In the age of the “Amazon effect,” your shipping policy is a big deal. Even though you’re a small business, you’re still in some ways competing against huge ecommerce brands that can have items sent straight to a customer’s door in just a few hours.
While this level of speed isn’t possible for most small businesses, you can absolutely grow a loyal, raving customer base without it.
One of the keys lies in having clear, easy-to-find, and upfront policies around how your business works. If your products take days or even weeks to ship, your shipping policy page should manage your customers’ expectations so they know what’s in store for them.
When you do it right, your shipping policy builds stronger relationships with your customers, while also protecting your business from disputes and conflicts.
Not only that: a strong shipping policy can also save you time and money in the form of less returns, less upset customers, and less valuable resources spent handling customer questions and service tickets.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- 5 things you should include in your shipping policy
- A few shipping policy examples to get your juices flowing
- A shipping policy template you can use for free
Let’s do this.
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5 things to include in your shipping policy
Shipping policies can come in all shapes and sizes. No matter how you choose to execute, there are some basic pieces of information you need to include.
And remember: it’s critical that this page is clearly written and organized. Create section headers so customers see the important details, even if they’re skimming through.
1. Time to process and ship orders
Shipping time is a big consideration for your customers. That’s why it’s helpful to also include the time it takes for you to process an order or the time it takes to pack it up and hand it over to your shipping carrier.
It’s worth mentioning processing times because it will directly impact the time it takes to get to your customers. Let them know about anything that might delay processing, for example:
- Your business is closed on weekends or holidays
- You have a daily cutoff time for processing orders (after 6 p.m., for example)
2. Shipping costs
If you provide multiple shipping options, provide a chart that lists out all of those options. Make sure to clearly state any additional costs that might be associated with certain options. For example:
- Standard shipping (5–7 business days): Free
- Expedited shipping (2–4 business days): $25
- Rush shipping (next business day): $50
If you’re offering free shipping, include that in several places across your site (customers love free shipping!). And if there are any additional fees, like duties or taxes, clearly state those so customers don’t get an unwanted surprise.
3. Domestic, international, and local shipping options
Can you ship to other countries or are you sticking with your home country only? If you have a brick-and-mortar store location, do you offer free in-store pickup or local delivery?
Describe to where exactly you ship, if there are any extra considerations or options for your customers, and any costs associated. If you offer local delivery, be clear about your coverage area (for example: “within a 25-mile radius of our store,” or any address with certain ZIP codes).
4. Important details about refunds, returns, and exchanges
We recommend creating a separate page for your return and refund policies, but you can use your shipping policy page as another opportunity to be clear and transparent.
In both your dedicated returns and refunds page, as well as your shipping policy, include details like:
- How you’ll evaluate any requests for exchanges, changes, or refunds
- What condition the products need to be in
- The maximum amount of time after purchase or delivery that you’ll honor the return or refund policy
- Your process in case an order is lost or damaged
5. Other ways service might be interrupted
Are there any other things that can happen that might delay the time it takes your customer to receive their order? This is the place to list them all out.
For example, say that you’re experiencing certain COVID-related delays that can randomly impact shipping times. Be clear that this is a possibility and what might happen if a customer’s order is interrupted by these circumstances.
Shipping policy examples to inspire you
Looking for some inspiration for your shipping policy template? Check out these brands that have covered the basics and even added some nice finishing touches.
1. Organic Olivia
Herbal medicine brand Organic Olivia displays its shipping policy in the form of questions. This lets customers easily skim through to find the answers they’re looking for, even if they’re in a hurry.
When a user hovers over a specific question, they see the option to click, which expands the section to show the answer. This web design feature is called an accordion, and it can be a great way to display information in a simple and succinct way.
Bag and accessory brand Minaal has a beautiful shipping policy page that uses a color-coded map to quickly and effectively show customers how long shipping will take based on the area they’re having their orders sent to.
This is a creative way to get your point across fast, instead of customers having to scroll through information or try to calculate times on their own based on shipping destinations.
Minaal also clearly states other important info, like which international destinations they ship to and how they handle customs issues.
