How many pies can you fit into a cooler box?

That is a question that is particularly important for our client Parker’s, for whom we recently built a sparkling new e-commerce website, www.parkersbritishinstitution.com.

Vicky and Damian Parker sell all sorts of delicious British products to hungry Expats and Anglophiles across the USA and Canada.

What makes Parker’s really special though are their pies, which Parker’s prepare in Buffalo, NY and courier to their customers in insulated boxes, nestled in gel ice packs to keep them fresh for the duration of their journey, which is limited to a maximum of 48 hours.

But such speedy, specialist shipping isn’t cheap, and Parker’s wanted to make sure that their customers had every opportunity to get the most out of the cost of shipping their order.  

Parker’s expressed their concern that, since they use boxes in 3 standard sizes, customers might be missing out on the chance to fill the otherwise empty space in their box with more tasty pies and other treats without incurring additional shipping costs.

They also wanted to be able to charge customers as accurately as possible for the cost of shipping their order; in order to achieve this the new website would need to be able to automatically calculate the size and weight of the packaged order, and communicate with the shipping company’s systems to get an estimate of the cost, and all of this would need to happen while the customer was completing the checkout process.

So the challenge was set. We got our heads down and after some serious programming we were able to unveil our solution … The Parkers Volumetric Shipping Calculator.

Every product on the site has its dimensions and weight recorded, as well as whether or not it must be shipped in a cooler box.  When a customer adds an item to their basket, the Volumetric Shipping Calculator examines the collection of items and compiles a list of virtual boxes that represent those that will be required in order to ship the order.  

It will always start with the smallest box, and checks if any item is physically bigger than the current box’s internal dimensions. It then calculates the volume of each product and checks the space available in the boxes that are already listed. If, for either reason it cannot fit the item into any box on the list, it will either swap one for a larger box or add a new box.  The space taken up by ice and a small margin for any error are included for added accuracy.

At the end of the process, an indicator on the basket page shows the customer the amount of space that is left in their shipping boxes, and the size and weight of each virtual box can be sent to the shipping company for a cost estimate.

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