Sunday, July 1, 2007

Website Shipping

Our new website at is finally finished (at least 99% done anyway!). One of the biggest struggles we have had with the site is how to have the site calculate shipping expense. Our old website had a shipping calculator on it for FedEx shipping but also allowed for delivery via the post office.

The problem with shipping calculators on websites is that they really do not know how to account for differences in items being shipped. Some items are light yet bulky while others are small and heavy. The shipping calculator also lacks the ability to think through the items being purchased to determine which items ship well together. Also, the calculator will keep putting everything into one package until the FedEx maximum of 70 pounds is reached--even though there is no way that some items can be cartoned up together for shipment. It seemed like there were quite a few times when either the customer was getting raked over the coals because items could be combined for shipping and the shipping calculator was charging for multiple packages or we were getting shorted on shipping because the calculator did not separate items into multiple packages when it should have.

So . . . we come to our new website and have to decide how to determine shipping expense.

After a lot of deliberation we decided to charge a one time "packaging" fee of $6.00 on every order for winemaking or beer brewing equipment and supplies and have all other shipping expense buried in the cost of our item. The necessity of having a handling fee is because of the frequent very small orders that we receive. If you bump the cost of a package of yeast by ten cents to help cover shipping expense that works with a large order where the yeast is combined with many other items also helping to cover shipping expense. It does not work if all that is ordered is a packet of yeast. Ten cents does not get anything to anywhere!

The handling fee encourages customers to combine orders and take advantage of the fact that the fee is charged only once per order. On large, heavy items (such as WinExpert wine ingredient kits or BlueStem's Best beer ingredient kits) it works in the customers favor to order multiple items. As an example, it usually costs about $16.00 to ship a 15 liter WinExpert kit (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the distance from BlueStem to the customer). We build an additional $10 into the cost of each of these kits to cover shipping expense (as compared to our competitors who just charge retail plus shipping). If you order one WinExpert kit you pay for the kit plus $6.00 handling. With the additional $10 built into the price and the handling fee our customer basically is paying $16 for delivery of the kit which is usually what it costs via FedEx.

However, if two of the 15-liter kits are ordered the customer is charged $10 additional in the product pricing for each of the kits plus the one time $6 handling fee for a total of $26 shipping. BlueStem has to ship these kits in separate packages because of weight restrictions and so it costs the Winery $32 to ship (a savings of $6 to the customer over making two separate kit purchases).

The moral is that the more a customer can combine purchases (order more but order fewer times) the more the customer can save on shipping expense.

The advantage to BlueStem on this is that we save packaging time because customers are making larger purchases rather than multiple small purchases.

Ideally we would love to set our pricing on the web identical to or pricing in the store and have a website shipping calculator that would magically calculate every shipment to exact cost for shipment. It's not going to happen, se we just try to do the best we can with what we have to work with.

Questions? Give Vern a call at BlueStem Winery at 319.346.1046. BlueStem Winery carries a complete line of wine making equipment, ingredients, supplies and ingredient kits and also carries home brewing equipment, ingredients, supplies and features our own brand of ingredient kits called BlueStem's Best.

We are at your service! Come visit us on the web at!

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