros: Allows for the use of shipping groups (which then allow you to assign a shipping group to groups of products - even individual products for those unique circumstances), & multiple combinations of conditions allows in rules
Biggest Cons: Most expensive of the three available modules (only con).