A Shipping Policy is where you let your customers know important details about how you ship your goods, such as what shipping services you use, what shipping fees are, and what timeframe customers should expect for delivery.

This article will break down the benefits of having a Shipping Policy, and show you what information you should include in your policy. We've also put together a Sample Shipping Policy Template that you can use to help write your own.

What is a Shipping Policy

A Shipping Policy is the document where an ecommerce store informs customers about the conditions around the shipping of goods. Your Shipping Policy should inform your customers (or potential customers) about the following:

  • What shipping options you offer (overnight, standard, air mail, international, domestic only, etc.)
  • How much each shipping method will cost the customer
  • How long each shipping method will typically take
  • How long your handling time will be between when an order is placed and when it gets shipped
  • If orders must be placed before a specific time to be counted as placed during that business day
  • Any restrictions to where you can deliver (no P.O. boxes, not to specific states, etc.)
  • Anything else that would be material to a customer when placing an order

Why Should You Have a Shipping Policy?

While a Shipping Policy isn't required by law, it's definitely recommended by ecommerce best practices for managing customer expectations.

This is because it lets them know two key things that matter to every consumer:

  • How much they can expect to pay for shipping
  • How long of a wait they can expect when it comes to receiving their goods

If it takes too long for a customer to figure out how much you charge for shipping and generally how long an item will take to arrive, the customer will probably buy elsewhere and you'll be losing business.

Providing an easily accessible Shipping Policy that has clear information can help you gain and retain customers.

A Shipping Policy isn't to be confused with a Return and Refund Policy. A Return and Refund Policy lets customers know:

  • If you offer refunds and/or exchanges
  • If you accept returns from customers
    • What a customer must do to initiate a return
    • Which party pays for return shipping
  • Any other important information related to a return and refund
    • Any restocking fees or other deductions from full refund
    • Specific items that cannot be returned
    • Time limits on returns (Cannot return something after 15 days, etc.)

In summary, a Shipping Policy lets customers know details about how to get goods into their homes, while a Return/Refund Policy lets customers know what their options are after goods are delivered in the event that the customer wants to send the goods back.

What Sections to Include in Your Shipping Policy

If you're looking for the template, you can download it here.

The following are the most important sections that should be included in your Shipping Policy:

  • Methods of shipping available (standard, express, overnight, etc.) and the prices of each
  • International shipping information
  • Shipping restrictions (no shipping to P.O. boxes, no shipping of certain goods, etc.)
  • Handling time
  • Other/additional information

Methods and Prices of Shipping Available

The main thing most customers will want to know about your policies and procedures is how much you charge for shipping, and how fast items will arrive.

Most ecommerce businesses offer multiple shipping options, from standard ground delivery to expedited or even overnight shipping. These shipping options also come with different price tags.

Include a section in your Shipping Policy that breaks down this information.

Here's how Revzilla breaks down this information. The simple chart is easy to notice and read, while the explanation paragraphs below it provide additional information about what a customer can expect with each shipping method available. For example, a customer can quickly find out that 'Next Day' delivery costs $59.95:

Revzilla Shipping Policy: Type and Rates chart

To make sure that a customer is aware of what this shipping option actually means for them, the explanation of 'Next Day' is provided, along with all the other shipping types. This is great for managing customer expectations and being as accurate as possible:

Revzilla Shipping Policy: Shipping type explanations with Next Day highlighted

Some shipping rates charged and methods available can get extensive, as this chart from the Michael's Shipping Policy demonstrates. Shipping rates vary drastically depending on how much money you spend and which shipping method you want:

Michaels Shipping Policy: Shipping Rates chart excerpt - 2021

You can see that your rates can be as simple or as complex as you wish. Just make sure you be very clear about all the options and prices so your customers are aware.

International Shipping Information

Some information that's typically included in an international shipping information section will be what's considered international (i.e. anything outside of Canada, anything outside of the EU, etc.), how any tariffs or extra fees will be handled, if the return shipping policy is different than with domestic orders, what currency the order must be placed in and what wil happen if a package gets lost while in transit.

Revzilla includes a short clause noting that international orders will ship from specific locations and will likely take an extra 3 to 5 days to be processed:

Revzilla Shipping Policy: International Orders clause

A link to the International Order Policy Page is included in this clause for customers to find more detailed information.

Forespar has a robust International Ordering and Shipping Policy that addresses many of these points:

Forespar: International Shipping Policy excerpt

While many businesses choose to create a separate International Shipping Policy page and link this page to the Shipping Policy page, others include this information directly within the main Shipping Policy.

MakerBot adds a section titled "International Shipping" within its Shipping Policy, towards the end of the policy:

MakerBot Shipping Policy: International Shipping section

If your international shipping process is involved, with different information for a number of different global regions or countries, it may be best to separate this information into its own policy, like Forespar has done. However, if you either don't offer international shipping or the process is quite simple and short, you can easily include the information in a short clause within your Shipping Policy.

