Shipping Policy Guidelines
Updated: Jul 12
Customers are expecting fast, free and reliable shipping from their e-commerce sellers. E-sellers need to make sure their shipping process exceeds their customer's expectations to guarantee customer retention. It is important to be transparent about speed and visibility when your customer purchases when it shows up at their front door. Remember, it is important to build trust with a customer and meet their expectations. That starts with a well-thought shipping policy.
A Shipping Policy is a specific document or webpage that outlines critical information about shipping for online orders. The policy will usually include shipping costs for the consumer, returns and exchange policies, and comprehensive resources for customers before or after purchasing.
Why do you need a Shipping Policy?
A shipping policy relays information to online shoppers in an upfront and effective way. It informs the consumer before they check out to keep their expectations and reality in line. Additionally, it puts your company in a proactive position.
Inform Customers of Shipping Costs and Options
Unless your business offers free shipping with no minimums, it is essential to have shipping costs carefully outlined. To make it easier on yourself and your company, we suggest creating flat shipping rates based on 5-7 business dates, expedited, overnight, and two-days shipping. Remember to specify local or internal shipping methods and how they can affect pricing. Additionally, if customers can choose their preferred carrier during the checkout process, it will be essential to identify the costs associated with each carrier.
Keep Customers Informed on Delivery Times
It is important to highlight when a consumer will receive their package. Imagine if a customer has purchased something for a birthday and chooses three-day shipping, assuming it will arrive three days in time for the birthday, but in reality, it was three business days shipping. In fact, it took five days to arrive at their doorstep, and they missed the birthday. Note, we understand that *technically* it should be the consumer's fault for waiting for the very last minute to get a gift, but the responsibility falls on the business at the end of the day. An unhappy customer may ask for the shipping price to be refunded, or worse, to refund the cost to the total order. Keep your company safe from incidents such as this by being as specific as possible in your policy. Stop something like this happening before it happens.
#ShipTip: Consider including shipping cutoff times (especially holiday shipping deadlines), transit times, and how long it will take to ship internationally.
Provide your Company Protection
As mentioned in step two, a shipping policy is for your consumer and your company's protection. The more detailed your shipping policy is, the better. It will provide customers with both answers and peace of mind.
What Should Be Included in a Shipping Policy?
When it comes to shipping costs, transparency is vital. As previously suggested, a flat shipping rate policy is one of the most straightforward solutions for both the company and the consumer. When a consumer can rely on a flat rate price no matter the order size, weight, or shipping zone, your company becomes more reliable. Note that it is best to segment costs for local and international shipping.
Methods and Delivery Times
When outlining specific shipping methods and delivery timelines, be clear about which carriers you use. Understanding the carrier options helps clarify to the customers how quickly they should expect their delivery order.
Shipping restriction policies can differ significantly from company to company. Restrictions are often based on zone, weight, and seasonality. Do your research before claiming to have these policies, and be as specific as possible.
Lost or Missing Package Policy
Dealing with lost or missing packages is why it is crucial to have business insurance. While the customer won't and should not know this, most carriers and companies will work out whose insurance is at fault and pay for the missing or stolen package, but consumers will want to see if they can get it. Not every customer will ask for a refund on their missing package, but plenty will. If you can be upfront from the beginning about your policy, you become liable for less if things go array.
Internationally shipping can be costly and hard to do. Companies will often open up free shipping to customers outside of their country, but this comes at a hefty price for the business. Ensuring your international customers understand any additional costs and delivery timelines will help keep your order management running smoothly.
Return and Exchange Information
Having a transparent return and exchange policy creates a feeling of security for your customers. When making purchases, it's crucial for the buyer to feel confident that what they are buying is true to representation. You do not want to get caught in a situation where a consumer is confused about your return policy. Without a clearly outlined guarantee, customers may become suspicious and avoid purchasing.
When all else fails, and a consumer is left angered or confused with their order, having a clear customer service contact helps avoid further upsetting the buyer while creating a sense of authenticity and transparency within your company. The customer service contact can be a phone number, live chat, or an email form that they fill out (typically outlining a return email in 2-3 business days). Buyer retention is achieved by the customer feeling that their time and questions are valued. No matter the option, by including a customer service infrastructure within your shipping policy, customers know what they can expect from the company and how both parties can work together successfully.
A successful shipping policy should map out which types of shipping services are offered, how much each service costs the consumer, the average shipping time estimation, and when they expect their items to be shipped. It can also include which carriers your store uses, your return policy if you ship internationally, a specific international shipping policy, and any other pertinent information. You can never be too specific.