How To Write a Shipping Policy for Small Business

Radhika Sivadi

4 min read ·


Setting clear expectations is critical to offering customers a great experience. This is especially true when it comes to sending out e-commerce orders. If you’re selling products online, you’ll want to establish shipping processes. You’ll also want to write a shipping policy for small business. This article outlines the important things to cover.

Two of the most important questions for people when shopping online are: What’s it going to cost?  How soon will I get it? The wrong answers, or not knowing, can be deal-breakers for shoppers. Especially when there are so many options available. 

It’s important to have a shipping policy on your business website that informs customers before they check out about costs, delivery times, and other policies related to your products. Maybe you have a policy written already, but if it isn’t covering all these essentials, it’s time for an update:

  • Shipping costs
  • Shipping methods and delivery times
  • Restrictions
  • International duties/taxes
  • Procedures for missing/lost goods
  • Return and exchange policies


Shipping Costs

Shipping Costs

Any shipping policy for small business will address the customer’s primary question: What’s it going to cost? In all likelihood, they are shopping around, and shipping will factor into their price comparisons. 

Free shipping motivates buyers. Some “9 out of 10 consumers say free shipping is the top most incentive to shop online more and orders with free shipping average around 30% higher in value.” So, if you can make free shipping available, it’s a good idea. Still, customers may have to qualify for that free shipping, and you’ll want to outline how to do so in your shipping policy. 

Transparency around shipping charges will help the customer make a decision and will boost your small business’s credibility. If you offer package tracking for an additional fee, add that to your cost section of the policy.

If you have local delivery or offer in-store or curbside pickup, you’d mention it here too.


Shipping Methods and Delivery Times

Provide your customers with carrier choices. They may prefer working with UPS over the United States Postal Service, or vice versa. In addition to listing available carriers, you’ll want to identify when people can expect their package. Help them set a reasonable timeline upfront.

If you offer express shipping, make that clear. If you’re not yet offering express shipping, you may want to update your policies. Customer expectations are only growing in terms of when online shoppers should expect to see their orders on their doorstep. 

Did you know? Reducing your shipping costs can increase sales.

This is also the area of your shipping policy where you might list any shipping limits around the holidays. You can view examples of holiday cutoff messaging in this Elasticpath article. Or, if there are going to be any other types of service interruptions you know about in advance, explain them to customers here.


Any Restrictions

In writing your shipping policy, you’ll want to also outline any restrictions you might have. This is a best practice for e-commerce businesses as it also helps to manage customer expectations.

Possible restrictions might include:

  • Not delivering to P.O. Boxes
  • Not shipping internationally
  • Not sending specific products to certain countries (due to regulations)
  • Not mailing items that could harm those handling the package

Succinctly state the restriction, who it would impact, and ideally why it is in place. For instance, in the U.S., it is prohibited to send airbags, ammunition, explosives, gasoline, or marijuana by mail.


International duties/taxes

This is where you outline who is responsible for what when it comes to international duties and/or taxes. Once you start shipping outside of your borders, there will be different rules and regulations to follow. 

An order shipped internationally could be subject to import fees or sales tax. Your policy would state whether your company or the customer is responsible for these. Often, it falls to the customer as the fees are calculated when the shipment arrives in the destination country. Otherwise, you might calculate the costs and add them to the product prices you charge.


Procedures for Lost or Damaged Goods

You don’t want this to happen any more than the customer does. However, acknowledging the possibility and explaining what would happen can help give the potential buyer more confidence in pressing that buy button.

Detail whether you will replace lost or damaged goods. If goods arrive damaged, you may want to have a policy of covering return shipping costs. Or you could offer a full refund.


Return and Exchange Policies

Return and Exchange Policies

Discussing return and exchange policies has to be part of the shipping policy for small business. You will likely have a return and exchange policy that might have a dedicated page on your business website or online store. Still, it can help to summarize the information with your shipping policies and then link to the relevant policy elsewhere.

Worried about how to word all this? You’ll find a shipping policy template and examples at BlueCart or ShipBob.


Put It on Your Business Website

Your shipping policy will change as your business grows. For instance, you might start out shipping only locally, but you could expand to international shipping as you build. Or, maybe you can partner with another carrier to change your delivery costs and rates.

Customers don’t like surprises, so an up-to-date shipping policy helps you avoid unhappy customers. Covering this article’s key elements in a concise, direct small business shipping policy can help build business credibility and, as a result, brand loyalty.

Radhika Sivadi