“How much will shipping cost?”
“When will my order arrive?”
Some of the most common questions you get as a store owner will inevitably be related to shipping.
A well-thought-out shipping policy not only helps you proactively set the right expectations around shipping times and costs, but it also becomes an asset whenever customers come with questions about their orders.
Your shipping policy is a living document for your business, one that you update and adjust as your operations and circumstances change—especially when the unexpected forces you to adapt.
Whether you’re creating a new shipping policy from scratch or updating your existing policy to curb customer support inquiries, we’ve put together this resource to help you cover and communicate the right details—with a template to get you started along with examples you can borrow ideas from.
What your shipping policy should include
What you cover in your shipping policy and how you communicate it will be highly dependent on your current business operations and supply chain. The goal is to be transparent with customers.
As 2020 brings unforeseen shipping delays and increased carrier costs, it’s more important than ever to keep your shipping policy up to date with the following key points in mind:
- Essential shipping details are easy to find. While it is common practice to keep a link to your shipping policy page in the footer of your website, consider how you can also surface important shipping details in the right place at the right time (e.g. on your product page or website banner).
- Clear and concise presentation. Don’t make customers comb through your shipping policy page for the information they need. Whenever possible, make it easy to navigate with clear subheadings, tables, bolded text, and links to learn more.
- Order processing times. After an order is placed, how many days will it take to get it ready to ship? It’s worth communicating if you’re excluding weekends and/or holidays, and if you have certain cutoff times for processing orders (e.g. orders received after 5pm will be processed the next business day). If changes occur within your supply chain, due to peak periods or as a result of COVID-19, you should update your processing times to reflect it.
- Domestic and international shipping options. What are the qualifying regions for your domestic shipping options? International shipping can be broken down in its own section where you list the countries you ship to and estimated delivery timelines. If you offer several shipping options, you can list them in a table so the information is easy to scan.
- Shipping costs. Break down your shipping costs for the customer. If you have a free shipping threshold, you can communicate in various places as an incentive for customers. Any potential surprise fees should be surfaced too, such as duties and taxes the customer may incur.
- Local delivery and buy online, pickup in-store. If you offer local shipping options, such as local delivery or buy online, pick up in-store, you can explain the steps customers will need to follow after ordering and clearly communicate your local delivery coverage.
- Transparency around returns, changes and cancellations. On top of accommodating returns through a dedicated return policy, you can also summarize how your business evaluates refunds, order edits, exchanges, and what your process is in the event of a lost or damaged order.
- Potential service interruptions. Orders may take longer to arrive due to variables outside of your control. Your shipping policy page is where you can communicate approximately how much longer and explain to customers why.
It is not uncommon to update your shipping policy every few months, especially whenever you add new shipping options or carriers, expand your fulfillment network, or anticipate delays.
Shipping policy page examples you can learn from
The following shipping policies can serve as examples of some of the ways you can formalize your own policy on your online store. We’ve included various shipping contexts so you can see how different circumstances translate into different policies.
A shipping policy geared towards local customers
Due to the pandemic and social distancing safety precautions, many brick-and-mortar stores have embraced local shopping through local delivery and buy online, pickup in-store shipping options.
These local options each come with their own unique set of steps that must be clearly communicated to ensure a smooth customer experience.
As an example, Merchant of York, a store that sells home goods and houseplants, started prioritizing local sales amidst the pandemic and has updated its shipping page with clear bullet points about how each option works.
The store provides the approximate timing of when local deliveries will arrive and establishes a window of availability for when orders can be picked up.
If you’re relying heavily on business from your local customers, you can also list the ZIP/postal codes you service, or borrow inspiration from Storyteller Beverages and embed a map on your shipping page to communicate your local delivery ranges visually.
Breaking your shipping policy down over multiple pages
Billy! is an apparel and accessories brand that splits its shipping policy across multiple shipping pages. Their main shipping page is designed around the needs of the majority of their customers in a simple two-part FAQ. But this page also links out to supporting pages where customers can get more details about order processing and international shipping.
Using tables to clearly communicate shipping options and expectations
In some cases, such as if your products are frequently purchased as a gift or for an event, delivery timelines need to be made especially clear for the customer. Timely arrival is paramount to customer satisfaction.
Kigurumi, a company that sells animal onesies, is one such business, and they break down their delivery timelines by states for both their standard and priority shipping options.
A shipping policy template to help you create your own
Every shipping policy is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But this template should help you design your own.
We highly recommend you do not use it as is. Instead, cut, adapt, expand, or rearrange the following sections to suit your business’s unique needs. If you want to learn more about building your shipping strategy, check out How to Choose an Ecommerce Shipping Strategy.
Text that is italicized and bolded like this is meant to provide guidance on how to approach each section of the template. You can delete it from the template when you copy it.
It’s important to start by clarifying to customers that your order processing times are separate from the shipping times they see at checkout.
All orders are processed within X to X business days (excluding weekends and holidays) after receiving your order confirmation email. You will receive another notification when your order has shipped.
Include any other pertinent information towards the beginning, such as potential delays due to a high volume of orders or postal service problems that are outside of your control.
