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December 11, 2021
Your shipping policy is a seemingly benign part of your ecommerce store. You know you need it, but like many store owners, you fail to see it as an asset. In fact, your shipping policy is an important part of the customer experience and can have a significant impact on your conversions.
In this article, we offer some best practices to design and craft your shipping policy. This advice will put you on the way toward developing a positive, customer-centric experience for your shoppers.
This is the first piece of advice we tell all e-commerce store owners when we are talking about shipping. It's one of the few simple rules that applies to every store. 44% of online shoppers abandon their carts because of shipping and handling costs, so just make it free. 93% of shoppers purchase more products if free shipping is available and 58% will add more products just to qualify for free shipping.
Obviously shipping can't really be free. It's an expense you have to account for in your pricing. But shipping should be free as much as possible. There shouldn’t be a separate shipping charge at checkout.
If you have to charge for shipping, we strongly recommend not trying to make a profit off of it. Simply pass the expense on to the customer as-is, right down to the penny. And try to take advantage of flat shipping rates as much as possible. Your customers will appreciate it.
Finally, if you offer free shipping when customers reach a certain cart value, make sure that value is significantly higher than your average order value. You don't want customers to feel pressure to add products to their cart just to reach free shipping.
45% of online shoppers abandon their cart because of undesirable shipping options. 38% of customers will not shop at a store again if they have a bad shipping experience.
This means you have to find shipping options that attract customers, but aren't too expensive for you or them. In most cases, this means offering a variety of shipping options and letting the customer choose the one that works best for them.
But that doesn’t mean offering every option. It’s reasonable to leave some options off the table if they will add friction to the customer’s experience. For instance, if you offer 5-day shipping for $25 and 2-day shipping for $75, a customer may be dismayed to learn they could get the item faster, but can’t afford to do so. Since most customers will buy the 5-day shipping, it’s probably best to leave the 2-day option off. (But as always, test it yourself!)
If your shipper offers a lot of shipping options, it's okay to leave some of them off to make the shoppers' experience simpler. You don't want them to have to scroll through dozens of shipping options.
It's important to have a clear understanding of your shipping capabilities. How fast can you process orders? How fast can you deliver them to your shipping partner? How accurate are your shipping partner’s delivery estimates? You need to understand these variables in order to design an accurate shipping policy.
Sometimes, it's tempting to make promises that you can only deliver under perfect circumstances. For instance, you may typically process orders in two business days. But what happens around the holidays when there are more orders than usual? What happens if someone on your team can't work due to illness? Can you fulfill your promises?
If you use a third-party fulfillment house to process your orders, that might introduce another layer of complexity. For instance, what happens when a customer makes a request after they complete checkout. Can you get a hold of someone at the fulfillment house in time before the order ships? Can they do anything about the request? These are factors you need to understand as you write your shipping policy.
What happens if you charge a customer for shipping, but the final cost turns out to be higher for you? You could email the customer and ask them to pay a little more to cover the gap (NOT recommended) or eat the cost yourself.
The simple solution to this problem is to use live rates. Live rates are real-time calculations of shipping cost based on your products sizes, weights, shipping distances, and the rates charged by your carriers.
Live rates sync with your carriers through a shipping platform so they are always accurate. For instance, if your carrier increases rates by 2%, that increase will be reflected on your Shopify store. The benefit here is that you don't need to stay on top of all of your carriers’ shipping rates, but the customer will always have accurate information.
How you present your shipping policy is just as important as its content. Your goal is to be simple, clear, concise, and - most important - accurate. It doesn't matter what your shipping policy says or how generous your rules are if your customers don't understand it.
Love Billy! has a great shipping policy page. They smartly use a question-and-answer format to help shoppers identify the parts of the page that serve their needs.
Here are some critical details to include on your policy page:
It's also important to revisit this page regularly in order to make sure that it's still accurate. Some ecommerce stores review their shipping policy monthly to make sure they can still fulfill the policy promises.
Furthermore, we recommend adding a concise version of the shipping policy on your product pages. This is so the user won't have to go digging around the site or leave the product page to get the info they need. Then include a link to the longer version on your dedicated shipping policy page.
Customers want clarity and transparency when it comes to shipping. They want to know where their order is at all times and when they should expect to receive it. In one survey, 82% of consumers said it was important that retailers proactively communicate about fulfillment and shipping. 85% want email order tracking and 45% want order tracking by text.
You don't have to notify your customers every time their order passes through a point in the delivery process, but it's important to give them regular updates. For instance, most stores like to send a shipping notification when the order leaves their facility. Some stores send a notification when the package crosses a critical threshold, like entering the recipient's country.
Chewy’s shipping notification emails are perfect. They are simple, accessible, and provide all of the right information.
Mistakes are inevitable. Once a package leaves your hands, a lot can happen, like damage, delays, or deliveries to the wrong destination. Sometimes the package just disappears in transit. In some cases, the shipping mistake might be your fault. In other cases, the carrier is to blame.
When shipping mistakes happen, the customer will only blame you. The fault may lay entirely with the carrier, but the customer won’t see it that way. From their perspective, they gave you money and you failed to deliver their product.
What a mistake happens, take responsibility for it right away. Don't try to push blame off into a third party, even if that party is at fault. Make the customer whole right away. If someone else is to blame for the problem, take it up with them later.
Your shipping policy doesn't seem like much, but it's a key part of the customer experience. If you create a good shipping policy, it will help boost conversions throughout the rest of your site. Follow the best practices we outlined above to create an effective shipping policy.