In today’s ecommerce market, a return policy is simply an essential part of the online shopping experience. It lets the customer know that they can safely try out your product without fully committing to something that’s not right for them. While it’s not technically a legal requirement in the U.S., a returns policy makes a customer much more likely to purchase a product. And, creating a good return policy is vital for merchants to increase customer satisfaction and trust in your company.
The Five Key Elements
Take a look at how successful ecommerce giants write their returns policies and you’ll find a few key elements designed to make the process stress-free and easy to understand.
Do: Use language your customers can easily understand.
This will help convince them you’re on their side, rather than trying to baffle them into submission. Try keeping the tone of your policy in-keeping with your brand: if your website copy is casual and jokey, keep that going in the return details, as long as it is clear and to the point.
Don’t: Fill your policy with legalese unless you’re fluent.
Building your returns policy out of complicated phrases and legal jargon will almost always confuse your customers. This will either convince them not to buy your products out of fear of misunderstanding the returns policy or increase the number of customer service queries and chargebacks you receive. Both outcomes mean fewer customers and less revenue for your business.
Do: Stick to a limited return window.
Decide on how long you’ll allow customers to consider their purchase before they can no longer return the item. This is up to you, but most ecommerce companies stick to somewhere between two weeks and a month.
Don’t: Have an open-ended return window.
While it is important to keep a flexible return policy by not stipulating return dates will encourage customers to return products months or even years after they bought them. Businesses that have gone with this policy have inevitably encountered administrative trouble, opened themselves up to scams and lost revenue.
Do: Make definite choices and be clear.
Decide under what conditions your company will accept returns. Does the product need to be in its original packaging? Does it need to have all labels and tags intact? Figure out what would be necessary for your company to re-sell items and make sure these conditions are made clearly communicated to the customer at checkout. This is where clear and precise language is really important.
Don’t: Be too generous.
Not being clear enough about your conditions or worse, not having any conditions at all, will result in customers sending back used or even broken products. These are often unsellable, meaning a loss for you and your business.
Do: offer a full refund.
The whole point of a return policy is that customer’s money is safely returned to them if they decide they don’t want the product. By offering a full refund you will build that all-important trust and set your business up for positive reviews.
Don’t: offer store credit.
This might rub some business-owners up the wrong way, and I admit it’s not a hard and fast rule. Store credit is often a common offer from online and even brick-and-mortar retail, and used in combination with full refunds it can be an effective and expedient way of returning money to customers.
For example, you can offer store credit for some types of items, or allow the customer to choose — wait a few days for a full refund, or get store credit straight away. However, if you offer only store credit you’re likely to put off new customers just as much as you would not offering returns at all.
Do: Offer to pay for return shipping.
Offering to take up the cost of shipping the items back to you is a really easy way to win over customers. You could even speed up the return process, like clothing brand ASOS does by including pre-paid postage stamps in their shipped items.
Don’t: Be unclear about who pays.
If you would prefer the customer pay shipping, make sure you stipulate this clearly on the return policy. As a customer, there’s nothing worse than returning an item you’ve already bought and finding out you have to pay to ship it back.