This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
ShipStation is a fulfillment and shipping platform that enables businesses to import and manage orders. It integrates with a large number of shopping carts, marketplaces, carrier accounts, and other ecommerce tools. It’s available on your browser or the ShipStation mobile app.
The software’s shipment management features allow users to rate-shop for the best shipping cost, and it provides discounted United States Postal Service (USPS) rates. Other services include inventory management features and automation capabilities.
In our evaluation of the best shipping software for small businesses, ShipStation came in fourth place with a score of 3.93 out of 5. It delivers robust features and excellent usability on its higher-tier plans—making it a better choice for mid- to high-volume shippers than small-scale sellers and startups.
ShipStation works to streamline in-house ecommerce order fulfillment by integrating with other tools, managing orders, comparing rates, and handling the details of shipping. It features paid plans that suit a wide range of order volumes, but its upper-level plans for high-volume shippers offer a better value. The platform’s robust returns management tools provide a worthwhile advantage for businesses that sell products with high return rates, such as clothing or shoes.
ShipStation doesn’t offer a free starter plan and its lowest-level plan is somewhat limited. Because of this, we recommend an alternative for startups, small-scale sellers, and those seeking a free solution. It also lacks dedicated functionality for dropshipping, and it isn’t the best tool for managing crowdfunding campaigns.
ShipStation Deciding Factors
Supported Business Types
Small to midsize businesses (SMBs), enterprise-level businesses, startups, ecommerce stores, retail stores, direct-to-consumer (DTC) sellers, business-to-business (B2B) sellers, resellers, and subscription-box services
USPS Commercial Base Pricing; discounted UPS, DHL Express, Canada Post, and Canpar rates
Free Starter Plan
From $9.99 per month for 50 shipments to $159.99 per month for 10,000 shipments
Supports thermal printers, laser printers, barcode scanners, and human interface device (HID)-compliant USB scales
Average Rating in User Reviews*
4.27 out of 5
Via phone, email, and in-person 8 a.m.to 8 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday
*Aggregate rating based on total scores from Capterra, Shopify App Store, Trustpilot, TrustRadius, and G2.
Best for: Startups and small to midsize businesses
Best for: High-volume businesses seeking a multipurpose tool
Best for: Crowdfunding campaigns
Best for: Managing all aspects of a warehouse or in-house fulfillment operation
Price: Free to $159 per month
Price: Free to $999 per month
Price: Free to $69 per month
Price: $1,850–$1,995 per month
ShipStation’s paid plans are priced competitively, which helped it achieve a solid score in this category. It also offers discounted shipping rates from a number of popular carriers, and a moderate range of plan options.
But unlike nearly all of its competitors, ShipStation doesn’t offer a free starter plan. This inhibits accessibility for startups and low-volume operations and makes it harder for other businesses to test the platform before subscribing. However, a 30-day free trial is available for all paid plans.
ShipStation offers six paid plans ranging from a minimal Starter plan to a high-volume Enterprise plan. The primary differences between each program are the number of monthly shipments, user account allowance, customer support accessibility, and branding options.
There’s no contract required to use ShipStation, so you can cancel or switch plans at any time.
All accounts have an unlimited store/sales channel allowance and additional users can be added a la carte for $5 per month.
For high-volume shippers processing more than 10,000 shipments per month, custom pricing is available.
ShipStation promises to charge no additional fees outside of the subscription cost—except in the case of premium integrations, which includes Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime.
Starter plan users can only contact customer support through email or a community forum—slightly better than ShippingEasy’s limited starter plan. Bronze, Silver, and Gold members have access to live chat, but phone support is only available to Platinum and Enterprise customers.
Another restriction on the software’s low-level plans is access to customized labels and packing slips. Starter and Bronze plan subscribers can apply their own branding to these deliverables in the form of a single logo, but Silver plan users and above have access to more comprehensive customization.
