Strategic building your e-commerce business needs you to focus on multiple aspects. One such aspect is the return policy. Return policy can be a potential business upliftment strategy. As a thumb rule, design a return policy that suits your business, rather than going with the market flow. Click To Tweet
Return policies do make an impact on customers and the way your return policies are designed can be a game-changer for your business. Rather than focusing just on customer satisfaction, an online store owner should also focus on minimising the loss resulting from returns.
67% of customers first check the return policy before finalizing on any purchase and over 62% of shoppers are more inclined to return the product after making a purchase. As good as 95% of customers are happy to have a return policy and agree to make a purchase with the same online store again. This clearly states that the return policy is important to retain customers as well as to have more new customers.
Below is a trend on what buyers check the most before making a purchase. Its worth noting that the returns or exchange is the second most favourite on the list post free shipping.
Courtesy: Walker Sands
Below are mentioned a few common reasons why customers would return a product.
There are a lot of aspects that you need to consider while designing a return policy so that you can maintain profitability as well as not become a victim to habitual return customers.
Before we get into these details, let us check details on what is a return policy and how can you write it effectively.
What is the Return Policy and how to write it?
A return policy is an elaborate terms and conditions along with an agreement using which online store owners inform customers about refund and return policies. Policies are categorised as:
- Return and refund policy
- Terms and Conditions of Service
The return policy usually will include:
- The details of products which are eligible for returns
- Number of days after purchase within which the product can be returned
- The mode in which the refund will be provided to you
- Cost of shipping on return products if any.
- Who will bear the cost of shipping for the returned product?
- Is an exchange applicable to the product instead of return?
- A product having a warranty – would this also be eligible for refund?
- Digital products – eligible or not eligible for returns?
- If eligible, ways in which a refund will be provided for digital products. Conditions on which digital products will be eligible for refund
- Is purchase receipt required while returning a product?
- Can gift cards be returned?
- Number of days taken to process the return
- Cancellation of returns
Similarly, there are multiple conditions which get added to the return policy. TermsFeed provides a custom return policy based on various inputs from store owners.
Returning a product means the customer will return the purchased product back to the retailer. In such cases, the e-commerce store can provide one of the below options:
- Provide a cash refund on the returned product. This could be 100% cashback or a certain percentage
- Exchange the returned product with another similar or identical product
- Provide a credit or add to the wallet so that the product can be returned, and an alternate purchase can be made
It is important to have a clear return policy and also keep it available online. This provides transparency of services. A good return policy should contain minimum and simple instructions on how a product can be returned and conditions for return.
A simple return policy would be as shown below:
Return and refund policy
Return policy and refund policy are different. However, both are interlinked. A retailer can provide only product returns with partial refunds or can provide a complete refund. Similarly, if a product has not reached a customer then the return will not be applicable, but only refund will be applicable.
Before getting the refund, the buyer would be expected to return the product. In certain other scenarios, the retailer may allow only returns and support exchange of products with no refund.
It’s important to point down all these policies most accurately and it should be legally correct. Most customers presume, returns to be equivalent to refunds. However, if this is not the case with your online store, then you would need to highlight theses points on your policies.
Hiding return and refund policy from customer will only increase the frustration of the customer and you end up losing on a potential return customer. Provide transparent return and refund policies that is easily accessible. Either you can choose to combine the return and refund policies or can keep it separately as two different policies.
Managing E-commerce Return Policies to Maintain Profitability
Even though at the first instance, returns and refunds sound like a negative business, in reality with products returned, you can optimize your business growth. Below are a few tips on how to monetize your return policies.
- Get insights on the most common products being returned. Watch out for trends of returned products. Or common vendors whose products get returned. If you find a trend, then devise ways to improvise business and product quality.
- Increase the return time window. This allows customers to make better decisions
- Increase quality assurance and quality testing for products before they are ready to be shipped
- Add a quality certificate to add more credibility to the product
- Add clear product descriptions and product images.Include product videos where ever applicable
- With product images and videos also include customer testimonials and reviews about the product
- Peak period of the year when returns are higher such as holiday period can also provide insights on how you can take a countermeasure to minimize returns
Have a well-defined process for returns. Invest enough to have elaborate customer support to deal with returns and refunds. Most customers prefer to have a free return. Owing to these most online stores do not charge any return fees. Secondly, the speed of refund matters. Online buyers on average prefer a product return to be processed within 5 days.
With a clear process, also you would need to add all the details elaborately in the return policy displayed on your website. Have an automated process to support returns. This includes working with customer support, as well as third party inventory management system to track returns.
Track returns and provide regular updates to customers, similar to the tracking of any purchased product. Its no brainer, that there are peak times of year when the product returns will be higher than usual. If you are working with a logistics company or outsourced fulfillment partner, then it’s important to be equipped enough to handle this.
For holiday seasons and any identified peak return period based on trends, you can increase the return window. This provides breathing time to process returns as well as gives customers enough time before they return an item. For instance, Amazon provides a return window till January 31st for orders purchased between 1st November and 31st December.
Returnly, is a good automated tool to manage and track returns. Similarly, you can also use other return management tools such as – ReturnLogic, Ezyslips, Orderhive. Above all be proactive to run seamless return management and processing.
With a smooth returning process, you can monetize on return customers. Request for feedback on the return process, similar to the buying process. This can provide insights on smoothening the return process and counter any pitfalls.
Examples of the return policy
To get a better grasp of e-commerce return policy, we will quickly check a few samples. Amazon provides a very elaborate returns policy combined with refund policy. This contains multiple sections defining returns.
This can be seen as highlighted below:
IKEA also provides a detailed return policy and states what is included and excluded from its 365 days returns of product.Similarly, for credit card payments, they have mentioned the exact conditions.
GREATS provides the return policies as a section of the terms and conditions. This includes returns, exchange policies as well as a detailed explanation on how the return can be initiated.
Another example below from FiftyThree.com displays complete money-back guarantee. This includes a step by step guide with links to various resource guides. The below return policy provides details of every point concerned with returns and refunds.
In case you provide services, then you would not have returns. This will only have cancellations and refunds. One such example is as shown in Wizair.com refund policy.
Forever21, maintains a well-defined return policy and has clearly classified sections. This also includes refunds and the duration when you would receive refunds.
Pepperfry, adds the return and refund policy as part of the FAQ. This includes details on terms and conditions along with steps to initiate a return request.
E-commerce return policy is very crucial to keep the momentum of the business. A crisp and clear return policy ensures business transparency. Click To TweetWhile this may not provide you sales, it increases your return customers.
Most online shoppers prefer shopping again at the same store that provides returns and refunds. In the long run, this is a win-win situation for the business. Adding on to this, it is extremely important to highlight all the terms and conditions for e-commerce returns.