Shipping Restrictions

If your shipping has other restrictions other than international shipping limits, let your customers know.

For example, if you cannot deliver to certain states, or to P.O. boxes, make this clear.

Looking at the Michael's Shipping Policy again you'll notice that restrictions are listed for its UPS Next Day Air shipping service. Customers are informed that orders under this shipping method only ship on certain business days, that orders cannot be shipped to P.O. boxes under this method and that not all shipping methods are available for all items:

Michaels Shipping Policy: Next Day Air Restrictions section

This information is crucial when it comes to managing customer expectations.

Handling Time

It's important to let your customers know about any handling time that can increase the overall length of time between the ordering and the arrival of their goods.

For example, if someone orders overnight shipping on an item at 8pm and expects to receive the item the following day, this can lead to problems if you stop processing daily orders at 2pm, and always take 3 days to process orders before shipping.

Here's how MakerBot lets customers know in the very first sentence of its Shipping Policy that orders are "processed within 2-3 business days ."

MakerBot Shipping Policy: Processing Time section

Here's an example of a Shipping Policy section that separates "Order Processing" time from "Transit Time" and lets customers know that order processing "typically takes 1-2 days" but that orders can ship anywhere from within "as few as 4 hrs" to "up to 5 days."

IKEA Shipping Policy: Order processing

Additional Information

This is where you can include any relevant and important information about your shipping practices or policy that your customers would want to know.

Bed Bath & Beyond's Shipping Policy has an "Additional Information" section where information about security reviews of orders is mentioned, as well as information about gift card purchasing.

Bed Bath Beyond Shipping Policy: Additional Information

Jeffrey Campbell Shoes' Shipping Policy includes a "Please Note" section.

Information can be found here about order processing times, limits on orders and when the weekend cut-off time is for what's considered a "business day:"

Jeffrey Campbell Shoes Shipping Policy: Please Note section updated

Shipping Policy FAQs

Here is a list of frequently asked questions that you may find useful.

A Shipping Policy is not legally required, but having one comes with a number of benefits for both you and your customers.

Some benefits are that people will be more likely to shop with you if you have a clear Shipping Policy in place since there won't be any questions about your shipping timeframes or processes. You'll get to save time by not having to answer individual customer emails asking about your shipping policies.

When you have a Shipping Policy, people will feel more comfortable shopping with you. Your Shipping Policy will show that you're transparent about your practices.

Without a Shipping Policy in place, you may get an exceptional amount of emails from potential shoppers wondering what your shipping times are. You may also get a lot of emails from people who have placed orders and are wondering when to expect their items. Having a Shipping Policy in place will help answer customer questions instantly.

Your Shipping Policy should include the following information:

  • What shipping options you have available (different carriers, different speeds, international options, etc.)
  • How much shipping costs
  • How long shipping typically takes
  • How long your expected handling time is before shipping an order
  • What your cut-off time is for when orders are processed on the same day
  • Any restrictions you have on shipping (certain items can't ship, no P.O. boxes, etc.)

You should display a link to your Shipping Policy in your website footer along with other important links like your Return and Refund Policy and Privacy Policy.

You can include a link to your Shipping Policy during the checkout process as a reminder to shoppers before they place their final order about what they should expect and what they need to know when it comes to shipping.

In mobile apps, you can include a link to your Shipping Policy in a menu where you include other legal policy links, such as an "About" or "Legal" menu.

Summary of What a Shipping Policy is

Having a Shipping Policy that lets your customers know all the important details about shipping can be a great way to avoid unmet or unrealistic expectations on their part.

The following are all important points to include in a thorough Shipping Policy:

  • Processing time
  • Shipping time
  • Shipping costs
  • Shipping options available, including international options
  • Shipping restrictions
  • Requirements of the customer
  • Any material additional information

Download Sample Shipping Policy Template

This Sample Shipping Policy Template is free to download and includes these sections:

  • Introduction
  • Domestic Shipping Policy
    • Shipment processing time
    • Shipping rates & delivery estimates
    • Shipment to P.O. boxes or APO/FPO addresses
    • Shipment confirmation & Order tracking
    • Customs, Duties and Taxes
    • Damages
  • International Shipping Policy

Sample Shipping Policy Template (HTML Text Download)

You can download the Sample Shipping Policy Template as HTML code below. Copy it from the box field below (right-click > Select All and then Copy-paste) and then paste it on your app or website pages.

Sample Shipping Policy Template (PDF Download)

Download the Sample Shipping Policy Template as a PDF file

Sample Shipping Policy Template (Word DOCX Download)

Download the Sample Shipping Policy Template as a Word DOCX file

Sample Shipping Policy Template (Google Docs Download)

Download the Sample Shipping Policy Template as a Google Docs document

Screenshot of the Shipping Policy Template

More Templates

More specific Templates are available on our blog.

Sample Return Policy for Ecommerce Stores A Return Policy for your ecommerce store.

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