Understanding Shipping Policy in E-commerce

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One of the effective ways to increase e-commerce businesses’ order volume is to develop trust with online shoppers. A great way to accomplish this is by developing a shipping policy. Having a shipping policy in place is regarded as an e-commerce best practice and must be included in your shipping strategy. The following article discusses the importance of shipping policy to e-commerce stores, its components, and more relevant information.

What is a Shipping Policy?

A shipping policy is a succinct document or webpage outlining critical information about order shipment. In other words, it defines several rules set by an online retailer on how orders should be shipped to the customer. It contains details about shipping methods, shipping costs, delivery time, shipping destination, order tracking information, return, and more. Other details include international and domestic shipping speed options and estimated order processing time.

A shipping policy can be detailed, but as an e-commerce business, it is essential to include accurate information in an easy to understand format. Certain shipping policies include additional information like a return and exchange policy. This kind of policy serves as an all-inclusive resource for customers before they make a purchase. 

Why Does Your E-commerce Store Need a Shipping Policy?

Including a shipping policy in an e-commerce store comes with various benefits. Some of them include keeping customers informed before checkout, answering their shipping-related queries, and helping customers adopt a proactive approach to solve shipping issues that may arise. Let’s understand the need for a shipping policy in an e-commerce store.

Inform customers of shipping costs and options

Typically, online shoppers search for a shipping policy to know how much it will cost them upfront, based on their location. An effective shipping policy keeps customers updated about shipping costs and the various shipping options available before ordering.

Specifying shipping costs and shipping methods clears customers’ confusion on how much they will be charged for each shipping method.

The purpose behind displaying shipping costs and various shipping methods is to protect your e-commerce business from customers who are likely to leave a complaint. Another important purpose is to save time rather than each customer having to inquire through the support channel(s).

Inform customers of delivery times

Fast delivery is the common expectation of online shoppers. It is necessary to keep customers informed about accurate delivery times to meet their expectations. In addition to including the available shipping options, your shipping policy must also include cut-off shipment times (specifically delays or holiday shipping deadlines), shipping duration, and the time required to ship international orders.

Provide protection on your company’s behalf

In addition to shipping details, the online brand may also provide other details like product damages, return policy, exchanges, and global shipping targets. If more details are included, it will ensure more protection on your company’s behalf. Moreover, it provides peace of mind for you by providing answers to customers’ queries upfront.

What Your Shipping Policy Should Include

A shipping policy must concisely include vital shipping information that your customers must be aware of. Some of the core elements of your shipping policy must include details like the anticipated delivery duration, shipping expenses, shipping methods, shipping limitations, payment and tracking statistics, and details about international shipping.

Domestic Shipping Rates and Estimates

The detailed representation of the shipping costs allows customers to analyze and compute total costs before shipping. Mentioning the shipping costs is significant for international customers who might not be eligible for certain offers like free shipping. The international shipping charges may significantly differ among retailers owing to a rise in carrier charges and other factors. Hence, there must be an accurate demonstration of shipping costs ahead.

Local Delivery

It is vital to list out various shipping methods and the expected delivery schedules for each method. The shipping methods and the corresponding delivery times are often shown in tabular form; where one column shows the various shipping methods (like express or standard shipping) and another column shows the anticipated processing duration.

In-store Pickup

You may provide local shipping options like in-store pickup, online purchase, or local delivery. When offering any of these options, you can mention the steps your customers have to follow after ordering and also mention your local delivery process.

International Shipping

In the case of international shipping, you need to mention a statement specifying the person accountable for import and customs duties. It is vital to demonstrate your international shipping policy by mentioning the carrier that handles international shipping and the one who looks after international charges/taxes/additional fees.

When considering international shipping choices, it is important to list out  the countries you are shipping to, along with the expected delivery time for each region. For example, if your company ships to Asia, the shipping policy must mention the time required to ship to each country (like 10 days for India, 14 days for Afghanistan, etc.). Organizing all information in bullet points or a tabular format makes it easier for your customers to read or skim through.

How to check the status of an order?

The moment your order gets shipped, you will get an email from the particular shipping company. This email will contain a tracking number that will help you check the order status. Make sure to wait 48 hours for the tracking information to be available.

In case you haven’t got your order delivered within the agreed deadline, you can contact the support team of that particular shipping company via email. Ensure that your email includes your name and the order number.

Shipping to P.O. Boxes

Certain carriers levy limitations when shipping to the P.O. boxes. If one of your shipping carriers belongs to that group, you must go through their shipping policy and communicate the same to your customers. Ensure you mention the P.O. box number in the space of the street address.

When shipping to a P.O. box, remember that the address mentioned above should be the P.O. box address and not the physical address. Similar to any shipment, you must specify the recipient’s first and last names, the company name (if required), the country, and the city.

Refunds, Returns, and Exchanges

The shipping policy usually mentions the number of days (X days) until they accept returns after delivery. If the ordered item is intact and unused, the shipping company will refund the total order amount, excluding the shipping charges for the return. If your order arrives in damaged condition, make sure to email the shipping company at the earliest via its support email id. The email you send should include your order number and a photo of the product’s condition.

Several online stores showcase a return and exchange policy on the mentioned shipping policy page. The shipping policy page includes details like the expected time for processing a return and the criteria in which they are eligible for a complete refund.

The shipping policy page must include details on how you manage to ship specifically for returns and exchanges

If your business offers shipping service as a subset of the returns process, for example, if a money-back guarantee is supported, you can combine both these shipping policies into one policy.

