Anyone involved in ecommerce will know that you need to be one step ahead of problems in order to deliver quality customer service. It’s a fact that nearly 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before purchase is complete and this is often down to a chunk of extra shipping costs being bundled onto the order at checkout. Transparency is vital to the online shopping experience, and a well-constructed shipping policy will ensure that the customer is in the know about any details that could affect their decisions.
This article will guide you through what you need to include and how to create your own shipping policy template, in order to guarantee that you keep the trust of your customers.
What is a shipping policy?
A shipping policy is information given to the customer as part of the purchasing process in any online store. It informs the buyer of all the most important details about how the goods are shipped. It should be a clear concise document that is easy to find and informs the shopper of the different shipping options available, as well as costs and shipping restrictions.
It’s different to a returns policy, but can contain information about returns. Since you can write your own policy, it’s up to you which elements you want to include in order to streamline your fulfilment process.
Why do you need a shipping policy?
Giving your customers the chance to be fully informed about the delivery details of the items they have purchased is good practice for any ecommerce business.
Being upfront about what should be expected builds trust between the retailer and customer and helps to manage the fall out should something go wrong. If you answer questions before they are asked, it saves time for both of you and this transparency contributes strongly to customer confidence. When you write your own policy, you have the freedom to create your own template, tailoring the details to ensure clarity around what you can deliver.
Important elements of shipping policy
Every ecommerce shopper will always want to know how fast a product will be delivered and how much it will cost. But there are other important elements that should also be included.
If you offer a range of shipping options, you can list them in your policy. Clearly outline estimated delivery times for each one. You may offer standard, next day or expedited delivery. The options available should reflect the product pricing. Premium shipping costs go hand in hand with premium items but not if you’re selling budget goods.
Perhaps you also offer pick-up in store and local delivery options in your fulfilment offer? List them all in a table boldly stating the length of time each one will take. Specify the number of days and be clear about whether you mean business days. Details can be broken down in further paragraphs if needed.
Even though shipping costs are calculated for ecommerce customers when they select their method at checkout, it’s still a good idea to break them down in your policy. This gives customers the chance to compare prices with other retailers when they may need to make decisions based on the amount they are spending and location of delivery. Free shipping may not be available on small orders. Is there an additional fee for delivering to certain areas? Being transparent about the shipping costs avoids any future misunderstandings and customer dissatisfaction.
Some ecommerce vendors choose to highlight how long it will take to process the order before shipping takes place. This is useful if your shipping times are taken from when the order is processed and not when the order is made, or if you have a cut off time for orders e.g. all orders placed before 3pm are processed and dispatched the same day.
If a 3PL provide part of your fulfilment, consult with them about how long it will take to pick, pack and ship the orders. Including this information in your template gives the customer realistic expectations about how long the wait will be between ordering and delivery.
In this section you should be clear about anything that you can’t do when shipping your products. You may not be able to offer the same shipping options for every item that you sell, or have limited capacity to deliver to certain locations. If you ship through a 3PL, check which companies they use and whether there are any restrictions or any extra shipping costs. Sometimes delivery to PO boxes is not included. Lay it out plainly for the customer to avoid the frustration of finding out after they have ordered.
If this is something that your ecommerce business offers, it’s worth dedicating a section of your policy template to dealing with the finer points of international shipping. As well as including fees and delivery times for different countries you may want to consider whether you sell any items that would be excluded from delivering internationally? Does your product pricing make this option nonviable?
International orders may also incur customs, duties and tax charges. If you deal with these on behalf of your customer, it is more likely to seal the deal. They can either be calculated at checkout along with the shipping costs, or by a carrier on your behalf. Break the information down for your customers in your policy.
You can let your customers know what payment methods are accepted in your shipping policy. Be clear about what types of payment you do and don’t permit in your online store; Visa / MasterCard / PayPal etc. Sometimes payment completion is delayed until the item is shipped. It’s good to explain this to the customer in the shipping policy to avoid any confusion.
When making online purchases 98% of ecommerce shoppers like to track their package for delivery times.
Explain to your customers whether they should expect a confirmation email and how they can follow the status of their order. Some pick and pack services link their technology so that buyers know exactly when their order has been packaged, labelled and dispatched.
Set customer expectations by outlining possible reasons why their delivery might be disrupted and explain how this would be dealt with. The reasons for delays may be beyond your control. COVID 19 has caused havoc with shipping as online retailers have tried to keep up with demand in difficult circumstances. Good communication can diffuse the wrath of dissatisfied customers.
Customer service and brand loyalty go hand in hand. There may be a number of reasons that customers want to get in touch. Maybe they have a question you haven’t covered in your policy. It’s possible you want to include a section for each of these in your template, but make sure you include clear contact details that shoppers can easily find. Shoppers are likely to give up on purchases if they can’t find the answer easily.
Include anything specific to your ecommerce business that your customers should be aware of in this section. This can be information about particular items or anything relevant that hasn’t been covered in other sections. If you think it might be an issue, it’s better to put it in than leave it out.
Shipping policy examples…
Saint and Sofia: https://uk.saintandsofia.com/pages/shipping-and-returns
What should your shipping policy template look like?
What you include in your policy really depends on the delivery details of your business. But here’s a suggestion of what to include in your template:
2. Domestic Shipping Policy
- Shipment methods
- Shipment processing time
- Shipping rates and delivery estimates
- Shipping restrictions
- Payment information
- Confirmation and Order tracking
3. International shipping policy
4. Customer service contact
Keeping up to date
It’s recommended that you update your shipping policy regularly. Some advise a review every few months, but it really depends on the circumstances of your own business. If you are upscaling, you may be selling new products, or employing a 3PL as part of your delivery process; amend your shipping policy. Make sure you are aware of any new legislation that affects your fulfilment offer. Keep your policy up-to-date in order to ensure complete transparency.
No surprises with a good shipping policy
Ultimately what customers want is a transparent and consistent service. Anticipate the issues and hiccups you might encounter and address them before the buyers do. Make your shipping policy noticeable and accessible from a variety of pages. You can also extract parts of the information and highlight it in other areas, like displaying urgent shipping info in your website’s banner.
When it comes to sharing information with customers, be bold.