How to create a great shipping, return and exchange policy for your ecommerce business
Developing a good shipping, return and exchange policy is important
Shipping, return and exchange policies give customers all the information on how packages are delivered and, if need be, returned. Understanding what deliveries cost and when they’ll arrive leaves a positive impression on customers. Even if they don’t anticipate a return or exchange, knowing their options can make them more comfortable with a purchase.
What’s most important is being straightforward with customers. Certain shoppers want to fully vet every detail when comparing items and others may have particular questions for their unique shipping situation. Providing the key details and making them easy to find on your site establishes trust that can build brand loyalty.
What is a shipping policy?
Shipping policies should explain to customers their delivery options and what to expect after they make a purchase. Give them a look at the end-to-end experience. Outline your delivery costs, speed, and any other details that might affect a shipment.
How to write a shipping policy for an online store
Every business’ policy will look a little different. Here’s 4 keys to keep in mind when adding a shipping policy to your site:
1. Shipping policies must cover every cost and delivery speed
For many customers, it’s all about the bottom line. Others are only concerned with how soon they can get their hands on your incredible product. Show customers your menu of options and let them decide what’s best. Include delivery speeds broken down by price. Here’s how Nike breaks it down, consider a simple approach like theirs when designing your policy for the web.
During checkout, Nike Members and guests can choose their preferred shipping option—we’ll provide an estimated delivery date for every item in your bag based on your shipping selection, the delivery address, and where the item(s) ship from. We offer the following shipping options:
- Free for signed-in Nike Members
- $7 for guest orders
- Free for signed-in Nike Members
- $8 for guest orders
Please note, expedited and express shipping may not be available for your order.
- $10 for signed-in Nike Members
- $20 for guest orders
- $20 for signed-in Nike Members
- $30 for guest orders
2. Highlight your key shipping incentives and additional fees
If customers know a certain purchase amount triggers free shipping, they might add a little extra to their cart. On the other hand, leaving customers unaware of certain fees until they are about to complete a purchase could cause them to back out. Ensure your shipping policy page explains anything that could impact the price at checkout, like Target’s does. It’s a solid online store shipping policy template for free shipping and additional fees.
Target.com orders over $35 (tax and promotional discounts not included) or orders placed using a RedCard are eligible for free standard shipping. Orders under $35 that are placed without a RedCard will be charged a $5.99 flat fee for standard shipping. This is calculated on a "per order" basis and includes shipping, order processing, item selection and packaging costs.
You may have additional shipping charges or an increased shipping rate for the following scenarios:
- You upgraded to Express shipping. Shipping charges for Express shipping are calculated on a "per order" basis, including shipping, order processing, item selection and packaging costs, and only apply to the items using this shipping speed. Learn more about Target.com shipping options.
- Some large items need to be shipped less than truckload or less than load. Large items may have an additional delivery fee on a per unit basis. Learn about large or heavy item delivery options.
- Select items may have a minimum purchase threshold.
3. What could go wrong and how will you handle it?
Depending on what you sell and how you ship, issues could arise from anywhere. People will be more likely to accept it without complaint if they know it could happen beforehand. Retailer Asos gives customers peace of mind with a simple shipping policy example FAQ set-up.
I’m missing an item from my order, what can I do?
I’ve received an incorrect item, what do I do?
Can I cancel my order?
Can I amend my order?
I’ve received a faulty item, what should I do?
Will you refund the shipping charges on my parcel?
What do I do if the E-Gift Card I bought hasn’t arrived?
The questions are clear, and they link to detailed answers. Be sure your policy contains a section on how your organization handles potential problems.
4. Put the shipping policy on full display
It may not be the most exciting part of your website, but customers will be curious about the shipping details. Forcing them to search it out could create a bad experience. Give it a place on your navigation and integrate it into the sales experience.
What is a return and exchange policy?
An ecommerce return and exchange policy sets clear rules and guidelines for what happens when a customer no longer wants an item and needs to return it or exchange it for something else.
How to write a return and exchange policy for an online store
Let’s go over six crucial questions your policy should answer, along with shipping info examples from companies that could serve as return policy templates.
1. What’s the deadline for returns?
This will be one of the first things customers need to know. Give a clear deadline in number of days for initiating a return or exchange process.
Return policy example tip: WalMart aims to make returns easy for customers, and its policy has clear outlines for what items must be returned within 14, 30, 60, and 90 days. Here’s an excerpt that you can use as a template for your online store return timeline.
Items that must be returned within 14 days with a receipt to obtain a refund or exchange:
- Prepaid wireless cellular phones may be returned in undamaged condition to any store.
- Most postpaid (contract) cellular phones may only be returned to the original store of purchase, in undamaged condition. Other contractually specified requirements may apply.
- Opened or used unlocked wireless phones may only be exchanged for another item of equal or greater value when returned with a receipt.
Items that must be returned within 30 days with a receipt to obtain a refund or exchange:
- Most electronics, including but not limited to: Verizon postpaid (contract) cellular phones, camcorders, digital cameras, digital music players, e-readers, tablets, laptops, PCs, televisions, portable video players, video game hardware, GPS units, audio systems, hoverboards, electric bicycles, electric scooters & radio-controlled vehicles.
