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How To Write a Shipping Policy

Masha Komnenic CIPP/E, CIPM, CIPT, FIP

by Masha Komnenic CIPP/E, CIPM, CIPT, FIP

January 12, 2022

Build My Shipping Policy
How_to_Write_a_Shipping_Policy

Besides helping you answer customers’ questions about their orders, shipping policies can help you set proper expectations for shipping costs and times. This, in turn, will help you retain and attract more clients.

In this post, we’ll go over how to write a shipping policy for your ecommerce business correctly.

Table of Contents
  1. What Is the Purpose of a Shipping Policy?
  2. Shipping Policy Solutions
  3. What Your Shipping Policy Needs to Include
  4. Tips for Writing a Good Shipping Policy
  5. How Often Do You Need to Update Your Shipping Policy?
  6. Where to Display Your Shipping Policy
  7. Wrapping Up

What Is the Purpose of a Shipping Policy?

A shipping policy explains to customers how your business ships products. It includes information about the cost of shipping, when customers can expect to receive the orders, and what they can do if something unexpected happens.

For example, many customers have high expectations for fast delivery, so you should use your shipping policy to set realistic expectations for shipping and delivery.

Common Questions to Answer in Your Shipping Policy

Some common questions you should answer in your shipping policy include:

  • What shipping methods does your business offer?
  • How long will each shipping method take?
  • Are there any handling fees?
  • How long is your handling time?
  • Is there a specific cut-off time for when an order is considered a same-day order?
  • What constitutes a business day?
  • When does a business day start and end?
  • What are the restrictions, if any, to where you can deliver? For example, do you deliver to PO boxes? Are there certain countries or states you won’t deliver to?

Shipping Policy Solutions

Here are three ways you can create a shipping policy for your company.

Managed Solution (Recommended)

A managed solution is your easiest option and will guide you through the process of creating a shipping policy, so you don’t have to write it from scratch. All you have to do is open the tool, answer questions about your business, and wait for the platform to send you a finished version of your shipping policy.

Use Termly to Save Time on Your Shipping Policy

Here’s how you can use Termly’s generator to easily create a comprehensive shipping policy:

Step 1: Go to Termly’s shipping policy generator.

Step 2: Answer a few simple prompts and questions, and go through all of the steps until you reach “Final Details.”

Termly-shipping-policy-step-by-step

Step 3: Once you’ve filled in everything and you are satisfied with the preview, click “Publish.” You will then be prompted to create an account on Termly so you can save and edit your shipping policy further.

If you choose to use this solution, remember to answer all of the questions the tool asks you. Otherwise, your shipping policy will have incomplete sentences and clauses.

Template

If you feel like a managed solution isn’t flexible enough for you, consider using a shipping policy template to write your shipping policy. Templates come with all the clauses and language you need to get started. All you have to do is manually edit, add, and remove clauses as needed. Many templates also come with proper formatting, so you don’t have to spend hours adding, removing, or fixing cells, bullet-point lists, and other small details.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself)

Finally, you can write a shipping policy from scratch. This will take you more time, but you’ll get a policy that you can have full control of from scratch.

We know that creating a shipping policy can be difficult, so we’ve come up with the shipping policy guide below to get you started.

What Your Shipping Policy Needs to Include

What you should include in your shipping policy will depend on your industry and current state of business.

For example, suppose you’re writing a shipping policy for an international clothing retailer. In that case, you need to include detailed information about domestic and international shipping options and break down the estimated delivery timelines for each country and region you ship to.

On the other hand, if your policy is for a small essential oils shop that only ships within the US, you don’t have to include international shipping options.

In general, every ecommerce store’s shipping policy should cover the following:

Shipping Types and Rates

List out all shipping styles (e.g., standard, expedited, express, etc.) and shipping rates you offer in an easy-to-read table. Make sure to define terms like “standard” and “expedited” and list approximately how long each shipping style will take.

International Shipping Options

If you’re offering international shipping options, break down which countries you ship to and the estimated delivery timelines for each country or region.

For example, if you ship to the EU, list how long it takes to ship to each country in the EU (e.g., 15 days for Germany, 18 days for Poland, etc.).

Consider putting all of this information in a table or bullet point list, so it’s clear, concise, and easy to absorb. Here’s an excellent example by Therapy Notebooks:

therapy-notebooks-international-shipping-example

The Therapy Notebooks team has listed all of their shipping types and rates for different regions. They’ve also defined all their terms by writing how many business days each type of shipping takes.

They’ve organized their shipping rates according to location, so their customers can quickly locate the information and continue shopping. They’ve also mentioned that they calculate and collect duties and Value-Added Tax (VAT) at checkout, which many ecommerce stores often glaze over — a wise move since it shows their dedication to transparency.

Other Shipping Options

Most companies only have standard, expedited, and express delivery methods like Therapy Notebooks, but some businesses require more options.

For example, if you’re a business that sells food, you may have to include more specific delivery options since food can quickly expire, melt, or spoil.

Rheo Thompson Candies, a candy store in Ontario, Canada, has four different delivery options depending on shipping destinations:

Rheo-Thompson-Candies-4-shipping-options

Notice how detailed this company made their shipping policy. The information is shown in text as well as a chart, which helps users with different reading styles to absorb the information.

Rheo Thompson also offers curbside pickup since it has a large local customer base. So, to manage customers’ expectations and streamline the ordering process, the site outlines how customers can place orders and what they can expect after their order has been placed:

rheo-thompson-curbside-pick-up-shipping-example

Order Processing Times

Tell your customers how long it takes for you to process orders before shipping them out. If certain types of orders take longer to process, list out these types of orders and explain why they take longer.

You should also include potential service interruptions. For example, mention how long orders may take to arrive due to factors beyond your control, such as COVID-19 and seasonal weather events.

