Whether you're just starting an eCommerce business or you run a successful direct to consumer or B2B business, you need a shipping policy. This will let customers know all about your shipping methods and answer the most common questions they may have.
Keep reading to learn more about shipping policies, how to make one, and access a free shipping policy template.
What Is Shipping Policy?
A shipping policy is a short document or web page that details important shipping-related information regarding customer orders. It outlines things like shipping costs, order fulfillment methods, delivery times, legal requirements, and how shipping issues are resolved. It outlines things like shipping costs, order fulfillment methods, delivery times, legal requirements, and more.
Shipping policies vary based on the type of company, the products they sell, and the business model. Whether you run your own headless eCommerce website or use an online marketplace, you should create a shipping policy.
A shipping policy can be highly detailed or brief, and should be easy for customers to understand. Shipping policies often become comprehensive documents that also include information regarding returns, exchanges, FAQs, and more.
Why You Need a Shipping Policy
Shipping policies are more than just formalities, they are great tools for your sales and customer service team. They outline policies, answer questions, educate customers, and protect your company.
Here are a few ways a shipping policy helps your business:
First, it answers common customer questions. It's important to have a shipping policy for online store so your customers can find answers to common questions before placing an order. Instead of taking up your customer service team's time, the shipping policy helps them understand your order fulfillment practices (see order fulfillment meaning) and estimate the shipping cost of an order on their own before even adding products to their cart.
Second, it outlines delivery times. The length of time a shipment is in transit is one of the most important metrics for all types of eCommerce businesses. More than 50% of all customers under 25 say that same-day shipping is a major factor in their purchasing decisions, so your ability to ship quickly can win you customers in this demographic. You'll also want to express how you handle shipping delays caused by issues with a backorder or fluctuating lead times.
Third, it provides legal protection for your business. Unfortunately, you may run into legal issues regarding your shipping or products that have been delivered. By outlining your policies and practices, you can limit customers’ ability to pursue legal action and protect your brand. You should also make sure to pick up eCommerce business insurance to be safe.
What Should a Shipping Policy Include?
There are a couple elements that should be part of any shipping policy. These include standard shipping and handling times, which shipping options are available, how much each shipping option costs, which items are shippable vs. in-store pickup only, and any geographic regions your company cannot ship to. Let’s break each of these down into further detail.
Shipping and Handling Times
The most obvious factor in a shipping policy is shipping and handling times. This is the total amount of time between receiving an order and it being delivered to the customer.
It’s crucial not to over- or underestimate the time necessary to learn how to ship a package and send goods, which is a form of lead time. When your policy states two to three days for shipping and handling, customers expect it. Any more and you’ll have unhappy customers and more returns; any less and you’re likely putting unwarranted pressure.
This doesn’t mean you must have a shipping and handling time of two to three days; it means you need to be honest with customers. If your shipping and handling time is five to six business days, that’s perfectly fine. Customers now have clear expectations and won't be irate when packages take longer to show up.
Companies that understand not every customer wants to wait offer rush shipping. Any shipping service labeled Express, Rush, or Expedited promises to get packages delivered within one to two business days.
If you haven’t made one yet, a warehouse management process flow can significantly improve your shipping and handling time. A process flow is a visual chart of each of your warehouse activities, from receiving products to shipping them.
It shows what actions are taken and in what order, making it easier to streamline your workflow. In the event you discover a discrepancy or something that's slowing down shipping, you can change it to speed up your shipping times.
Available Shipping Options
Your shipping policy should also include which shipping options you offer. This includes regular shipping, express, saver shipping, and possibly an overnight shipping option.
Most businesses offer regular and express shipping because they are the simplest and least expensive. Most customers are happy with these too, as standard shipping times usually don’t go beyond two to five business days.
Standard and Expedited Shipping Costs
One of the most important things you need on your shipping policy, and the first a customer looks for, is shipping costs. Your shipping costs can make or break a buying decision, as about four in five people won’t buy something if the shipping cost is more than $10.
Try to provide the most accurate estimates on a product category or size level to avoid surprising the customer in the cart--and creating a higher cart abandonment rate. Before firming up shipping costs, organize your product inventory with a SKU generator so it's easier to estimate all shipping expenses.
Your shipping policy should clearly lay out how much it costs to ship your products. If shipping costs fluctuate in your business, that’s fine, but make sure to mention it.
An increasing amount of businesses offer free shipping, especially if a customer’s order size exceeds a predetermined threshold. The eCommerce industry has slowly molded customers’ expectations towards free shipping, meaning you should strongly consider offering it.
Make sure it’s easy for customers to locate not only regular shipping expenses, but any special or express fees. Customers don’t like it when their checkout cost increases, especially if they don’t understand why.
It’s not wrong to charge buyers extra if you’re learning how to ship large items or how to ship frozen food, but you do need to be upfront with them.
Shippable Vs. In-Store Pickup Items
Certain types of businesses--like local furniture stores or home decor shops--only ship items below a certain weight or size. While a vase can easily fit into a box, it’s much harder to do with a couch or bookcase. Learning how to ship large items in general will quickly show you what you’re willing to send in a box.
If you don’t have a list yet of products you can and can't ship, take time to learn how to measure a box for shipping. You may be surprised by how much--or little--packaging material you need.
Once you’ve determined what can fit in boxes, place items into shippable and non-shippable categories. Include these categories in your shipping policy and you’ll be off to a great start.
Since the majority of customers don’t take time to seek out your shipping policy, you need to display which products are eligible for shipping. Some eCommerce business owners have their web developer code the site to display which products can be shipped. This is done by connecting the product database to the front- end catalog of the website.
If you’re using an eCommerce website builder or learning how to build an eCommerce website, this may take a little more time. Select a website theme or builder that allows you to make custom adjustments to product pages.
Geographically Restricted Regions
Depending on which shipping or 3PL companies you partner with, certain locations may be unreachable. Some shipping companies only deliver to the contiguous US, whereas others can ship to Alaska and Hawaii too.
Still, other companies can deliver to all regions except remote rural areas. Other shipping services deliver to business and residential addresses, but not PO boxes.
Telling your customers where you can and cannot deliver is both honest and efficient. It prevents buyers from purchasing something that can’t be delivered, and it doesn't put you on the hook for excessive shipping expenses. This part is important if you run a regular dropshipping or private label dropshipping business, which means you rely on wherever your supplier is able to ship.
Need great shipping services to go with your new policy? BlueCart eCommerce has everything you’re looking for. Our built- in shipping tools consolidate the buying power of our customers to negotiate excellent rates from 60+ shipping companies.
Shipping Policy Template
Instead of starting from scratch, you can build your shipping policy using this free downloadable shipping policy template.
Once you download it, give it a look through. In this sample shipping policy, you’ll see sections for domestic and international shipping, shipping rates, and returns.
Feel free to edit the sections that you need and remove the rest. You can also easily add more information and policies as needed for your own business' shipping needs.
Don't forget to add your contact info in the footer, so your customers know how to get in touch with questions about their purchase. You'll also want to replace the logo with your own for branding and some easy, free marketing.
We're Shipping Out
Shipping policies are valuable documents that help customers understand your shipping practices and guide your customer service team. You can create your own, download our template, or use a shipping policy generator online. Just make sure to include all the information listed above to keep customers informed and maximize your chance of a sale.
If you use other eCommerce shipping companies for fulfillment, make sure you coordinate with them before creating your policy, so all information is as accurate as possible. This may be the case if you're learning how to start a subscription box business.