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4 important policies your business needs and how they can improve your relationship with your customers

It's no secret that you wear multiple hats as a business owner. Your attention is constantly being pulled in fifty different directions and there are a thousand tiny little things that can fall through the cracks at any moment. And when you're focusing on the "big things" like your branding, your website, your social media presence, your customer experience and service, not to mention keeping up with your product production and order fulfillment, it's easy to overlook something that feels smaller, like your shop policies.

When most business owners come to us asking for help with their website, we see their excitement as awe discuss the features of the website and what it will look like and then we see their eyes get big and their expressions fall when we say, "we need you to send us your shop policies."

If we're being honest, shop policies—like your privacy policy, shipping policies, return policy, and a terms & conditions—feel like something that should be standard. All shops have them, they're pretty typical from one shop to the next, so do you really need to outline them for your shop?

In short, yes. While policies can feel pretty "standard" and "typical," there actually is nothing standard about them. There are nuances within these policies that are really important to outline for your business. And doing so in a simple and clear way, and keeping your policies easy to find and clearly communicated on your website can actually improve your relationship with your customers and help you make even more sales.

Now, it feels like it should go without saying, we are not lawyers are at Happyland Creative™. We're know branding backwards and forwards but the extent of our legal knowledge comes from whatever we pick up from watching Jen Shah's legal drama play out on Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. We are, however, advocates for taking your business seriously, following the rules and regulations of the FTC and other powers that be, and protecting your business and your customers. Policies are basically contracts you're entering into with your customers, so we encourage you to seek help from a legal professional if you want to make sure you have really great policies and protections on your website.

Here are the four types of policies you need to include on your website when you're running a small business.

Privacy Policy

If you're collecting personal information of any kind (names, email address, cookies, etc.) you need to have a privacy policy on your website. A privacy policy is a document that outlines how you collect, use, and protect your customers' personal information. It serves as a transparent agreement between your business and your customers regarding their data privacy. By having a privacy policy, you demonstrate your commitment to safeguarding customer information. It communicates to your customers that you care about making sure they're safe when they're using your website.

Without a privacy policy, you risk damaging customer trust and facing legal consequences. Customers may be hesitant to share their personal data if they are uncertain about how it will be used or protected. Additionally, non-compliance with privacy regulations can result in hefty fines and reputational damage to your business.

If you're using Shopify as your website platform, Shopify offers a privacy policy template that you can use as a starting point to customize for your own business. But if you're writing your own privacy policy you should include these five things:

  • Clearly state what personal information you collect and why.
  • Explain how you use and protect the collected data.
  • Disclose any third-party services or partners with whom you share customer information. (This could be something like an app that's connected to your website that helps support certain aspects of your business.)
  • Include information about cookies and tracking technologies used on your website. (If you're collecting any kind of analytics on your website you're using cookies.)
  • Provide contact information for customers to reach out with privacy concerns.

There are lots of examples of privacy policies you can find online and follow as an example, generators you can sign up for, or reach out to a legal professional to make sure your privacy policy is compliant with all the local laws and regulations that apply to your business.

Terms and Conditions

It's the thing we all say we have read and agree to, but never actually read: Terms and conditions. The terms and conditions of your business serve as a contract between your business and your customers, establishing the rules and responsibilities that govern their interactions with your website and products. They provide clarity and transparency, protecting both parties involved.

By having comprehensive terms and conditions, you can prevent misunderstandings and disputes with customers. Clearly outlining payment terms, shipping policies, liability limitations, and prohibited activities reduces the likelihood of conflicts. Without terms and conditions, you risk encountering legal issues, customer complaints, and potential financial losses.

Again, if your website is on Shopify you can use their handy template as a starting point. But if you're writing your own, you should consider including these five points when writing your terms and conditions:

  • Include payment terms, such as accepted payment methods and any applicable fees.
  • Outline the shipping and delivery process, including estimated times and possible delays.
  • Clarify your liability limitations for errors, inaccuracies, or misuse of your website's content.
  • Provide guidelines for prohibited activities, such as fraudulent behavior or unauthorized use.
  • Specify dispute resolution methods and the jurisdiction governing the agreement.

