Ultimate Ecommerce Website Guide
Chapter 5: Ecommerce Legal and Policy Pages
Welcome to the boring stuff.
But, very necessary. Hopefully this section will help you blow through it quickly.
There is one common factor among all ecommerce websites- legal and policy pages. You are doing business online and are subject to “internet commerce law”, so having at least something in place to protect yourself and your company is recommended. Whether you write it yourself, build it from a template/policy generator or have a lawyer create it for you.
The three most common ecommerce legal and policy pages are the following:
- Shipping and Returns Policy
- Terms and Conditions
Shipping and Returns Policy Page
Out of all the policy pages, this should be one of the easiest and one where no lawyers are “usually” required, so that is good.
The main guideline here is to clearly outline these two policies separately and try to cover most common scenarios and questions. If someone has navigated to the returns or shipping section, they likely have very specific questions, such as:
- “Do I need to pay for shipping on returns?”
- “Can I get the product shipped overnight?”
- “Can I return something I’ve worn?”
Try to outline the most common questions in an FAQ page so they can quickly find an answer to their specific questions. When you are just starting out, you may not know what the most common questions from your customers will be, however take note of the customer service phone calls and emails to build your FAQ section out over time.
To help you get started, we have listed some of most frequently asked questions by online shoppers that you should consider putting on your shipping and returns policy pages.
Shipping Policy Page:
- What shipping methods do you offer?
- Do you ship internationally?
- Do you offer free shipping?
- Can you ship a product overnight?
- What happens if my order arrives damaged?
Returns Policy Page:
- How do I send back a return?
- Do I need to pay for shipping on returns?
- Can I return an item I’ve worn/used?
- How many days after purchase can I return an item?
- Do you offer full refunds or just store credit?
For dropship retailers, your policies are going to be very dependent on what your supplier’s policies are. Most dropship retailers simply align with their suppliers shipping and return policy to keep it easy. Well I’m sure you are probably thinking….
What if I have multiple dropship suppliers with different policies?
Let’s keep it simple and start with the return policy.
If you source different products or brands from different suppliers that break out in a logical way in which your customer would understand (like product type or manufacturer), it may be easy to communicate different policies for different items. Noting on your returns page that patio furniture vs. kitchenware has two different return policies or a “no returns for Apple products” is an easy enough policy that shouldn’t deter customers from purchasing. However, many retailers want to keep it as simple as possible for their customers and their internal operations and will look to keep one return policy regardless of their supplier’s policy. They just simply take a loss when their policy doesn’t align with the supplier’s policy. This is usually a strategy reserved for larger retailers that can afford these kinds of losses, but smaller retailers can take this route as well if they feel the benefit of providing a favorable return policy gives them an advantage over their competition or will lead to significant increases in revenue that outweighs the cost associated.
Wayfair, one of the largest retailers built on dropshipping and still dropships most of their products, has a great page to see how a dropshipping return policy should look. They dropship from thousands of suppliers, which likely all have different return policies. They are a large enough retailer that can afford to take a loss on some returns in exchange for better customer service through their returns process. And, as you imagine with their amount of dropshippers, they likely have their own return policy that will sometimes align with their suppliers and sometimes not.
- Specify what information you collect about a user.
- State what portion, if any, is personally identifiable.
- Tell users why you are collecting their information.
- Describe how your business will use the information collected.
- Explain your data collection process. For example, let people know if the website sets cookies or maintains web logs.
- State any applicable laws used to govern your policy (e.g. the Privacy Act)
I came across this piece of language regarding cookies that I personally found useful:
Third-party advertisers may also create and access cookies, which will be subject to their privacy policies – we accept no responsibility or liability for the use of such third parties’ cookies. If you do not wish cookies to be placed on your PC or handheld device, then they can be disabled in your web browser. The option to do so is normally found in your browser’s “security settings” section. Please note that permanently disabling cookies in your browser may hinder your use of our Websites as well as other websites and interactive services.
Your Terms and Conditions Page
When you’re thinking about the policy pages for your wholesale dropship website, it’s easy to come up with policies and content for your shipping and returns, FAQ or about us pages. The one policy page that many ecommerce store owners have issues starting on is one of the most common policy pages that shows on all websites- Terms and Conditions. While you already know what your shipping or return options might be, what is a “term” and what is a “condition”? What is this page really about?
When you’re selling wholesale dropship products from your ecommerce shopping cart platform (your website), a Terms and Conditions page will absolve you of responsibility if anyone mistakenly uses your information for the wrong purposes or wants to hold you liable for damages they have incurred by using your website or its information. While there might be more common issues when selling a service or providing instructions from your website, you should still create a Terms and Conditions page for your online store. Although recommended, many new online store owners don’t have the budget to hire their own attorney right away, so rather than going without any policy content, or copying content from a site without understanding how this page is used, we’d like to provide you with some helpful guidelines to follow.
When you write a Terms and Conditions page, the content you add may need to be specific for your state or location. Policy content might vary from site-to-site based on whether you are providing advice, selling a service or providing products for sale. But for most ecommerce stores, there are a few basic things you need to consider. You need to think about your online business and what problems your visitors may encounter. Look at the Terms and Conditions pages on other websites in your industry for inspiration. The policy content from other online stores that sell similar types of products or your wholesale supplier are great places to start.
When you write your own policy content, remember to include the following topics:
- Your website’s copyright information
- Your business’s contact information
- Product and service warranties
- Liability disclaimer
- Data and security information
- Applicable laws related to your industry enforced by your country, state, territory or local municipality
- Where your customers should direct any complaints
- Partners and affiliations of your website
Organize your issues and concerns into several topics. Topics that are typically addressed include privacy, copyright information, contact information, data and security, complaints, affiliations or website partners and refunds. You can also refer to other policy pages on your website as needed (such as your shipping and returns page).