What Is a Shipping Policy?

Introduction 

Do you run an online e-commerce store, or does your business involve delivering your products to your customers? In that case, it is important for your customers to know when they can expect to receive the products they buy.

You need to have a shipping policy that describes your shipping process and everything else your customers would like to know about the delivery of their purchased items.

There is no legal requirement for businesses to have a shipping policy. But if you wish to take your business to the next level and retain more customers, having one is crucial. This is because a shipping policy indicates transparency and can help you build trust with your (prospective) customers, especially when there is no physical contact between you and them.

Instead of keeping customers in the dark, providing answers to their likely questions about how their purchases will be delivered beforehand can help them manage their expectations. At the same time, they await their orders, creating a more positive shopping experience.

If you are ready to create your shipping policy, we have templates that you can customise to suit your needs. But before you begin, we invite you to go through this comprehensive guide, where we discuss the key components of a shipping policy,  common mistakes to avoid, and other fundamental details that could make your policy document more effective.

Key Components in A Shipping Policy

An effective shipping policy must answer crucial questions about  the essential aspects of your shipping system, including the following :

Shipping Processing Time

Customers would typically want to know how long it would take to get their orders ready for delivery after a purchase. Your shipping policy should communicate this clearly and specify a timeline in days or hours. 

If you do not process certain orders immediately, such as orders made on the weekend, you also need to let the customers know so they don’t expect such orders to be processed immediately.

Shipment Locations

Your shipping policy should specify where you serve and can deliver to. Otherwise, you could find it difficult to fufill an order if the customer lives outside your coverage area. Disappointing a customer could lead to bad reviews, which could affect your brand.

Shipping Restrictions

If you have any restrictions on your delivery process, you must state them upfront in your policy document.

 For example, if you do not deliver certain types of products to certain locations or if a product can only be delivered through a specific shipping method, you need to let your customers know to ensure that their expectations align with your shipping capabilities before they order. That way, there’s little or no room for disagreement since everyone already knows what to expect.

Estimated Delivery Times

Your shipping policy should specify a delivery timeframe within which your customers will receive their packages after processing to help them manage their expectations. Otherwise, you would need to deal with numerous calls from customers seeking information about when their products will be delivered, which could be overwhelming.

Shipping Rates

Since customers typically bear shipping expenses, it is only fair for them to know how much it would cost to get their order delivered. That’s why it is important to include the shipping rates and any possible variations in your shipping policy.

Leaving this information until a customer is about to checkout could catch customers unaware, depending on the cost, and could be a huge turn-off, leading to order cancellations. Transparency is critical here to help customers know what to expect and ensure they follow through with their orders.

Missing or Lost Packages

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a customer’s order may get missing or lost before it reaches them.  How you handle such situations can profoundly affect how your customers perceive your business and determine whether the affected customer returns in the future.

Addressing the issue in your shipping policy and letting customers know how you handle their missing orders is an excellent way to proactively show transparency and commitment. So, you’ll need to provide a detailed description of the steps you intend to take to resolve such issues, as well as the possible solutions you might offer depending on the circumstances.

Damages

If you do not deliver your products personally, you do not have control over what happens once you send a package out. Sometimes, the package may be damaged before it reaches the customer. 

Even though it was not damaged in your hands, you have a legal obligation to supply goods intact, so you may need to assume the risk/burden of damage. 

In that case, you need to include a clause in your shipping policy that lets your customers know what to do if they receive a damaged item and your approach to addressing the situation, such as whether you issue full refunds or give replacements. 

On your part, having to replace or refund for damaged goods repeatedly could affect your business finances. You might want to consider taking out insurance for this purpose or only using shipping carriers that offer insurance for damages. That way, the insurance company would bear the cost if a product is ruined before it reaches the customer.

There are other clauses a shipping policy might contain. But no matter what you include, the policy document should be adapted to fit your unique needs and business structure.

Your shipping policy should also be easy to understand for all parties so everyone is aware of their rights and obligations.

Remember, a shipping policy is a promise to your customers. So, even though there is no legal requirement to have one for your business, the terms in this policy can create an implied contract between you and your customers. If there is any dispute about the delivery of a customer’s purchase, you could be legally liable if you fail to follow your shipping policy.

As such, when drafting a shipping policy, it is important that you only promise a delivery timeline and terms that you can reasonably fufill depending on your business and update your customers if there are any changes or challenges that could prevent you from meeting your obligations under the policy.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When drafting your shipping policy, you’ll want to avoid certain mistakes, including the following:

Ambiguity and Lack of Specificity

Like every other business document, your shipping policy should be written in clear and direct language to be effective. 

Having a shipping policy that no one understands defeats the purpose of creating one in the first place. Your customers would either need to call to verify any unclear information, which would take up valuable time, or abandon their orders since there’s no clarity on how they would receive their goods after payment.

Ignoring Legal Requirements

If some legal restrictions or conditions apply to the delivery of certain kinds of products, you must ensure that your shipping policy highlights those rules/restrictions to avoid any kind of legal liability.

 For example, in New South Wales, it is an offense to deliver alcohol products to a minor or an intoxicated person. So, a business that sells and delivers alcohol within that area can only deliver their products to a sober adult. If you sell such products in that area  it would be wise to include this legal  requirement in your shipping policy to ensure your customers are aware of it and you remain on the right side of the law.

Ignoring Feedback and Adapting

Your shipping policy should be reviewed and updated at specific intervals (usually every six months). 

During such reviews, it is essential to consider your customers’ feedback on your current shipping procedures/policy and adapt them accordingly as much as is practicable.

Ignoring customers’ feedback indicates a lack of concern and can lead to dissatisfaction among your customer base. In contrast, incorporating client feedback into your shipping policy shows that you care and can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.

So, for the best results, your shipping policy should be flexible enough to accommodate feedback and adapt to new changes in the business environment.

Where Should I Display My Shipping Policy?

No matter how excellent or elegant your shipping policy is, it would be ineffective if your customers can’t find it. Therefore, you must ensure that it is displayed in accessible locations so that your customers don’t get frustrated while searching for it.

If your business is strictly online, your shipping policy should be on a dedicated page on your website. You could also consider linking the shipping policy page to strategic locations including:

  • The footer section at the bottom of your website :
  • The website banner, especially if you offer attractive packages such as free shipping
  • The FAQ section, where customers who need information about your business are likely to go
  • Product pages if your shipping policy varies depending on specific goods
  • Other legal documents on your business website such as your privacy or return policy.

If you also operate a physical store it would also be great to display copies of your shipping policy or a summarized version of it in conspicuous spots on your business premises. That way, every customer who visits your premises is aware of it.

Conclusion

A shipping policy is an important document that defines a business’ shipping or delivery processes for the benefit of its customers. 

This crucial document can help you build trust with your customer base and is a must must-have for everyone whose business involves the delivery of their products outside theis premises.

In this guide, we covered the essentials of shipping policies by explaining

  • The essential components of an effective shipping policy and 
  • Some common mistakes to avoid when drafting your shipping policy.
  • Where to display your shipping policy.

Still, we understand that preparing a shipping policy on your own may be difficult because of all the details you have to consider.  So we’ve created a comprehensive shipping policy template that you can adapt to suit your business needs and make things easier.

Contact us at Lawpath if you’d like to explore this option, and let us provide you with all you need to create a solid policy document to improve your business.

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