Your shipping policy should answer two simple questions: “How long does the shipping take?” and “How much does it cost?” That’s it. These are two questions that your customers will need answered prior to being taken to your checkout page. If you hide the terms of shipping until the checkout, your customers may feel cheated and you may lose the sale altogether. Write your shipping policy in a clear and concise manner and make it available to all visitors through a link on your website, preferably placed within the header or sidebar to make it accessible from every web page. Once an order is placed, send a link to your policy to your customers in the confirmation email.
Your shipping policy should provide the following information:
- Details on the shipping options that you offer and the expected delivery time frame for each one of them.
- Details on your shipping and handling fees. Tell your customers what the total amount of the shipping fee will be.
Now that the customer knows what the shipping terms are, you need to make sure that you stick to your terms. If there is a delay, you should immediately contact your customer and provide him or her with the updated delivery date. If your customer does not receive the product by the expected delivery date and is not informed about the delay, it is very likely that he or she will initiate a dispute, which can quickly become a chargeback.
Listed below are several best practices that have been proved to work for e-commerce merchants:
- Make your shipping policy easily accessible. Don’t require visitors to log in or create accounts, before they can view your shipping policy. As mentioned before, visitors to your website will need to know the shipping terms before they place an order. An unpleasant surprise at the checkout will almost certainly lead to a lost sale.
- Make your shipping policy accessible from all pages. Placing a link within your website’s header or sidebar will usually do the trick.
- Provide all shipping details at the checkout. Tell your customers how much each shipping option will cost and how long it will take. Provide full details on international shipping, if applicable.
- Don’t overcharge for shipping. By now it should be clear that free shipping is a huge selling point and, at any rate, customers compare the total cost, including item’s cost and shipping charge. Still, an excessive shipping charge can turn consumers off.
- Provide detailed delivery time-frames. List delivery time-frames for each shipping option by delivery region. FedEx and UPS provide delivery maps with the expected delivery time-frames for each region.
- Provide tracking information. Email the shipment’s tracking number to your customer as soon as it is available. Being able to track his order, your customer will know at any given time exactly what the status of the shipment is.
- Take responsibility for lost shipments. Whenever a shipment is lost, take responsibility and re-ship it. It may not be your fault, and it probably won’t be, but your customer has placed an order with your business and will rightly hold you responsible for it.
Criminals have identified and exploited a weak link in the e-commerce shipping process. When placing an order, using a stolen card number, they would provide the real cardholder’s correct billing address as a shipping address, thus making the transaction look completely legitimate. Then, once the merchandise has been shipped and a tracking number has been emailed to them, they would redirect the shipment to their own address. To protect your organization from this type of fraud, you may want to consider not providing a confirmation number on a selective basis, when selling higher-risk merchandise or shipping to higher-risk addresses.
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