Here, we take a look at the importance of a good shipping policy, what to include, and how to write it; including establishing your shipping rates, as well as, where to put it on your website, and some great examples of existing shipping policies. We’ve even thrown in a free shipping policy template to get you started!
In this article
What is a Shipping Policy and why do you need one?
A shipping policy is a set of guidelines – usually on your website – that details important shipping information for customers who make a purchase with you. A good policy will contain everything your customers need to know in regard to shipping options and prices, estimated delivery time, returns information, and more. Basically, everything your customer might need to know in order to make an informed purchase.
Comprehensive shipping policies are important. Every eCommerce store should have one. Not only does it create a better experience for your customers, but it also establishes trust between businesses and customers. Detailed policies improve your credibility and make customers more likely to buy from you.
Over 50% of shoppers will only buy goods online if delivery information is clear. (ReadyCloud, 2021)
Today, we’ll show you how to create a professional shipping policy, where to place it on your website, show you some great examples, and answer some of the common questions we get about them. We’re even throwing in a free template to get you started on the right track!
How to write a shipping policy for your business
Once you know what to include, writing a good policy isn’t particularly difficult. Let’s take a look at some components:
Order processing times
Customers are going to want to know how long it will take for you to process their order. For small items and orders, you should try and have processes in place that ensure all items get dispatched within a defined time frame.
Some items, such as furniture, might take a long time to process, or it might be difficult to give an exact timeframe. In this case, give your customers an estimation, but don’t overpromise. It’s much better to receive an order earlier than expected, rather than later!
Shipping options including costs
Not everyone can offer next-day delivery, but having multiple shipping options creates more flexibility for your customers and gives them a better experience shopping with you. Include shipping rates for each carrier/service, and provide an estimation of shipping timelines so your customers can choose the best shipping method for them.
You might offer free shipping to certain locations, or if a customer spends a certain amount. If so, be sure to highlight them, as it can benefit both your company and the customer!
Tip: Once an order is ready to be shipped, send your customers a shipping confirmation email. You can include all the relevant shipping details such as the estimated delivery date and tracking number.
National vs International shipping
If you offer international shipping, you should have a clear policy for both national and international orders. Overseas and local shipping options will of course differ, both in terms of shipping rates and delivery times, so it’s important to cover both on your shipping policy page.
70% of online buyers already purchase from foreign sites. (eMarketer, 2022)
For multiple international shipping options, try and cover all the countries you sell to, with details of individual shipping charges, shipping methods, and shipping processes. It can be time consuming if you sell to a lot of countries, but it’s worth it as it shows every customer you care. Similarly, if a new customer stumbles across your products and cannot find their specific country, it will likely discourage them from buying from you.
Tip: International shipping can be confusing. There’s no need to get into the nitty gritty details on your shipping policy page, all your customers need to know is how long shipping will takes, shipping fees, and return shipping information. Check out our template for examples.
Shipping restrictions often emerge due to a mix of legal obligations, carrier-based constraints, or even the intrinsic nature of the product being shipped. The inclusion of a section dedicated to shipping restrictions in your policy is extremely important.
There are strict legal regulations around certain items such as alcohol, firearms, and specific chemicals. Shipping these without the proper precautions or to prohibited destinations can lead to legal complications.
Preemptively informing customers about what items can and cannot be shipped ensures their expectations are aligned with your service capabilities. This transparency not only reduces the possibility of disputes but also fosters trust.
By clearly stating these restrictions, businesses can enhance their operational efficiency. An informed customer base results in fewer order cancellations and smoother operational flow.
Returns and exchanges
Offering returns will automatically make a customer more interested in your products. It provides a somewhat risk free way for them to buy from you, knowing that they can return the product if it’s not quite right, or if they change their mind.
Your returns policy should be clearly presented on your shipping policy page. Having a returns policy in place probably won’t have its desired effect if you give your customers a tonne of hoops to jump through to return an item, or if it isn’t clear under what circumstances an item can or cannot be returned.