Domestic Shipping Rates and Estimates
For calculated shipping rates: Shipping charges for your order will be calculated and displayed at checkout.
For simple flat rate shipping: We offer $X flat rate shipping to [list countries].
You can also emphasize any free shipping thresholds you offer (e.g. free shipping for orders over $75). For multiple shipping options, you can list carrier options, prices, and delivery times in a table.
Estimated delivery time
X to X business days
X to X business days
X to X business days
If you offer local delivery or in-store pickup to customers in your area, you can dedicate a section of your shipping policy page to explain the process or create a separate shipping page specifically for local customers.
Free local delivery is available for orders over $X within [area of coverage]. For orders under $X, we charge $X for local delivery.
Deliveries are made from [delivery hours] on [available days]. We will contact you via text message with the phone number you provided at checkout to notify you on the day of our arrival.
You can list out the ZIP/postal codes you service and/or consider embedding a map here so customers can easily see if they are within your local delivery range.
You can skip the shipping fees with free local pickup at [list the locations where in-store pickup is available]. After placing your order and selecting local pickup at checkout, your order will be prepared and ready for pick up within X to X business days. We will send you an email when your order is ready along with instructions.
Our in-store pickup hours are [store hours] on [available days of the week]. Please have your order confirmation email with you when you come.
We offer international shipping to the following countries: [list of countries].
If relevant you can also include countries you don’t ship to: At this time, we do not ship to [list of countries].
If you’re using calculated shipping rates: Shipping charges for your order will be calculated and displayed at checkout.
If you offer multiple international shipping options, you can list them in a table as well. You can include broader delivery timelines (e.g. 8 to 20 days) for international shipping since expectations can vary greatly depending on the destination.
Estimated delivery time
X to X business days
X to X business days
X to X business days
Your order may be subject to import duties and taxes (including VAT), which are incurred once a shipment reaches your destination country. [Your Company] is not responsible for these charges if they are applied and are your responsibility as the customer.
How do I check the status of my order?
When your order has shipped, you will receive an email notification from us which will include a tracking number you can use to check its status. Please allow 48 hours for the tracking information to become available.
If you haven’t received your order within X days of receiving your shipping confirmation email, please contact us at email@example.com with your name and order number, and we will look into it for you.
Include a link for customers to track their order if available.
Shipping to P.O. boxes
Some carriers have limitations around shipping to P.O. Boxes. If one of your carriers falls into this group, you should look up their policy and communicate it to your customers here.
Refunds, returns, and exchanges
Summarize your return policy here and link out to your full return policy page if you have one.
We accept returns up to X days after delivery, if the item is unused and in its original condition, and we will refund the full order amount minus the shipping costs for the return.
In the event that your order arrives damaged in any way, please email us as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org with your order number and a photo of the item’s condition. We address these on a case-by-case basis but will try our best to work towards a satisfactory solution.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Where to communicate your shipping policy to customers
Your shipping policy doesn’t only need to live on your shipping policy page. You can make it easier for customers to find key points by communicating your policy wherever shipping questions may make customers hesitate about making a purchase.
The following are just some ideas of where you can highlight your shipping policy to make it easier for customers to decide to place an order.
Website announcement bar
Many online stores reserve their website banner for high-priority shipping-related information, such as shipping price incentives, disclaimers about potential delays, or alternative shipping options like local delivery
When you’re anticipating shipping delays or a higher volume of orders, one of the most effective ways to be transparent with customers is by communicating this through your website announcement bar. These banners that typically appear at the top of an online store are built into many Shopify themes, but can also be added to your store through one of these Shopify Apps.
Otherwise, you can also use this real estate on your website to highlight any shipping incentives that might compel customers to make a purchase—whether it’s free shipping for orders over $75 or $5 flat rate shipping to the US and Canada.
A link in your website footer
Your footer is likely the first place a customer will look to find your shipping policy, along with other links to access self-serve customer support.
If shipping is a particularly important concern for your customers, you can consider incorporating your shipping page into your website navigation’s dropdown menu to ensure it is more discoverable.
However, in most cases, a link in your footer should suffice.
Questions about shipping often come up as customers are browsing your product pages, making them another place to surface key aspects of your shipping policy.
Consider a simple line about your free shipping offering or a dedicated product page tab for more detailed shipping info.
Your FAQ page is another place where you can repeat your shipping policy alongside other common questions that customers might have.
Remember: An FAQ page isn’t just for troubleshooting customer problems but handling objections customers may have when making a purchase. It’s a great place to highlight aspects of your shipping policy that might win over uncertain customers, such as your return policy or your free shipping threshold.
Delivery option labels
While not always necessary, you can label your shipping options to include your delivery times, making it easier for customers to select the correct option for them.
This might be especially useful if you offer delivery timelines that are longer than a week and want to reduce the number of customers who reach out asking about their orders.
Deliver the right expectations with your shipping policy
Trust is the cornerstone of running a successful business and your shipping policy ensures both you and your customers are on the same page.
Being transparent and upfront when setting expectations helps customers decide to buy from you, and when the unexpected happens and your business operations change, your shipping policy helps you maintain that hard-earned trust.
Illustration by Eugenia Mello