Returns, Exchanges, and Refunds

Every single product business under the sun needs to have clearly defined policies when it comes to returns, exchanges, and refunds. This is one of the most important pieces of your business. And while other policies on your site may go overlooked, this is one your customers are reading carefully. (And if they're not, then you'll be even more grateful to have these policies clearly defined on your website!)

A returns and refunds policy outlines the procedures and conditions for customers seeking to return or exchange products or obtain refunds. This policy sets expectations and provides a framework for resolving customer dissatisfaction.

Without a clear returns and refunds policy, customers may become frustrated with the lack of guidance on how to handle returns, leading to negative experiences and damage to your reputation. By having a well-defined policy, you can minimize disputes, ensure fair treatment of customers, and maintain a positive brand image.

Shopify also has a template you can use as a framework to get you started, but the template might not be best suited for your particular business so you should definitely pay close attention and make sure to customize it based on your particular business needs. An incorrect returns and refunds policy can be detrimental to your business.

When writing your policy consider these five things:

  • Clearly state the timeframe within which returns or exchanges are accepted. (Or if they're even accepted at all.)
  • Specify any conditions for accepting returns, such as product condition or packaging, hang tags in place, etc.
  • Communicate the refund method, whether it is a monetary refund, store credit, or exchange. Also be sure to communicate when the customer can expect to receive their refund.
  • Explain any fees or shipping costs associated with returns or exchanges.
  • Outline the process customers should follow to initiate a return or refund.

Shipping Policy

You may have outlined your shipping practices and policies in your terms and conditions but it's likely your customers aren't reading that closely. It's a good idea to highlight your shipping policies again in a separate place that's easy for your customers to find. It will save you hundreds of emails needing to answer when they can expect their order to arrive.

A shipping policy serves to set customer expectations about how you handle shipping their order, including methods, costs, and delivery times. Without a shipping policy, customers may have uncertainties about shipping methods, costs, and delivery timeframes. This can lead to frustration, negative reviews, and a loss of customer trust which is a major blow to your brand reputation. By clearly communicating your shipping practices, you're building trust and transparency with your customers and reducing the likelihood of post-purchase issues.

A good shipping policy should include:

  • Shipping Methods and Carriers: Specify the shipping methods you offer, such as standard shipping, express shipping, or international shipping. You may also want to mention what carriers you primarily use so your customers know what to expect.
  • Shipping Costs: Clearly communicate any shipping costs associated with different shipping methods or destinations. Specify whether shipping costs are flat-rate, weight-based, or calculated based on order value. A great way to increase your average oder value and make your customers more likely to purchase is to offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount.
  • Order Processing Time: Clarify the time it takes for you to process and prepare an order for shipment. This is especially important for custom, made-to-order products, or pre-orders.
  • Delivery Timeframes: Provide estimated delivery times for each shipping method or shipping destination. Be sure to communicate clearly that these are estimates and may vary based on factors beyond your control. Communicating delivery timeframes and shipping cutoff deadlines can be especially helpful for your customers around the busy, jam-packed holiday season.
  • International Shipping and Customs: If you offer international shipping, inform customers about extra potential customs fees, duties, or taxes that may apply to their orders.
  • Tracking and Notifications: Explain whether you provide tracking numbers for shipments and how customers can track their orders. (This is one reason we love to recommend Shopify, it handles a lot of this for your automatically!)
  • Lost or Damaged Shipments: Outline your policy for lost or damaged shipments. Explain the steps customers should take to report such issues and how you handle reshipments or refunds.

One thing to remember when you're writing your policies, try to avoid over-explaining as it can confuse the customer, but keep in mind—the clearer the better. Simple, clear, easy to understand policies are a form of great customer service within your business. Your policies may even sway people in their decision to purchase from you. Really great policies can increase your sales and keep your customers coming back.

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About the Author

Brittany Wong

Brittany Wong is the Founder and Creative Director of Happyland Creative®, a design studio helping small business owners make more money with their branding.