Discounted Shipping Rates
All ShipStation users receive USPS Commercial Plus rates, discounted UPS rates, DHL Express Worldwide Shipping Discounts, and savings on shipping insurance.
ShipStation meets nearly all of the criteria that we look for in this category, including batch support, peripheral hardware connectivity, and an unlimited sales channel allowance.
We deducted points due to ShipStation’s automation capabilities, which aren’t as developed as those of Ordoro or ShippingEasy. However, ShipStation users can still program “rules” to automate a decent range of shipping and fulfillment tasks. We also found that the provider’s analytics tools and customer support had room for improvement.
Click below to expand on the features contributing to ShipStation’s Functionality score.
We found ShipStation’s analytics features to be robust, but its customization options are less intuitive than those of ShippingEasy.
ShipStation’s analytics feature can generate the following:
- Insights pages: Create visualization dashboards for your account overview, sales trends, product highlights, business operations, engagement, and customer overview.
- Insights reports: Access 20 preformatted reports for orders, shipments, accounting, products, inventory, hotkey and barcode actions, and raw data exports.
- Custom order and shipment reports: Build custom reports by adding only the fields you wish to export.
- Static reports: Create reports from periodic shipment or fulfillment data uploaded to ShipStation.
- Data archives: ShipStation compiles a monthly archive for your account’s orders, shipments, and shipment items.
Like ShippingEasy, ShipStation has its own proprietary app for connecting peripheral devices.
ShipStation Connect is a downloaded application that serves as a bridge between your ShipStation account and the following devices:
- Thermal printers
- Laser printers
- HID-compliant USB scales
- Barcode scanners
The app is accessible from mobile devices and can be used in conjunction with automation rules.
ShipStation’s support staff is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central time.
Phone support is only available to top-tier Enterprise plan users, and chat support is available with Bronze plans and higher. Service from these contact methods is highly rated by users, but email and forum responses are much less satisfactory.
Starter plan users are limited to receiving support through forum and email communication only. The ShipStation website states, “Email response times may exceed one business day,” and online reviews claim that this service is very poor.
Starter-level subscribers describe ShipStation’s customer service as being difficult, robotic, and impossible to reach an actual human being.
To aid new users in conquering its learning curve, ShipStation has a supply of online resources available:
- Integrations help guide
- Workflow guide library
- Troubleshooting guide
- Mobile help guide
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Community forum
- YouTube tutorials
- Webinar collection
ShipStation offers more pre-built integrations than any other shipping software on the market, which comes in handy for midsize or expanding companies.
Here’s a complete list of ShipStation’s current direct integrations (note that some integrations are considered premium and will incur a charge):
- Big Cartel
- New Oxatis
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- Shopify Plus
- Shopping Cart Elite
- Zen Cart
- Amazon Australia
- Amazon Canada
- Amazon UK
- Best Buy Canada
- eBay Australia
- eBay Canada
- eBay UK
- Groupon Goods
- Mercado Libre
- Not On The High Street
- Rakuten (Buy.com)
- Shop Premium Outlets
- Walmart Canada
- Liftoff Ecommerce
- QuickBooks Commerce
- Listing Mirror
- Revolution Parts
- eCom Logistics
- Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA)
- Noram Partners
- Ruby Has
- Ship-Right Solutions
- Synergy Diverse Solutions
- Synergy Logistics
- The ConneXtion
- The Douglas Stewart Company
Accounting/Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Codeless Platforms
- Connex for QuickBooks Desktop
- My Office Apps
- Quickfire Digital
- SAP Business ByDesign
- SAP Business One
- DS Smith ePack
- eBridge Connections
- Infocon Systems
- Salesforce AppExchange
- Salesforce Essentials
- Seller Accountant
- Spark Shipping
- SPS Commerce
- Stitch Labs
- Stripe Relay
- VL OMNI
ShipStation readily integrates with 135 agencies and solutions providers. View the full list.