Here’s an example by ShelbyOutdoor, a retailer specializing in extreme outdoor gear and materials:

ShelbyOutdoor-delivery-delays-example

The ShelbyOutdoor team doesn’t just mention delivery delays due to COVID-19; they go above and beyond by including:

  • A link to the Posti website that explains why the delay is happening.
  • How customers can request price quotes and details by email.
  • Cost estimates for small shipments to Europe and outside Europe.
  • Limitations to shipping, such as Brexit’s influence on ShelbyOutdoor’s ability to ship their products outside the EU.
  • How they refund possible overcharges on shipping costs.
  • How and why shipments to the United States, Canada, and Australia may be delayed for weeks.

In short, ShelbyOutdoor’s shipping policy is fully transparent about why COVID-19 delays are happening and how it will impact its customers worldwide.

For an example of how you can address delivery delays due to seasonal weather conditions, let’s look at part of Rheo Thompson Candies’ shipping policy:

Rheo-Thompson-weather-shippinig-conditions

The Rheo Thompson team has carefully laid out how, why, and when orders are delayed or unavailable. For example, to ensure that their customers get their candies on time for Easter and Christmas, they’ve advised them to allow up to seven business days in advance when ordering gifts.

Rheo-Thompson-holiday-shippinig-conditions

This is a great touch since it shows that they care about their customers and want to help them reach their goals.

Shipping Restrictions

Let your customers know if there are shipping restrictions other than international shipping limits. For instance, if you can’t deliver to PO boxes and you can’t offer all shipping methods for all shipping addresses, mention this in your shipping policy like Michael’s did:

Michaels-shipping-restrictions-example

Returns, Cancellations, and Changes

Finally, your shipping policy should include how customers can request returns, cancellations, and changes. Be as detailed as possible. Break down how and when customers can return, cancel, or change their orders.

Here’s how Therapy Notebooks did it:

therapy-notebook-returns-in-shipping-policy

Tips for Writing a Good Shipping Policy

Make it easy to find

To ensure that your customers can access your shipping policy on-demand, you should put it on an easy-to-access and mobile-friendly webpage. You should also include links to your shipping policy webpage in your website footer, during the checkout process, in other legal documents, and whenever it’s necessary.

Make it easy to read

Your shipping policy should be concise and easy to read. Don’t flood your customers with information and purple prose. Instead, use simple sentences, bullet points, and tables as much as possible. You should also make your policy easy to navigate with bolded text, anchor links, clear subheadings, and links to learn more.

Set clear expectations

As mentioned above, the purpose of a shipping policy is to set clear customer expectations. As such, you need to be extremely clear about your shipping options, rates, and other shipping information. For example, if you claim to offer free international shipping, make sure you’ve accounted for surprise costs such as duties or VAT during checkout. Otherwise, your customers may not want to buy products from you again in the future.

Match your brand’s voice

Your shipping policy should match the rest of your website in terms of branding and voice. Make sure you’re using the same writing style, tone, sentence length, and tempo as the copy on the other pages of your site.

Be honest and actionable

Be honest and actionable when writing your shipping policy. Don’t hide behind double meanings. Be upfront about everything, even the negatives.

For instance, explain why customers may experience shipping delays due to COVID-19. As tempting as it may be to mention these delays in passing briefly, we highly recommend following ShelbyOutdoor’s example above.

By including links and explanations for potential shipping delays, you’ll be able to alleviate the doubts of customers as well as gain their confidence. This, in turn, will help boost cart conversion and your return on investment (ROI).

How Often Do You Need to Update Your Shipping Policy?

You should update your shipping policy every three or four months, particularly if you anticipate delays, add new shipping carriers or options, or change the way you fulfill deliveries.

For instance, if you shift from self-delivery to outsourced fulfillment, you should update your shipping policy because your shipping timelines will change.

Where to Display Your Shipping Policy

It’s important to make your shipping policy easy to locate and access. Here are a couple of places you should display your shipping policy:

In Your Website or App Footer

Customers want to be able to find answers to their questions on-demand. As such, you should include a link to your shipping policy in your website or app footer.

Nordstrom, for instance, included their shipping policy under the “Customer Service” section of their website footer:

Nordstrom-shipping-link-in-footer-example

During the Checkout Process

You should also include your shipping policy during the checkout process. Including it in this area encourages customers to read your policy and understand how you calculate shipping fees before they decide to buy.

In Other Legal Documents

You should also include your shipping policy in other legal documents, such as your privacy policy and terms and conditions. Since you’ve already covered why you collect and process addresses and other personal information in these documents, you should include links to your shipping policy to answer any questions your customers may have. This will make your website more cohesive and transparent.

You should also be conscious that shipping policies are usually associated with return policiesmoney back guaranteesno refund policies, and all sales are final policies. Therefore, if you have these policies in place, you should have them link to your shipping policy.

Whenever It’s Necessary

Finally, you should display your policy whenever it’s necessary. For instance, if you’re having a seasonal blowout sale, you can include essential shipping details to streamline your customers’ shopping experience.

Wrapping Up

Every ecommerce business needs a well-written shipping policy that lets your customers know how you ship your products. You can set and manage realistic customer expectations by revealing how you process and ship their orders. You’ll also be able to gain your customers’ hard-earned trust since having a detailed shipping policy shows that you care about their shopping experience.

Masha Komnenic CIPP/E, CIPM, CIPT, FIP
More about the author

Written by Masha Komnenic CIPP/E, CIPM, CIPT, FIP

Masha is an Information Security and Data Privacy Specialist and a Certified Data Protection Officer. She has been a Data Protection Officer for the past six years, helping small and medium-sized enterprises achieve legal compliance. She has also been a privacy compliance mentor to many international business accelerators. She specializes... More about the author

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