3. Your Super
Superfood brand Your Super has a clean and simple shipping policy page. The company uses several visual elements to clearly organize information and make it easy for customers to know what’s what:
- Clear section headers in bolded caps draw attention to different topics.
- Tables with brief text allow customers to see key shipping details.
- Branded green icons further separate sections and add context to a page’s content.
4. KKW Beauty
Beauty brand KKW Beauty knows that COVID-19 has impacted its shipping processes, so the company placed a special “COVID-19 Update” section at the top of its shipping policy page.
This update explains to customers how KKW Beauty “redesigned” its fulfillment and production center to make sure that everyone’s health and safety stays a priority. As a result, processing times might be delayed.
But KKW Beauty went the extra mile to implement a new item to its policy: customers can cancel their order for a full refund if their package hasn’t shipped yet. This gives customers peace of mind, knowing that they’re not “stuck” in the face of unexpected delays.
Shipping policy template you can use for free
As mentioned before, there’s no single right way to create a shipping policy. We’ve created this free shipping policy template below for you to use as a stepping stone if you like—but we encourage you to edit, add, and cut as much as your heart desires.
If your business has a fun or distinct personality, be sure to include that here too. There are no downsides to having a memorable brand.
[Note: Whenever you see text that’s italicized and inside brackets like this, it’s not meant to be part of your shipping policy. It’s a note from us with further instructions, or a placeholder for you to add your own details.]
Thanks for shipping with [your brand]! Here are the terms and conditions of our shipping policy. Please read carefully before making a purchase so you know what to expect.
Shipping and processing times
[Be clear that there’s a difference between shipping and processing, and about how long they can expect for each. Also include any potential shipping delays so customers know what to expect.]
We process all orders within three business days after the order is placed. Please note that we don’t ship or deliver orders on holidays or weekends.
In the event of a high order volume, your order might be delayed a few days. Please be prepared for this possibility as you make your purchase. In the case of any significant shipping delays, we’ll contact you using the email or phone number you provided during checkout.
Domestic shipping costs and estimates
[Include any relevant details: calculated costs versus flat rate costs, additional shipping options, etc.]
We’re happy to offer free domestic shipping on orders over $50. With standard free shipping, products are expected to arrive within seven days of placing your order, though sometimes we experience delays.
Here’s a summary of our other shipping options:
International shipping costs and estimates
[Include any relevant details: countries you do and don’t ship to, calculated costs versus flat rate costs, additional shipping options, etc.]
We also offer international shipping. We currently ship to these countries:
Here’s a summary of our international shipping options:
Additionally, international orders may incur taxes or import duties like VAT. These are incurred once the package reaches the destination country. [Your company] isn’t responsible for these charges—any incurred charges will be the customer’s responsibility.
How can I track my order status?
You can visit this link with your order number to check the status of your delivery: [Include a link to a tracking tool if you offer one.]
You’ll also receive an email notification from us once your order has shipped. This email will include a carrier tracking number you can use to check on your order. It can take up to 48 hours for your tracking info to show up.
If for some reason you haven’t gotten your order in more than 14 business days, please contact us at [your company’s customer service email]. We’ll look into it for you!
Returns and refunds policy
We offer a no-questions-asked return policy that applies for seven days after your order is delivered. Returned items must be in brand-new condition, and customers are responsible for return shipping.
In the case of lost orders, or items that are damaged upon delivery, customers are entitled to a full refund within 14 days of shipping.
For any return or exchange inquiries, please email us ASAP at [your company’s customer service email]. We address each inquiry individually, and we’ll try our best to make sure everyone is satisfied.
To learn more about how we handle returns and refunds, please visit our Returns and Refunds Policy page at [Include a hyperlink to the page].
Use your shipping policy to build a better business
To survive as an ecommerce business owner, you don’t need to offer special frills like next-day shipping. All you need to do is make sure that you’re communicating how your business works and what your customers can expect after (and even before) they place an order.
A detailed, organized, and clear shipping policy page is a foundation for building trust through transparency.
And as you can see, creating a killer shipping policy page is easier than you might think—so that’s a big business benefit for a small amount of upfront effort.
If you haven’t built your shipping policy page, or you feel like your current one could use some sprucing up, get to it!
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