You can have the most incredible ecommerce store in the world—top-notch products, beautiful design, a masterful UX, and more. But if your shipping is inadequate, it could be the downfall of your business.
After all, shipping is the pinnacle of your customers interacting with your brand. It’s the “final mile” delivering your company into their hands. This means that your shipping tools and process are a key part of running a successful company.
The problem is: it can be tough to know which option is best. In this article, we’ll look at Shopify Shipping vs. ShipStation and break down everything you need to know when choosing between the two platforms.
You’ll learn some of the key pros and cons, as well as some pointers on choosing the right one based on your unique business characteristics and needs.
This information can’t come at a more crucial time: experts predict that the ecommerce industry will cross the $5 trillion mark by 2022 and soar to the $7 trillion mark by 2025.
Shopify Shipping vs. ShipStation: Overview
Shopify Shipping and ShipStation both offer plenty of great benefits for store owners. In many cases, you’ll often find that features and offerings are quite similar. At the end of the day, it comes down to your particular needs.
ShipStation shines brightest for larger businesses that sell through multiple channels, like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Walmart, in addition to their online storefront. But one caveat is that many users report a steep learning curve. This means that this tool may not be worth the extra cost and labor resources if you’re not certain it’s the best choice for your needs.
When it comes to Shopify, anyone familiar can tell you that it comes pre-configured with tons of features. And for extra functionality, Shopify’s app ecosystem is huge, with more than 7,000 apps and counting. It can help any business configure the right tech stack for their needs—and this goes for businesses that have just opened their e-doors, all the way up to international, household-name brands.
When it comes down to it, choosing between Shopify Shipping vs. ShipStation is neck-and-neck for some ecommerce business owners.
Shopify’s native shipping tools
The main benefit of using Shopify Shipping is that it’s included in every Shopify account, regardless of your subscription level. Here are a few of the highlights:
All in one place. Shopify was designed to make life easier for store owners, allowing users to handle their daily order fulfillment in the same place they manage their products, inventory, and customers.
Faster order fulfillment. With the shipping label tool, store owners can buy and print their shipping labels within the platform, allowing them to prepare packages ahead of time and skip post office lines.
Streamlined tasks. Custom-design your shipping setup with settings like bulk order fulfillment, creating USPS SCAN forms, and pickup scheduling through top carriers like UPS, USPS, and DHL Express.
In-app tracking. No need to log into third-party sites or spend time sorting through multiple sources of information. Check shipment status inside the Shopify platform, regardless of the carrier.
International options. Ship your products to customers all over the globe with the help of international shipping discounts and built-in customs forms, all available to you right inside your Shopify dashboard.
Optional insurance coverage. Get added peace of mind on higher-risk or higher-value packages. When you buy your shipping labels for any order inside the platform, you have the option to add extra insurance coverage. Shopify Payments customers automatically have 200 USD of shipping insurance included on each eligible label at no cost.
ShipStation’s key features
Many users say that their main draw to ShipStation is that it’s a standalone shipping platform. This gives it the ability to integrate with several sales channels, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and accounting platforms, and inventory management systems (IMS).
Multi-channel support. ShipStation integrates with more than 70 ecommerce channels, giving you high flexibility and functionality when it comes to consolidating and managing your multi-channel activity in one place.
Advanced automation. Users can set preferred criteria for automation to take place. For example, you can automatically set certain carriers and shipping services based on an order’s weight, choose default settings for international shipments, insure certain orders, and adjust live carrier rates for your customers at checkout.
Order combining, splitting, and filtering. Combine multiple orders sent to the same address, split orders with items going to different locations, and mix-and-match various filters based on criteria like tags, destinations, and stores.
Batch shipping. Sort shipments into customized groups based on your own preset criteria, and bulk print up to 500 labels at once. Organize workflows for other users inside your account, like assigning specific batches to a specific user for processing.
Proactive alerts. Sometimes, there are things that need your attention that you might not be aware of. ShipStation sends proactive alerts for situations that may need extra TLC, like whether you should combine orders, when it’s time to replenish stock based on a preset threshold, and more.
One of the major benefits of Shopify Shipping is that it comes built-in with any Shopify plan, whether you’re just starting out on the Starter plan for $5 a month, the Basic plan for $39 per month, the Shopify plan for $105 per month, or the Advanced plan for $399 per month.
This cost never changes, and there’s no need to upgrade to access any of Shopify Shipping’s native functionality.
On the other hand, you’ll need to pay for access to ShipStation because it’s a standalone platform (or available as an app for Shopify users). Pricing for ShipStation monthly plans is as follows:
- Starter: $9.99 per month with a 50 shipments per month limit
- Bronze: $29.99 with a 500 shipment limit
- Silver: $49.99 with a 1,500 shipment limit
- Gold: $69.99 with a 3,000 shipment limit
- Platinum: $99.99 with a 6,000 shipment limit
- Enterprise: $159.99 with a 10,000 shipment limit
It’s also worth noting that, similar to most paid apps, your access to functionality will depend on your subscription tier. See ShipStation’s pricing page for more details on which plan has the features you’re looking for.
Both tools offer special discounted rates with certain partners. For example, Shopify offers up to 88% off shipping rates with USPS, UPS, and DHL Express.
ShipStation offers similar discounts. According to the company’s website, customers who get a ShipStation UPS account will receive up to:
- 86% discounts on daily rates
- 55% discounts on UPS Ground
- 69% discounts on next day and 2nd day air services on packages that are eligible
Both platforms have resources to help you calculate shipping rates. See here for ShipStation's rate calculator resources and here for Shopify’s shipping rates resources.
Regardless of which shipping tool you decide to use and the percentage discount you can access, these discounts are an evergreen benefit for your business. They allow you to pass on your savings to your customers when they check out at your store, like flat-rate or free shipping.
This can keep you competitive in your niche and keep customers happy, ultimately keeping them coming back for more.
Affordable shipping is especially critical in today’s ecommerce landscape. In a 2022 consumer trends report, 80% of customers said they expect free shipping when their orders hit a certain dollar amount. And 66% said they expect free shipping on all of their online orders, regardless of the price threshold.
Even more telling: for three consecutive quarters, the majority of shoppers said they’re more influenced by the price of shipping than they are by the price of the product!
Shopify Shipping and ShipStation both offer high discounts for their members. But when it comes to carriers, there’s a key difference to keep in mind between the two tools. That difference is the number of shipping carriers you have access to.
Shopify Shipping works with a handful of the most popular shipping carriers around the globe:
- DHL Express
- Canada Post
- Mondial Relay
- Poste Italiane
If you’re shipping through these carriers, you’re all set with Shopify Shipping’s native functionality.
But if you’d like to ship through other carriers, you’ll want to consider another tool or the boost of another app from the Shopify ecosystem. For example, ShipStation partners with more than 50 worldwide, including companies like Parcelforce Worldwide, Purolator, GlobalPost, Canpar Express, Loomis Express, and more.
The final verdict
When you look closely at the details, you’ll probably find several features from each tool that can benefit you. It comes down to whether ShipStation has specific features that you need that outweigh the costs—both the financial cost of buying another app and the time cost of learning how to use it.
It will take some research and critical thinking to weigh the benefits and costs, and it may even take a bit of trial and error before you find your ideal tech stack. But one thing is certain: once you find your sweet spot, your business will be better set up to smash all the goals you’ve set out to accomplish.