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Why You Need Terms and Conditions for Your E-Commerce Store

It’s been in the works for some time now: your e-commerce store is nearing completion. The business plan, product offering and logistics infrastructure came first, and now you’ve decided on a store theme, how your navigation will flow and have written the last of your product page copy (for now). You’ll be ready to launch soon, but there’s an important hurdle standing in your way—one you might not be all that excited to face.

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It’s time to create the terms and conditions (T&C) page for your e-commerce store.

Give Customers Rights; Abide by Law

OK, so e-commerce stores aren’t required by law to have a terms and conditions page, but if they’re collecting and/or processing customer data, it’s required by law to have a privacy policy. Since you need to create a privacy policy (and a good one) if you wish to operate your online store, you may as well go the extra mile and write an entire T&C page.

Appear Credible

You’re a shopper. Would you trust a brand more or less if they had terms and conditions that concisely informed customers of what to expect? Having a T&C in itself makes brands appear more credible, but the specific details within can further the effect. For example, a store might list in their payment guidelines that they are compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council.

People spend a lot of time these days researching products whether they end up buying or not. On the same note, people won’t buy from just any online store with a similar product to the one they’re trying to find. The core pages of your website will be explored, and a non-existent terms and conditions section will raise red flags.

Limit Liability

E-commerce stores, with no physical real estate to maintain and possibly no product to stock, can feel light on risk. It makes sense: does anything seem like it could go wrong in a store that sells beauty products from home? A lack of perceived vulnerabilities could be enough to derail an online business, especially one just starting without the weight of customer loyalty. A terms and conditions policy is a way to state your disclaimers and other clauses so that your business is protected should a customer take you to court.

Protect Your Brand

Few business areas are as central to e-commerce success as a well-crafted brand. Compelling branding, an eye-catching logo and striking color combo are enough to stick in the minds of consumers long enough to win them over with an equally powerful store experience. But without including an intellectual property protection clause in your terms and conditions, you’re leaving your logo, content, images, site design, and various other branding components open to infringement by another person or entity.

All the Other Stuff

Should you need more convincing to start writing your terms and conditions, think about the multitude of details you had to consider when writing your business policy. Multiply those details a few more times. Now you’re scratching the surface of the various issues that could happen to an e-commerce store operating without specific guidelines.

Something like payment terms might seem obvious to you, but stating your payment details outright eliminates the possibility of gray areas popping up. Alternatively, what about your right as a business to change the way you operate? Writing an amendment of terms allows store owners to make changes to their processes autonomously without customers getting an opinion in the matter. Or how about stating your country of governance and thus the laws your business must follow?

Of course, the reasons and specific clauses that make terms and conditions so vital to the operating health of e-commerce stores run far longer than this list. Hopefully, customer rights, credibility, limited liability and protection from brand infringement help ignite the fire needed to write that first draft of your T&C.

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