- PC components (e.g., motherboards, RAM, graphics cards) must be returned with a receipt within 30 days, in original packaging. After 30 days, contact manufacturer for warranty assistance. Open, used drones are exchange-only within 30 days.
- New, unused drones can be returned for a full refund. Walmart Protection Plans & AppleCare+ can be returned or canceled within 30 days of purchase. Learn how to cancel a Walmart Protection Plan or AppleCare+.
2. What qualifies for a return or exchange?
Let customers know the difference between a return and a refund, an exchange and store credit. Explain the conditions the item must be in, proof of purchase details, account information for refunds or store credit, and anything else needed to complete the transaction.
To avoid potential disputes, be sure any scenarios that would make an item ineligible for a return or exchange are featured prominently in your policy.
Return policy template tip: While some clothing retailers won’t take clothes that are worn, Athleta’s Give-It-A-Workout Guarantee states that even a used item can be tried and returned within 60 days. It’s short and to the point about what qualifies for a return or exchange.
Give-It-A-Workout Guarantee. Work it out. If it doesn’t perform, return it within 60 days of ship date. Final sale items cannot be returned or exchanged. Items which are damaged or defective may be returned or exchanged any time.
3. How long does it take to process a potential refund or exchange?
While it might vary depending on the item in question, even a rough idea of the expected timeline will be helpful. Be forthright about what’s taking place during the processing period and add any contingencies that could extend the waiting period.
Return policy template tip: Zappos has a special policy for VIP members to process refunds faster. Rewarding customer loyalty like this can go a long way with customers.
It typically takes about 5-10 business days for your return to arrive at our fulfillment center and be processed for refund. Once we receive your qualifying return and approve your refund, Zappos will credit your original method of payment. Depending on your financial institution, please allow an additional 2–10 business days for the credit to post to your bank or credit card account. Some customers may qualify for rapid refunds through Zappos VIP or other perks.
4. How do customers send an item back?
Provide details on acceptable shipping options, including preferred carriers if applicable. Connect them with resources for printing labels or finding drop-off locations.
Return policy template tip: The customer service page for Asos spells out return instructions for customers how customers send items back.
Returns through UPS Ground
- Return through your local UPS Ground location in over 47,000 locations.
- Open 7 days a week, early until late.
- You can print a label from the carrier website by clicking the create return link.
- Your return will be processed in approximately 14 calendar days.
Create a FREE return
5. Who will pay for the shipping?
Be transparent about whether your business or the customer will cover the costs of sending back an item.
Returns and exchanges might not be ideal, but they’re inevitable. Don’t forget that they can be an opportunity to win long-term loyalty. Making it difficult to understand or complete the process could cost you a customer. Think of it as part of the sales process. Setting and following a policy with customer experience in mind makes them more likely to return later.
6. What about international deliveries?
If you’re shipping internationally, you need to consider the country-by-country differences in your policy. Look to global shippers in your industry and consider borrowing from them to create an international shipping policy template.
Tips and tricks for a great shipping, return and exchange policy
Good shipping, return, and exchange policies for online stores need to consider customer experience as well as internal capabilities. Be honest with yourself about how long it takes to fulfill orders and process returns. Then, share the same transparency with customers. Being realistic is more valuable to your brand than overpromising, trying to hide fees, or purposely overlooking details.
Identify the different audiences in your market and ensure you’re speaking to all of them. Will regular shoppers and one-time customers both understand your policy? What questions would you expect someone unfamiliar with your store to ask? Is your policy available in multiple languages? The more questions you get ahead of, the less time you’ll spend answering customer support queries or settling disputes.
A realistic shipping and return policy helps internally, too
Stretching teams too thin to meet unrealistic standards can affect employee satisfaction and retention. If you run a small business, overwhelming your work force is a surefire way to cause burnout or create a house of cards situation where one mistake or unexpected change brings operations to a halt. A small business return policy has to keep capacity in mind.
Your policies may need to change over time
A shipping, return and exchange policy is key to operations and the customer experience. Following the shipping terms and conditions samples will help get you started. However, it’s not a one-time exercise. As your business evolves, so should your policies. Always give customers the latest guidelines so they can make informed purchases.
Pick the right partner to help your business with shipping
Pitney Bowes helps businesses and ecommerce retailers of all types make shipping, returns, and exchanges easier. Get PitneyShip™ or PitneyShip Pro™ software to compare carrier prices, access discounts and manage all of your delivery and return logistics in one place.
For the home or office worker shipping from one location: Check out PitneyShip™
- Access discount shipping labels and stamps
- Rate shop across USPS, UPS, and FedEx with our best match tool
- Buy and print postage from your computer
- Schedule pickups and track packages
For organizations with multiple shippers and/or across locations: PitneyShip Pro™ is the answer
- Compare shipping carrier rates and access discount delivery options across USPS, UPS, and FedEx with our best match tool
- Save with deeply discounted rates
- Create Certified Mail with electronic return receipt
- Print shipping labels and postage from your computer
- Easily scale as needed with multi-user and multi-location access
- Boost productivity with secure single sign on access
- Schedule pickups and track packages