ShipStation’s core features include order management, providing standard features such as batch processing, comma-separated values (CSV) entry, customizable grouping, split/combine functions, and more.
It also comes with inventory management capabilities, such as catalog support, stock allocation, inventory alerts, and syncing, as well as the ability to customize labels, packing slips, outbound emails, and tracking pages.
We found that these primary features are generally robust and effective without connecting secondary tools, which earned points for ShipStation. We also awarded points for its outbound email tools, international shipping support, and order upload options. The provider was docked for lacking marketing tools—beyond branding capabilities—as well as dedicated features to support dropshipping.
ShipStation’s standout features include:
Rate Comparison Tool
ShipStation’s shipping calculator also functions as a rate-shopping tool by comparing a wide variety of shipping options.
The tool is well-developed and intuitive and allows users to toggle between different carriers and methods for each parcel. All rates displayed are up-to-date and accurate—meaning that the rate you choose is exactly what you’ll be charged. If available, delivery estimates will also be shown.
The software will only display rates from carriers you’ve integrated and connected to your account. But, as explained above, ShipStation integrates with more carriers than any other shipping solution available.
ShipStation’s advanced returns management features create a significant edge over other shipping solutions.
Its main offering is a branded returns portal, which saves time by allowing your customers to perform self-service returns on your site. Click through the images below to see how the element works:
ShipStation allows users to generate return labels through USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL eCommerce. The action can be automated—so that customers can complete a return without having to contact you—or done on-demand.
ShipStation supports scan-based labels (also known as POUR labels), so you can provide customers with convenient shipping without the risk of paying for unused labels.
Like all of our top picks for shipping software, ShipStation allows you to save time and labor by automating various tasks.
Automations work by programming “if-then” rules into the software. For example, a rule could dictate if an order is placed within a certain region, then select a specified carrier and delivery method for the parcel. For every order meeting the criteria, ShipStation will purchase and print the shipping label automatically.
ShipStation offers three types of automation, which can be used on their own or in conjunction with each other:
- Product automation: Selected actions, such as insurance purchasing or inventory syncing, are triggered automatically when specified products are imported, edited, or ordered.
- Automation rules: Selected actions, such as outbound email sending or return label creation, are triggered automatically based on criteria set by you.
- Service mappings: When a customer chooses a shipping option at checkout, such as standard or expedited delivery, their preference is mapped to the actual service you want to use to ship an order to their region.
ShipStation is one of the only shipping software providers that offer on-the-go use from a mobile app.
Users report that the platform is easier to manage on a computer screen, but ShipStation Mobile allows you to quickly check inventory levels, manage orders, and make shipments from your phone.
The app also delivers push notifications for urgent events, such as low inventory alerts, and functions as a barcode scanner.
The software interface allows a number of customization options to meet each user’s workflow needs. This feature is especially helpful for ecommerce beginners or users migrating from different software.
Once configured, multiple customization presets can be saved to your account and accessed at any time.
These elements of the web app can be customized:
- Grid columns: These elements can be rearranged to configure custom Orders, Shipments, Products, and Customers dashboards
- Shipping sidebar sections: The sections in your shipping sidebar, such as Items, Notes, Recipient, and Summary, can be rearranged into any sequence you prefer
- Hotkeys: Assign shipping presets to hotkeys of your choosing
- Time, date, and measurement options: Users can change the format for time and date as well as switch between imperial or metric units
Additionally, ShipStation will soon allow users to change the user interface language from English to French or Spanish.
ShipStation is easy to use—as long as you’re on a high-tier subscription plan. This caveat significantly impacted the provider’s score in our Ease of Use category.
We awarded points for its customizable user interface and device connectivity, which make the platform practical and accessible to all subscribers. But the customer service limitations on the Starter plan create substantial difficulty.
Here are the factors that play into ShipStation’s ease of use:
- Customer support hours: ShipStation’s support staff is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central time.
