How To Create A Shipping Policy For Your Business
Every business can benefit from taking a closer look at their shipping policy — especially at a time when more and more consumers are going online to meet their shopping needs. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been shipping products to customers for years, or if you’re just now gearing up for online orders. This post will give you need-to-know information that makes it easy to create or tune-up your shipping policy.
Table of Contents
What Is A Shipping Policy?
Let’s start with the basics. What is a shipping policy, exactly, and why does your business need one?
A well written, clearly posted shipping policy is an important step toward the goal of meeting your customers’ expectations. It’s your chance to tell people what to expect when they order an item from you.
Here are the most important things customers want to know:
- How you’ll ship their orders
- How much shipping will cost them
- When they can expect to receive their orders
- If you will be there for them if something goes wrong
That’s it! You probably have all of that information on hand already. Creating a shipping policy requires nothing more than pulling it all together and posting it prominently on your site, where your customers can’t miss it.
Why Your Business Needs A Shipping Policy
You don’t want to lose a sale due to ambiguity, so it’s critical to create a transparent policy that boosts customers’ confidence and trust levels.
Creating clear expectations by giving customers all the pertinent information up front builds confidence in your business and increases the odds they’ll complete their purchase. Leave out any key information, and people may just pass you by and move on to one of your competitors with clear policies that are easy to find.
It’s not guesswork. The things you should include in your shipping policy are those that directly affect customers’ satisfaction. When online shoppers were asked to rank the factors that made online shopping experiences successful, these were the top responses:
- Fast shipping
- Easy delivery process
- Ample information
- Reasonable return policy
Now that you understand why your business needs a shipping policy, are you ready to start creating yours? It’s easier than you think, and there’s no better time than now to get started.
What To Include In Your Shipping Policy
Once customers arrive at your online store for the first time, what are the reasons they might be willing to take a chance on you? What things are likely to lead them to buy from you? Not surprisingly, offering a great product, at a great price, is the most important element of a shopping experience. But access to good — and inexpensive — shipping isn’t far down the list. Here’s where having a straightforward and visible shipping policy can help you turn those “browsers” into buyers.
Take away any hint of hesitation and make it easy for buyers to complete the purchase, by giving them the basics upfront including:
- Shipping Methods: List the carriers you use to send out packages.
- Delivery Time: List different options, along with their costs, for customers who might want to choose between speed and savings.
- Costs: Do you charge a flat rate per shipment or use real-time information from carriers? Is shipping cheaper for customers who hit a minimum order threshold?
- Options: Is there a way for customers to get their orders faster or cheaper? What if they have special needs, like shipment to a post office box or added signature requirements?
- Tracking Information: If your carriers provides a tracking option, let customers know to expect it and tell them how they’ll receive their tracking information.
- Returns Policy: Build trust by assuring customers they have options if their order arrives damaged or if it’s not what they wanted.
- Delivery area: Can you ship items outside the country? If so, tell customers how much it will cost and how long it will take.
How To Create A Shipping Policy In 10 Steps
Now that you know what is a shipping policy and why you need one, it’s time to learn how to create a shipping policy that fits your business. We’ll break it down into easy steps, with real shipping policy examples, so you know just what you need to do.
1. Determine Available Shipping Methods
How many shipping carriers do you work with? It doesn’t matter if it’s just one — like the U.S. Postal Service. FedEx, or UPS — or a dozen. If you ship all orders with one carrier, say so, and if you offer customers a choice, let them know.
By the way, if you haven’t looked into adding shipping software to your eCommerce website, this is the time to do so. Most shopping cart platforms allow you to integrate shipping software to your online store. That means you can take advantage of real-time shipping calculations, often from multiple carriers, and some software solutions even connect you with discounted shipping rates.
There are lots of top-rated shipping solutions to choose from, and they all hold the potential to make the process of eCommerce shipping a lot easier to handle. If you ship internationally, include that information, too.
2. Explain Timelines
“When will it get here?” That’s the top question on your customers’ minds. When U.S. consumers were asked how long they were willing to wait for online orders to arrive, 57% of them said orders should arrive within two days. That means quick is king when it comes to putting products into customers’ mailboxes.
