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Shipping Policy Best Practices

September 12th, 2016

SDC Blog Ecommerce Shipping PoliciesClearly laying out shipping policies on your ecommerce website helps your customers better manage their expectations and helps your position as the seller should there be a dispute. Here are tips to help ensure all shoppers understand your ecommerce store’s shipping methods, options and timelines.

– Start fresh and be clear. Although it may be tempting to cut and paste another store’s policy or direct language from your preferred shipping carrier, it’s important to customize your policies. Keep in mind, also, that although you’ve taken the time to educate yourself about the ins and outs of shipping, your customers usually haven’t. Stay away from industry jargon and work to use language anyone can understand. At the same time, avoid peppering your policies with stern absolutes or language that may feel threatening to shoppers, such as “you must.”

– Resist temptation to inflate shipping costs. Yes, you can account for handling and packaging costs, but shoppers are wary of prices that seem out of line with the competition’s. Building a strong customer base is just as important as adding a few extra dollars to the coffers.

– Consider shipping promotions. Sending out a free shipping code to customers every so often, offering limited-time free or reduced shipping, or throwing in free shipping for large orders helps shoppers develop loyalty to your store.

– Be realistic about timelines. Once you choose your shipping methods, lay out the timelines and costs. If you would like to offer expedited or less expensive options as well as your standard shipping choice, be sure to include those terms too.

– Make your return policy easy to find. Don’t hide this information, because many shopping decisions are dependent on return options. Put a prominent link to your policy on your home page and consider putting the link on banners and product pages, too.

– Explicitly explain returns. Being upfront now will save you hassles down the line. Make sure you take into account any differences in policy due to personalized or seasonal items, the acceptable timeframe for returns, and whether you will offer a refund, replacement or store credit.

– Account for delays. If your product takes extra time to produce (such as custom orders) or properly prepare for shipping, be sure to state that upfront. This goes for potential holiday delays and international shipping, too.

– Be accountable. Obviously, if you ship the wrong product or the customer receives damaged merchandise, promptly make it right—even if you cut into your profit margin to do so.

– Offer tracking. Automated updates are easy to set up with services like Stamps.com, and offer your customers peace of mind. However, if you sell certain high-cost or high-risk items, be aware of a growing criminal movement that redirects these shipments depending on carrier policies. Of course, you will want to communicate with your customers if their transactions fall in this category and explain your actions.

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