I dare to assume that the return policy is not the prettiest part of your e-commerce store. For many of you this document is a sad necessity required by law, simply rattled off - in the end, you strive to have as few returns as possible, so why focus on them and divide the hair into four.
Nothing could be more wrong - a well-written return policy is one of the key parts of taking care of the customer experience. It is also the opportunity to win customer trust- even if the buyer uses such a policy and is not temporarily 100% satisfied with the order, it does not mean that he will not buy from your online store in the future.
What's more, returns apply to virtually every company - as shown by data collected by Deloitte with a 30% product return rate in 2022, retailers can expect returns of ... 13 BILLION items per year, with a total value of $ 573 billion.
So how to write a return policy that your customers will love? Check it out with us in today's post.
Return and refund policies - why do you need them
It's not just selling online that can be difficult; e-buyers also do not have an easy task. When deciding to buy a given item via online purchases, they cannot touch it, try it on, or check what its' color looks like in reality. No wonder that sometimes they want to return ordered goods - maybe the shoes they bought turned out to be in the wrong size, the texture of the pillow purchases a week ago is not that weave in the touch and the dreamed bag is not made of matte leather but has a slight gloss.
It's not your fault - your product is in this case of good quality, but simply does not meet the expectations of a specific consumer.
It may also happen that some of your workers made mistake in the packaging and shipping process - and packed incorrect items (other than the ordered ones) or has not properly secured the parcels' cardboard so the order was delivered damaged with the diminished value.
Regardless of the reasons - as you can see, the return (or/and refund) policy is not just the table of consumer rights imposed by regulations, but a necessary document created both by small business and by larger stores.
Moreover, as you can see product returns apply to all industries - also those who at first glance sell fewer products online:
So if you don't have a well-functioning returning process (backed up by a well-written return policy), reversed logistics can take a lot of time, energy, and money - from impacting the hours spent on replying to customers' emails, to the high cost of items' repacking and resending.
But don't worry - we're here to help you and show what best practices you can implement in orders' returning topic.
Customer-centric approach - the best possible solution
Let's start with the most important statistic in the whole text - as many as 54% of buyers will not complete the first purchase if their seller has unclear return and refund policies. Potential customers realize that the better (detailed and transparent) the return policy is - the greater is the similarity, that the retailer sells a lot and does not focus only on one-time purchases.
What's more, badly created return policies equals more dissatisfied customers, and this means lots of bad opinions about the company written on the Internet. You've got only one reputation as an online store, and as the research by Nielson's Global Trust in Advertising Report shows, as many as 66% of e-shoppers trust the opinions posted about the online company. Quick calculations show that social proof is a powerful weapon - and the lack of satisfaction with the purchases of former customers translates directly into the lack of new buyers.
So how should you write a standard return policy? Remember that it must be written as simply as possible. Instead of using complicated legal phrases - try to speak directly to the client using clear and transparent language.
Such a policy should also clear all potential doubts, which will allow you to avoid the need to consider individual cases separately - which, as we all know, is more expensive and much less productive.
What the buyer wants: the need to accept returns and a full refund
If there was a customer wish list regarding the return policy, it would certainly include the possibility of returning the purchased goods regardless of their condition, receiving a full refund, the possibility of returning the purchased product within an indefinite time without incurring any costs connected with the returned order (eg. shipping fees).
However, you are not the consumer good of the fairy so make sure buyers' requirements meet the right expectations applied in the industry - you run a business in which costs and earnings must follow the predefined levels. So before you decide which of the above-mentioned points you can offer to your customers in a gesture of goodwill, check what are the key topics that must be included in the return policy.
Each return policy should cover a few basic issues, such as:
- description of the products that can be returned along with a description of the items that cannot be returned (eg. you can indicate that discounted or personalised items can't be returned or exchanged),
- the time during which a refund or exchange needs to be made (e.g. 30 days, 60 days, etc.),
- the condition in which the item can be returned (no damage, no signs of use, in original condition, etc.),
- what the buyer will receive after the return (complete refund of money spent - in cash/ to the credit card or to the original payment method; the possibility of exchanging the goods for another one of the same value; getting some extra store credit, etc.),
- how to return (stationery store returns, shipping the parcel back wrapped in the original packaging, etc.; if return should be done via shipping - specify who covers backorder shipping charges or offer free returns, which increases customer loyalty. Do not forget about return label adding. You can also propose to refund the items purchased return shipping costs in case the fault of giveback lies with the ecommerce; otherwise, you may indicate that the costs are borne by the buyer.).
Note that if you use specific sales channels, they may already have a defined return policy. Also, pay attention to the laws related to the returns or exchange policy of the country where you do business. For example, if you have an international chain of stores, these laws may differ slightly from country to country.
We probably also don't need to add that there are times during the year (such as seasonal sales) when taking care of returns is especially important. Such a period is also the High Season (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas) - download our "How to prepare your e-commerce logistics for high season" ebook and learn how to manage your returns policy wisely in advance!
Where to inform about customer returns' possibility
Even the most elaborated document will not be successful if ... it is not found by the clients. Make sure that buyers can easily find it on your website before finalising the purchase.
Include links to the ecommerce returns policy in easily accessible key places in the store - this will save time for discussions with customers who did not notice the document.
It is worth entering your policy in (at least) one of the following spots:
- website footer,
- FAQ page,
- website chat,
- product page,
- shopping cart- order confirmation email.
Strategies for winning the customer loyalty
If you've already created the foundations, it's time to step up to a higher level and think about actions that will allow you to turn your return process into a win-win situation and gain the holy sales and marketing grail - i.e. loyal customers.
Tips and tricks for achieving this goal:
- let your customers choose: let them decide whether they want to send the return using post or other couriers (or allow to send return via parcel lockers or in the nearest parcel shop), or drop it off in closest stationery store,
- minimise requirements and restrictions where possible: consider whether you must require the product to be returned in its original packaging etc.,
- take care of the details: if the return is your fault (and e.g. the parcel arrive damaged to the customer, you've sent the wrong item, product purchased is not in the satisfactory quality or the buyer got a defective product) - propose not only to return or exchange the product but also add a gift card for a small sum or a discount with an apology for the client,
- makes customers' life easier - when sending the package with an order make sure that return labels are attached to it to be used "just in case",
- try to encourage buyers to exchange products instead of returning them - thanks to this cash flow in your ecommerce will stay positive - especially if you run a small business,
- meet the clients' needs in-half way in an exceptional situation at your sole discretion- if someone did not manage to return the product, e.g. in the 30 days specified in the return policy (but is trying to give the item back on the 32nd day arguing the delay by the illness), maybe you can offer them some store credit instead of a full refund ...?
Running an online store can be a challenge - especially in terms of CX. However, you do not have to be afraid of reverse logistics: offering free returns will allow you to attract new potential buyers, ensure customer trust-building.
The real key to success is to take real care of customers' needs - online shoppers will surely appreciate them and will choose your ecommerce for their next e-store purchases, increasing both your income and conversion rates. At the end of the day, more sales and more satisfied customers mean more profits for your company.
In Linker Cloud we can also support your reverse logistics issues. Just let us know you need our support, and we'll be happy to help.
For more on this topic, check out our Tech Overview post.