- Customer support accessibility: Support is available via phone for top-tier plans and via live chat for Bronze plans or higher. All other users may contact support via email or online forum. ShipStation’s responsiveness to emails is very poorly rated.
- User management options: For subscribers with multiple user accounts, ShipStation allows granular customization of user permissions. Primary users can set permissions based on order type or function.
- User interface quality: ShipStation’s desktop platform features a user-friendly interface with a customizable layout and is highly rated in reviews.
- Site speed and reliability: Users report that ShipStation is occasionally slow and experiences somewhat frequent glitches, especially when connecting other apps or hardware.
Ultimately, we like ShipStation’s wide range of robust features, but struggle with its popularity, ease of use, and overall value, which earned the provider a moderate score in this category.
ShipStation delivers a well-developed platform with helpful features to facilitate standard day-to-day tasks. Its unique returns management tool is especially notable for its ability to help business owners and impact customer experience directly.
But the provider has garnered an alarming amount of negative feedback, with most of its bad reviews coming from users on low-level plans. Its restrictive plan limitations compromise ease of use for startups and small-scale sellers, which harms its overall value.
All things considered, we recommend checking out an alternative like ShippingEasy unless you’re seeking a high-level subscription plan.
What Users Say in ShipStation Reviews
ShipStation’s overall ratings are high across most app stores and software review sites. The company’s mobile app has a positive score as well, with more than 50,000 downloads on Google Play.
Many favorable reviews mention ShipStation’s functional interface and plentiful integrations. Reviewers frequently cite using the software to ship 200-plus orders per day—making it clear that ShipStation is highly effective for midsize companies.
Multiple reviews state that the platform is “great when it works and support isn’t needed.” Customer service is a consistent pain point across neutral and negative reviews from starter-level subscribers.
While the software has an abundance of positive ratings, the negative feedback is deeply opinionated and much of it has been left in recent months. Dissatisfied users report the web app being glitchy and slow with frequent bugs, and technical support maintaining a dismissive attitude toward the issues.
Other negative reviews describe the platform as a “nightmare” for accountants. These users report missing functionality from certain key accounting integrations, such as the ability to work freely with order data points and enable automations.
- Capterra: 4.7/5 from 800-plus reviews
- Shopify App Store: 4.1/5 from some 630 reviews
- G2: 4.3/5 from more than 180 reviews
- Trustpilot: 2.5/5 from about 150 reviews
|Intuitive interface||Poor customer service|
|Good value||Highly ineffective tech support|
|Plentiful native integrations||Frequent technical issues|
|Powerful features||Accounting difficulties|
Methodology: How We Evaluated ShipStation
To evaluate ShipStation and other shipping software, we used a 28-point assessment that measures how well it meets small business shipping needs. We researched the provider through third-party reviews, user ratings, relevant articles, and the company’s own content. Then, we personally assessed ShipStation’s platform.
We look for high-performing functions, an intuitive interface, effective customer support, and additional features that go beyond the scope of shipping.
To find the best tool for small businesses, we prioritized economical pricing and factors that contribute to overall ease of use. Our ecommerce experts also weighed in with their assessments of each provider.
Click through the tabs below for our full evaluation criteria:
20% of Overall Score
This criterion considers whether each provider offers a free starter plan, and assesses the range of paid options available.
The contenders were graded on how competitively priced their plans are. We considered the features and benefits available at each pricing tier and docked points for limits on the functionality of lower-level options. We also weighed the range of carrier discounts provided.
ShipStation doesn’t offer a free plan, and its range of paid options isn’t as accommodating as other providers, which impacted its score in this category. We awarded points for its competitive pricing and helpful carrier discounts, ultimately giving ShipStation a score of 4.25 out of 5.
20% of Overall Score
We looked at the availability of key functions that maximize efficiency and accessibility for businesses of all sizes. This includes features like batch capabilities, label printing, CSV entry, and peripheral hardware compatibility.
Providers were also evaluated on the number of prebuilt integrations offered, access to an open application programming interface (API), sales channel allowance, and automation capabilities.