The only thing worse than offering slow shipping is not informing customers of your shipping timeline. While it’s obviously best to get orders out the door as quickly as possible, there may be a legitimate reason why you can’t. In that case, say so. Maybe you make products, by hand, as customers place orders. Maybe you customize orders according to customer specifications. Perhaps your products are especially big and bulky and require special shipping considerations. It’s okay! Just let customers know upfront.
3. Set Prices
The second question on customers’ minds is almost as important as the first: “How much will I have to pay to get this?”
Perhaps unfortunately for small businesses, the expected answer these days is “not much” or even “nothing.” When U.S. online shoppers were asked how much they are willing to spend on shipping, a whopping 63% of them said they mostly order from online stores that offer free shipping.
Obviously, you want to meet this expectation. But you likely can’t afford the hit to your bottom line that free shipping could mean. Fortunately, you can use some smart strategies to cut shipping costs, so you meet customers expectations without taking a big hit.
Even if you determine that you can’t offer free shipping, make it clear what customers can expect to pay. If you think it will be a turnoff for them to see on the product page that they’ll be paying $10, imagine their reaction when they see that information on the order screen. Be open and honest, look for ways to lower or adjust the costs, explain why the costs are there, and trust in your product.
4. Create Exceptions
Did you know that your shipping policy can include incentives that actually encourage customers to spend more?
Whether it’s setting thresholds for free shipping, adjusting prices to account for the shipping costs you absorb, inviting customers to sign up for a special “members” benefit, or letting customers pay for the extras they want, once you understand your shipping costs, you can adjust them to incentive customers and increase sales. Don’t hide these incentives; make them clear and obvious so customers can take advantage of them.
5. Explain Options
If you offer shipping options that could affect shipping costs, mention them too. From priority overnight shipping to extra insurance, give customers choices, let them know what added fees they’ll incur, and then let them decide if it’s worth it to them.
6. List Restrictions
As much as you want to deliver every order, every time, if there are any restrictions attached to certain products that could interfere with shipping, be sure to say so. For example, you might use a carrier that can’t ship to post office boxes. Or maybe you sell some products that are age-restricted and require an adult signature.
You don’t want any surprises, because a surprised customer is sure to be an unhappy customer. So be sure to include all the information your customers need to know.
7. Offer A Cancellation Window
Once your customers hit the Buy button, what happens if they change their mind? If there’s a time when they can safely cancel, give them that information when they place the order. Don’t worry that giving them this information means you risk losing the sale. Giving a customer a safe out can actually increase customers’ confidence and increase sales.
8. Link To Your Return Policy
Now that you’re just about done creating your business shipping policy, it may be time to polish up your returns policy. That’s because the two work hand in hand to build customers’ confidence in you. When online buyers don’t have an established relationship with you, their fear of making a mistake or bad decision can keep them from buying. You know your products will wow them. So go ahead and let them know you’ll take care of them if anything goes wrong, whether that’s damage to the shipment or any missteps along the way.
Your returns policy deserves a place alongside your shipping information. Those two pieces of your business strategy work together to earn customers’ trust as well as their business.
9. Create Confirmation Expectations
If your carrier allows packing tracking, let customers know that when they order. Even better, make it as easy as you can for customers to track their shipments. If your customers expect speedy shipping, as most online shoppers do, you can have an opportunity to gain the sale by telling them that you plan to meet their expectations. You earn their trust — and other good things, like 5-star reviews and repeat business — by delivering on those promises.
Even better, you can ask for customers’ phone numbers or email addresses, in order to share tracking information with you. However you intend to share that information, let customers know when and how they can expect to receive it.
10. Make Your Shipping Policy Obvious
You’re almost done! You have all the pieces of a shipping policy. Now it’s time to put them together and let customers know.
Your shipping policy deserves a prominent place in your online store. Put a link to your shipping policy near your contact information, on product pages, and on your order page. Be sure to include the most important elements — time and cost — when customers are at checkout.
After all, you put in the work to create a shipping policy that works for your customers. Now it’s time to let that policy start working for you to build solid relationships with customers and repeat business for your online store.