Case Studies / DHL

Building the first international carrier app in Shopify for DHL, a global leader in shipping and logistics  

case study aspirational dhl

First Glance


A global leader in logistics and shipping, DHL was founded in 1969 and has grown to operate in over 220 countries and territories worldwide. Their longevity can be largely attributed to their constant pursuit of innovation and growth to better serve their customers. To that end, the team at DHL Express, the business unit which focuses on international shipping and courier delivery services, reached out to Sunrise Integration to help them enter the Shopify ecosystem. With their first Shopify app, they would be able to expand their reach and offer much needed shipping services to growing ecommerce businesses.

The Opportunity


The apps made by third parties that were available in the Shopify App Store at the time didn’t fully address DHL’s needs. Those apps failed to provide access to all the APIs they needed. DHL’s team wanted a robust feature set and more control that required building a custom app.


With this app, their goal was to provide Shopify merchants an all-in-one carrier service. Merchants would be able to look up shipping rates, automatically show the shipping cost in their customers’ carts and create shipping labels and tracking IDs. Furthermore, the Sunrise Integration team built support for DHL’s label printers.


Because DHL’s team lacked knowledge about the Shopify platform, our experts happily filled in the gaps with our years of experience building apps for Shopify.

Custom Development for DHL

The Solution


Before building their app, one of the first international carrier apps on the Shopify platform, we underwent a thorough discovery process. First, we listened to their needs and goals and made the appropriate suggestions. Then we examined what DHL already released into the marketplace and compared that to their competitors’ offerings.


Our team analyzed DHL’s existing apps in Magento, Volusion, and BigCommerce as well as the existing third party apps in Shopify. Using the knowledge and insights we gained during this process, we were able to determine what DHL Express needed for their Shopify app.


The discovery process also consisted of a feature set review, API discovery to see what was doable and what wasn’t. Because Shopify did not support dimensional weight natively, we built a custom solution to address that as well. DHL was looking for a Shopify app to handle the following:


  • Provide real time international shipping rates

  • Allow merchants to purchase shipping labels

  • Provide dimensional weight-based shipping

  • Integration with Zebra printers for label printing

  • Service as a carrier app for Shopify


The Outcome


When it was first released into the Shopify App Store, the DHL Express app quickly became popular eventually reaching 5,600 total installs. Being one of the first international carrier service apps in Shopify, it served as a demonstration for what carriers could achieve within the Shopify ecosystem. 


Carrier Service App for Shopify

DHL wanted merchants to benefit from real time rates and have those options presented to customers directly at checkout. Our development team was able to use the Shopify Carrier Service API to add shipping rates to a shop and then provide a list of applicable shipping rates at checkout. Merchants who installed the app were then able to take advantage of DHL rates within their Shopify stores. The app takes care of the complicated task of figuring out shipping costs and makes sure customers know how much they're paying for shipping before they buy.


Real-time Shipping Rates

Using the DHL Rating API, our team was able to provide Shopify merchants with a real time lookup to find the best possible shipping rates for their packages. This feature allowed businesses to provide accurate, real-time shipping costs to their customers. This enhanced the customer experience by providing transparency and reducing the likelihood of unexpected shipping costs. By integrating this into the Shopify app, merchants can manage shipping processes more efficiently.


Weights & Dimensions

The Shopify platform does not yet support dimensional attributes for items so the app needed to support these features. Using the app, customers can enter the weights and dimensions of your products. The total weight and dimensions is used to return accurate rates and any orders containing products which are missing weight will fail to return a DHL rate.


Custom Label Printing

Using ZPL (Zebra Programming Language) our team was able to develop a custom brower-based plugin to support the DHL labels. DHL wanted their Shopify app to directly support the wide range of Zebra thermal printers that are popular for shipping labels.


"I want to thank the team for all the services you have provided over the years. The Shopify app Sunrise built for us was an ecommerce pioneer in the DHL network and demonstrated the great value of supporting ecommerce platforms in the express shipping world."

Looking to the Future


DHL Express’ successful first Shopify app paved the way for native integration into the Shopify platform. This was a significant step in bolstering DHL’s investment in ecommerce, allowing the business to evolve with the world’s massive demand for online shopping.