Plan for Peak
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You should let your customers know how long they have to return an item, details of return shipping, and when they can expect to receive a refund once you’ve received their return.
Some businesses may opt to have an exchange policy, in addition to, or instead of, a returns policy. Whatever the case, include your exchange policy under the same heading as your returns policy.
Despite rigorous efforts to ensure seamless delivery, there are instances where packages might get delayed or even go missing. The way business addresses such situations can have lasting implications on customer relations.
Addressing lost orders transparently in the shipping policy is not just good practice; it’s a testament to a business’s commitment to its customers. Being open about the process of how missing packages are handled fosters trust and loyalty.
When addressing the topic of lost orders in the policy, businesses should describe the steps involved in investigating a missing package, which might range from liaising with the carrier to scrutinising tracking details. They should also clarify whether they offer refunds, reshipments, or other solutions when an order goes missing.
Providing an estimated timeline for resolving such issues gives customers a timeframe for expectations. Lastly, including clear contact details ensures that customers facing such issues have a direct line to seek resolutions.
Click and Collect
Some eCommerce businesses are in a position to offer a click-and-collect service on their orders. This can be beneficial to customers as it will usually be cheaper, with many companies offering free local pickup to reduce the burden of having it shipped out. It can be convenient for local customers to use click-and-collect to cut down the time it takes to receive an order.
If you offer click-and-collect, make sure to boast about it on your shipping policy page!
Similar to returns, customers will feel reassured when buying from you if you have an easy-to-understand cancellation policy. You may decide to offer free cancellations before the order has been dispatched, or before it’s begun being processed.
Whatever your cancellation policy may be, make sure your cut-off times are clearly written into your policy to avoid any confusion or resentment.
Be sure to download our template for further guidance on each of these sections.
Where to put your shipping policy
The most important thing about the location of your shipping guidelines is ensuring it’s easy to find. When building your website, you should build a specific, dedicated page before the website goes live. Here are some tips to ensure your customers don’t get stuck when searching for your policies:
- Stick it in the footer – It’s best practice to put all of your major pages in your footer. It can also improve your SEO, too, as Google will deem your website as more authoritative if it can easily find your policy when crawling your website.
- Highlight it in your banner – If you offer customer-friendly shipping methods such as free shipping, show it off on your homepage. It can be a great way to entice customers. Similarly, if you’re expecting delays in order processing or delivery, it’s important to let them know here, too.
- Feature it on your product pages – It’s not uncommon to find shipping information built into product pages. Many eCommerce sites have all the relevant information baked into the template of these pages, often broken down into different tabs. This makes it easier to have bespoke shipping information per product, too.
- Include it on your FAQ page – FAQ pages usually get a lot of footfall, so having a link to your policy on the page is a good idea. You can also highlight certain aspects of your policy through FAQs, whether that’s free shipping over a certain amount, countries you don’t ship to, or circumstances in which delays might occur.
Examples of great shipping policies
We’ve had a look through some popular eCommerce business websites and thought we’d show you some of the best shipping policies we found.
FAQs – Argos
Argos is undoubtedly a giant in the world of eCommerce, so it makes sense that they’d have a pretty comprehensive policy for shipping. One of the things we liked the most Argos’ policy is the drop down FAQ section which covers pretty much everything anyone could dream of asking about their shipping guidelines.
The power of the asterisk – GAME
Not only does GAME have a ton of delivery options to improve their customer experience, but they also put a handy asterisk next to relevant options to notify the customer that more information is available. We think this is a really nice touch to help customers find the information that is relevant to them.
International shipping – ASOS
ASOS have an extremely user-friendly set up for how they go about shipping internationally. After clicking through to delivery information from the website footer, users are immediately given their home countries’ delivery information by default.