ShipStation’s impressive list of prebuilt integrations helped it earn points here, along with its compatibility with shipping hardware and order input options. We found that its automation capabilities aren’t as built-out as competing shipping solutions, which brought its score down to 4.06 out of 5.
20% of Overall Score
This score considered the standard features of each shipping solution, including reporting/analytics, returns management, outbound email notifications, and user management options, and assessed how well they work. Shipping software with robust, well-developed features was awarded the most points.
The best shipping tools are multitaskers that save you time and money by handling functions outside of shipping management, so we also evaluated each provider on their dropshipping, order management, inventory management, and marketing features.
ShipStation earned points for its range of robust features, but providers with more sophisticated order and inventory management tools scored higher. We also deducted points for ShipStation’s lack of dedicated dropshipping tools, although its user permissions functions can support dropshipped orders. Ultimately it earned a score of 4.73 out of 5.
20% of Overall Score
We evaluated each company for its user interface (UI) by considering how intuitively it works, reported uptime, site speed, and the learning curve to start.
This factor also looked at the number of learning resources available from each company, including webinars, demo videos, blogs, frequently asked questions (FAQs), case studies, libraries, guides, calculator tools, and forum activity.
Lastly, customer service accessibility was weighted heavily to provide the best recommendation. We considered hours of availability, contact methods, location of support staff, and quality of service.
ShipStation delivers an easy-to-use interface with lots of customizable features as well as an impressive arsenal of free online resources. This helped boost the provider’s score, but it lost significant points due to its customer support, which is generally inaccessible on low-tier plans. We gave it a 3.5 out of 5 overall.
20% of Overall Score
This score combined our ecommerce experts’ final evaluations of value, ease of use, and stand-out features with scores from real-world users. We combed through thousands of reviews to identify consistent pain points and high-performing features of each tool.
We awarded points for ShipStation’s impressive features, but its iffy popularity and poor ease of use brought down its score. We also deducted points for its overall value, which is compromised by the restrictions set on low-tier plans. In the end, ShipStation achieved an Expert Score of 3.13 out of 5.
Is shipping cheaper with ShipStation?
Like most shipping software and third-party order fulfillment solutions, ShipStation earns volume discounts for the business it brings to popular carriers, such as USPS and UPS. The provider then passes these discounts to its customers, allowing users to pay significantly lower rates than they would if they were to buy labels on their own.
These discounts make shipping much cheaper with ShipStation. Users can enjoy discounted USPS rates with savings up to:
- 30% off Priority Mail
- 26% off First Class Mail Package
- 16% off Priority Mail Express
- 12% off Priority Mail International
- 7% off Priority Mail Express International
- 5% off International First Class
- 40% off USPS Package Insurance Rates
ShipStation also provides discounted UPS shipping options, including:
- Up to 77% off UPS® Ground shipments
- Up to 72% off UPS 2nd Day Air®
- Certain surcharges, such as residential surcharges, may be waived
Do I need ShipStation?
It’s entirely possible to perform in-house fulfillment without the help of shipping software like ShipStation. It’s done by managing orders through your ecommerce platform or another connected app and periodically going to the post office to buy shipping labels.
While this approach saves on the cost of ShipStation’s subscription fee, it typically takes more time and labor, and makes basic organization more difficult. Thanks to its discounted shipping rates, ShipStation usually enables businesses to save more money than it costs them during any given month—making it a worthwhile investment. You can also try it free for 30 days to test out its fit for your businesses.
Shipping software is a necessity for ecommerce businesses, especially those performing fulfillment in-house.
ShipStation is a powerful tool for managing shipments, orders, and inventory, but it’s a better choice for mid- to high-volume shippers than small-scale sellers and startups.
For sellers with low sales volume, we recommend ShippingEasy. But if you’re shipping at least 500 or more orders per month, ShipStation’s Bronze plan (or higher) is a worthy investment.