From the perspective of refunds, returns, and exchanges, your shipping policy should answer the following questions:

  • When are returns acceptable?
  • Who reimburses for return shipping?
  • How can a customer obtain a refund?
  • How can a customer exchange a product?
  • How much time will it take for the shipping returns and refund procedures to appear in the customer’s bank? 

Shipping Restrictions

The shipping policy must showcase any shipping restrictions, like shipping to specific countries or P.O. boxes. Occasionally certain state legislations may prevent specific products from being shipped to some locations. Make sure to be clear on the shipping restrictions and who would be influenced by them.

Missing or Lost Packages

A package may get lost or turn into a delivery exemption due to several reasons. Most of the time, it is difficult to track down lost or missing packages. To ensure peace of mind, customers must be guided on the actions that need to be taken when a package gets lost. One of the best ways to guide customers for this is to present contact information and instructions on how to report lost or missing packages.

Where to Communicate Your Shipping Policy to Customers?

Shipping policies must be present in places where customers are more likely to need more information while considering a purchase. This ensures that customers find shipping-related information without having to navigate elsewhere. 

The following section describes the areas where you can communicate your shipping policy while customers place an order.

Website announcement bar

Plenty of online stores dedicate their website banners to including priority shipping-based information. The information can be incentives on shipping prices, disclaimers regarding expected delays, or alternate shipping options (for example, local delivery).

When the order volume is high or you expect shipping delays, one of the best ways to ensure transparency is by communicating the shipping policy via your website announcement bar. Such banners usually show up in the uppermost section of an online store.

A link in your website footer

Usually, customers first look at the website footer when searching for your shipping policy. Make sure the website footer contains the shipping policy’s webpage link and other links to use the customer support. Including only the shipping policy’s webpage link is enough. You can include the shipping page in the website’s dropdown menu so your customers can find it easily.

The website footer is usually the first place customers look at when searching for your shipping policy. Hence, placing your shipping policy there is beneficial. Moreover, you can incorporate the shipping page into the website’s dropdown menu to let customers easily find it.

Product page

When customers browse through your product pages, they usually have some shipping-related queries. The product page is another important location on your website where shipping-related policies can be conveyed. You can explain free shipping offers or include a distinct product page tab to explain shipping information comprehensively.

FAQ page

The FAQ page allows you to brief your shipping policy alongside other common queries that customers may have. The FAQ page is an ideal place to emphasize your shipping policy’s aspects like free shipping limit or return policies.

Delivery option labels

Though not always mandatory, you can designate your shipping options to highlight delivery time. Therefore, customers can comfortably choose the most suitable delivery option. Including delivery, option labels is valuable if you provide delivery deadlines of up to a week and want to decrease the number of customers approaching customer service to ask about the orders.

How Often Should I Update My Shipping Policy?

You must update your shipping policy once every 3-4 months. It is necessary to keep your shipping policy updated if you expect delays, add new shipping options/carriers, or modify how you meet deliveries. For example, if you transit from self-delivery to outsourced fulfillment, it is mandatory to update your shipping policy since your shipping timeframe will alter.

Conclusion

The shipping policy keeps customers updated on all crucial information about their order delivery. It guarantees that both you as well as your customers are on the same page to avoid confusion. Moreover, it reveals the shipping process that helps you frame and handle your customer’s expectations.

Being upfront and transparent when defining expectations ensures customers can trust and purchase from you. Moreover, during an unforeseen situation when shipping, your business processes may alter. Having your shipping policy in place assists you in maintaining a good relationship with your customers.

FAQs

Why establish your shipping rules?

  1. Your shipping policy sets up the rules for your shipping & delivery systems. Customers must be provided with this information upfront so that they can determine whether to make a purchase or not. The shipping policy for example allows customers to decide a channel they use from the following options:
  • Airmail
  • Standard mail
  • Dropshipping
  • Pick-up only
  • Store delivery

What are the benefits of having a concise shipping policy?

i. Keep customers informed on shipping costs and options – The shipping policy depicts the cost of shipping and the supported methods. So, it protects your business from customers who are likely to register a complaint about shipping charges.

ii. Inform customers on delivery schedules – The shipping policy indicates shipping transit time, cut-off time, and time it may take to ship the global orders.

iii. Provide comprehensive shipping information – In addition to the key shipping info, customers may require details about returns, exchanges, item damage, etc. Also, these details make sure customers can entrust the shipping service and will not devalue the company’s

What mistakes to avoid when creating an e-commerce shipping policy?

i. Don’t ‘copy and paste’ – Make sure you never copy and paste other companies’ shipping policies because it makes your service unreliable.

ii. Don’t scare off customers – In your shipping policy, the usage of intimidating phrases like ‘we shall not be responsible in any way’, ‘not our responsibility, ‘must’ etc. may push away potential customers. Remember that your shipping policy must be easy to understand.

iii. Plain and concise – Make sure to use simple language instead of complex terms and words. The aim is to make customers easily understand your shipping policy.

What is the goal of a return policy?

A return policy aims to highlight essential requirements like when, how, and under which circumstances customers can return their purchased items. It also demonstrates that your business cares about its customers. Moreover, it protects your business against fake returns. 

How to write a good shipping policy?

i. Easy to find – You must place your shipping policy on a mobile-friendly and easily accessible webpage. This helps customers to easily access it when required.

ii. Simple to read – Make sure to use simple language, short sentences, tables, and bullet points.

iii. Convey your brand’s goal – Your shipping policy should maintain integrity with your whole website and must also be in line with your brand’s voice.

iv. Be authentic and actionable – Make sure details in your shipping policy do not have negative aspects. Ensure that your shipping policy is straightforward.

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