What we really liked, though, is how customers can simply click the ‘change button’ to be given a pop up list of all the countries ASOS deliver to, and a handy search bar so users can quickly find the country applicable to them. They’ll then be shown all the relevant shipping information.
We also think the flags are a nice touch!
Quick links – DIXI
Dixi have taken steps to make their policy extremely straightforward for their customers. Rather than having their entire policy on the same page, Dixi have a list of quick links to direct customers to the most relevant piece of information for them.
Eye-catching banner – Currys
At the top of their shipping policies page, Currys have an eye-catching banner that highlights a value proposition relating to their shipping. If your business offers benefits such as free delivery, bookable delivery times, next-day delivery and so on, be sure to brag about it either on your homepage or policy page.
Shipping Policy FAQs
What is a delivery policy and is this different from a shipping policy?
A shipping policy refers to your whole fulfilment policy, including shipping, delivery, returns, exchanges, etc.
A delivery policy may not be appropriate for all businesses, however, companies that provide a specialist delivery service may include a delivery policy within their policy.
For example, if you are delivering large, heavy goods, your delivery policy might contain terms relating to the maximum distance you will deliver goods from a customer’s door or site. Similarly, if the customer isn’t home when the goods are delivered, your delivery policy may include redelivery charges, and so on.
Is it a legal requirement to have a shipping policy?
While the requirements can vary by country and region, in many jurisdictions, it is not explicitly legally required to have a separate “Shipping Policy.” However, it is considered best practice for several reasons:
- Consumer Protection Laws: Many countries have consumer protection laws that require businesses to provide clear and accurate information about the terms and conditions of sale, including details related to shipping, delivery timelines, costs, and return procedures. Having a clear policy can help businesses meet these requirements.
- Building Trust with Customers: A transparent policy can instil confidence and trust in your customers, setting clear expectations regarding shipping times, costs, and methods.
- Dispute Resolution: In the event of disputes or misunderstandings, a well-defined policy can serve as a reference point, helping to clarify the terms that both parties agreed upon.
- eCommerce Platform Requirements: Some eCommerce platforms may require merchants to specify their shipping, return, and refund policies as a condition of using their services.
Do I need a shipping policy if I use a 3PL provider?
Yes, you still need a shipping policy if you outsource your fulfilment to a 3PL provider. You should liaise with your 3PL provider to ensure they can meet the terms set out by your policy, and keep them informed should you make any changes to it.
How do I write a shipping policy for dropshipping?
A dropshipping shipping policy should include the same fundamentals as a regular one, but there are a few extra things to consider. Due to the nature of dropshipping businesses, your fulfilment times will likely be longer than average. You should make this clear on your dropshipping policy to avoid frustrated and disgruntled customers.
The second thing to consider as a dropshipping business is the timeframe of delivery for countries you get regular sales in. Obviously, shipping times will vary between countries so you should include bespoke timeframes for each country you do business in. Finally, include an exclusion list for countries that you don’t offer shipping to.
How often should I update my shipping policy?
As a rule, you should make a note to check in on it every month or so to ensure that it’s up to date with the latest information. That being said, if anything changes in between those check-ins, you should update your it to reflect the changes as soon as possible.
Common changes to review include shipping costs, shipping restrictions, free shipping thresholds, domestic shipping rates, shipping destinations, and so on.
Do I need a separate policy for domestic and international shipping?
You don’t need two different policy documents for domestic and international shipping. If you offer international shipping as well as domestic, just make sure details of each are included on your policy page. See our template for examples.
Get your free Shipping Policy template
As promised, here’s your free shipping policy template to help you get started. Remember that a good policy doesn’t need to be complex, just make sure you give your customers everything they need to know in the most convenient, concise way possible. You can always tweak and refine things as you grow and receive customer feedback.
At James and James, we help hundreds of businesses ship orders both domestically and internationally quickly and efficiently. If you’d like to find out about our award-winning technology and fulfilment service, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to chat about what we can do to help your business Scale Up.