But inquiries can add up and eat up a large amount of your time. At the same time, you need to show your customers that you care about their shopping experience.
This is where a shipping policy comes in.
Having a clear, detailed shipping policy helps you set and manage customer expectations by communicating how you process and ship their orders. It also reduces the time you (and your staff) dedicate to answering the same questions over and over so you can focus on what’s important: running (and growing) your business.
Whether you’re sprucing up your existing shipping policy or creating a brand new one, we’ve put together a few tips to help you communicate the right details—along with a customizable shipping policy template to get you started.
What is a shipping policy?
A shipping policy is a concise, but thorough document for your ecommerce business that highlights important shipping information when an order is placed online. It includes details on expected delivery times, shipping costs and methods, payment, tracking information, shipping restrictions, international shipping, and more.
This policy shouldn’t be confused with a returns policy, which lets customers know their options after they’ve received their order and want to return it.
Some shipping policies are more detailed than others. But overall, any policy should be clear, current, and easy to read.
It’s always a good idea to update and adjust this policy from time to time as you take into account customer feedback or if your business operations change.
Now, we get it. You’ve got tons of things to do, and creating a shipping policy can be time-consuming. But since it’ll save you lots of headaches, as well as time, in the long run, putting the hours in now will be well worth it.
Why your online store needs a shipping policy
Online shoppers are savvy and will expect information on shipping costs and delivery times before going through with their purchase. You’ve probably experienced this: you find an item on sale, get to checkout and see the unwanted surprise that shipping’s going to cost you $8. Suddenly, that item doesn’t seem like such a good deal after all and you abandon your cart, never to return (at least, not for a while!).
So you can see that not having a clearly visible shipping policy, or having one that’s outdated, could be costing you money.
There are plenty of other benefits to proactively communicating a well-thought-out shipping policy on your website, including:
- It lets customers know how much it’s going to cost them upfront and avoids surprise charges on their bill.
- It protects your business should any shipping issues arise, like damaged or delayed products.
- It can help minimize customer service complaints.
- It saves you time, since customers can find the information they need themselves rather than needing to go through your support channels.
- It sets customer expectations with realistic delivery times (i.e., next-day delivery, two-day shipping), whether they’re local, national, or international.
7 key details your shipping policy should include
While your shipping policy will depend on the nature of your product, the needs of your customers, your fulfillment process, and more, there are certain details that you should always include:
1. Shipping costs
Explain your shipping costs, which will vary based on the package’s destination, size of order, and other factors. You can also offer shipping options (standard delivery, express, or rush orders, etc.), depending on how soon they’d like to get their order and how much they’re willing to pay.
2. Shipping methods and delivery times
Identify which carrier you’ll use and what their processing and delivery times are like. If you ship with a few different carriers, list each option so customers can choose the one that works best for them.
3. Shipping restrictions
Add any shipping restrictions, such as delivering to certain regions or P.O. boxes. Sometimes, local laws or state legislation may prevent specific products from being shipped to certain destinations. Be very clear on what restrictions exist.
4. Missing packages
Tell customers how to find your contact information and offer directions on how to report a missing package.
5. Return policy information
Build trust with shoppers by being clear about your refund policy and any return shipping costs. When buying online, customers want to be reassured they have options if they aren’t satisfied with the product they bought. Add details about the customer’s return window (i.e., 30 days after receiving the product), how to initiate a return, and how long it will take to get a refund.
6. Local shipping
Offering local delivery or store pickup can be a good way to remove shipping costs for customers. Show the area your local delivery covers so customers can easily check if they’re eligible based on their address. List your pickup location and embed a map, if possible. You can also include how long it’ll take to prepare their order, and when and how they can pick it up.
7. International shipping
When shipping to international areas, it’s important to tell customers the international shipping costs they’ll incur based on their destination. In an easy-to-read table, list the countries you ship to, the carrier(s) you use for each country, estimated delivery times, and who’s responsible for customs, duties, or taxes.
How Bench can help
If you’re creating a shipping policy to save time that you’d have otherwise spent answering customer-related questions, you might be interested in saving time on other tedious tasks—like bookkeeping.
As America’s largest bookkeeping service, we work with thousands of other ecommerce merchants, and we’re experts at producing accurate, reliable, and tax-ready financials.
We can track your numbers for you, saving you time and a whole lot of uncertainty. If you need a little more support, our extended financial services include unlimited tax advisory services and tax strategy planning. We’ll even file your taxes for you!
Building your business has its challenges. But you don’t have to give up valuable time and energy to focus on QuickBooks or Excel spreadsheets. Instead, you can worry about the parts of your business that need you the most, and leave the financials to us. Find out more about how Bench works.
Sample shipping policy template
There’s no single right way to create a shipping policy. It can be as simple or as detailed as you like. Here, we’ve created a shipping policy template, along with some tips to help you understand how to customize each part. We encourage you to adapt the information to your business.
Thank you for shopping at [your business]. Here are the terms and conditions of our shipping policy. Please read carefully before making a purchase so you know what to expect.
Processing and shipping times
TIP: It’s important to let customers know that order processing times are separate from the shipping times they see at checkout. Also include any related information, like potential delays due to a high volume of orders or delivery problems outside of your control.
We process all orders within [X business days] after the order is placed. Standard shipping typically takes between X to X business days for destinations within the United States. If we’re experiencing a high order volume, there may be a shipment delay of a few days. Additionally, nationwide and global shipping delays (such as those caused by COVID-19, holiday shipping volumes, or extreme weather) may impact your estimated delivery date. In the case of any significant shipping delays, we’ll contact you using the phone number or email you provided at checkout.
Domestic shipping costs and estimates
TIP: Include any relevant details: calculated fees versus flat rate fees, additional shipping options, etc.
You can also emphasize any free shipping thresholds you offer (e.g., free shipping for orders over $75). If you offer multiple shipping options, list carriers, prices, and delivery times in a table.
We offer free domestic shipping on orders over $75. With standard free shipping, expect products to arrive within X days of placing your order, though sometimes we experience delays.
Here’s a summary of our other shipping options:
TIP: If you have a brick-and-mortar store and offer free store pickup or local delivery, explain your process to local customers. You can list the ZIP codes you service and/or embed a map so customers can easily check if they’re within the range you deliver to.
Free local delivery is available for orders over $X within [area of coverage]. For orders under $X, we charge $X for local delivery.
Deliveries are made from [delivery hours] on [available days]. We’ll contact you via text message with the phone number you provided at checkout to notify you on the day of our arrival.
Take advantage of no shipping fees with free local pickup at [list the store locations where pickup is available].
When you place an order and select local pickup at checkout, we will prepare your order and have it ready for pickup within X to X business days. We’ll send you an email when your order is ready with directions.
Our store pickup hours are [store hours] on [weekdays you’re open]. Please have your order confirmation email with you when you arrive.
Shipping to P.O. boxes
TIP: Some carriers have restrictions on shipping to P.O. boxes. Look into your carrier’s P.O. box policy and communicate it to customers clearly in this section. It can be helpful to clarify both where you will ship orders and where you won’t.
Shipping is available to P.O. boxes, Army Post Offices, Fleet Post Offices, and Diplomatic Post Offices within the continental United States.
International shipping costs and estimates
TIP: Include the countries you do and don’t ship to (if relevant). If you offer several international shipping options, you can include them in a table as an option. You can also add delivery timelines (e.g., X to X days) for international shipping as expectations can vary depending on the destination.
We currently ship to these destinations around the world [include list of countries here].
Here’s a summary of our international shipping options:
Your order may include taxes or import duties like VAT, which are incurred once the package reaches the destination country. We’re not responsible for these charges if they’re applied. Any incurred charges will be the customer’s responsibility.
How do I check the status of my order?
TIP: If it’s possible, include a link for customers to track the status of their order.
Once your order has shipped, you’ll receive an email notification from us. It will include a tracking number you can use to check on your order. Please note, it can take up to 48 hours for the tracking information to appear.
If you haven’t received your order within X days of getting your shipping confirmation email, please contact us at [your company’s customer service email] with your name and order number, and we’ll look into it for you.
Returns and refunds
TIP: Include a summary of your return and refund policy. Add a link to your full return and return policy page.
We accept returns up to X business days after delivery of your order. Returned items must be unused and in their original condition. Customers are responsible for return shipping fees.
In the case of lost orders, or items that are damaged upon delivery, customers are entitled to a full refund within X business days of shipping.
For any return or exchange inquiries, please email us ASAP at [your company’s customer service email]. We address these on a case-by-case basis, and we’ll try our best to make sure you’re completely satisfied.
To learn more about how we handle returns and refunds, please visit our Returns and Refunds Policy page at [Include a hyperlink to the page].
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [your company’s customer service email].