How to Create a Best-in-Class eCommerce Return Policy

In 2018 alone, $369 billion in sales were lost to returns. Furthermore, at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned, compared to only 8.89% in brick-and-mortar stores. This means that online merchants especially can’t afford to overlook their eCommerce return policy. 

The proof is in the numbers—shoppers who are unhappy with a retailer's returns process are 3x more likely to never purchase from that retailer again. On the flip side, 95% of shoppers who are happy with the returns process said they’d purchase from that retailer again in the future. While creating an eCommerce return policy may just seem like one big hassle, it’s a valuable opportunity to differentiate from other online retailers and keep your customers coming back for more. 

Simple Ways to Proactively Reduce Your Amount of eCommerce Returns 

Reverse fulfillment logistics can be a large expense for your online business. So, there are simple steps you can take to reduce overall return volume and minimize some of the costs associated with eCommerce returns: 

  • Create clear product descriptions. Giving reliable info about your products up-front can decrease your amount of eCommerce returns. When your customers receive a product that matches their expectations, they’ll be less likely to return that product. So, make sure the products on your website have a clear, accurate description. High-quality product photos can also help here!
  • Do quality control regularly. If your descriptions and photos reflect your products accurately but you’re still getting a high volume of eCommerce returns, there may be an issue with the items themselves. If you’re dealing with the issue, assess the quality of items that are regularly being returned, do product testing, and check in with your manufacturer to address any production issues that may be affecting quality.
  • Increase your return time windows. Customers typically expect at least 30 days to return an online purchase, but only 5% of shoppers say they actually return online orders more than 30 days after purchase. So, extending your return time limits (for example, offering a 60-day return policy vs. a 30-day policy) can actually decrease your amount of eCommerce returns because it creates less urgency for the customer to send the item back.
  • Identify trends in commonly returned items. It’s a good idea to include a quick one-question survey in your eCommerce returns process that asks why a customer chose to return a certain product. This makes it possible to identify if there is a quality issue—for example, if the same clothing items are being returned and customers keep saying it is due to a fit issue, you may be able to identify a potential sizing issue with your manufacturer. Then, you can make the necessary improvements to future inventory to avoid the same products being returned for the same reasons. 

Tips for Creating an eCommerce Return Policy 

Even if you follow the steps above in order to proactively reduce the amount of eCommerce returns you have to handle, you’ll never be able to completely eliminate all returns. So, it’s vital that you have an effective eCommerce return policy in place. 

Here are five key tips for creating a simple, streamlined eCommerce return policy that will delight your customers! 

Keep it Simple and be Transparent 

Transparency is a key component of delivering a great customer experience. Much like your shipping policy, it’s crucial to make your returns policy easily accessible to your customers. It should be simple, straightforward, and clearly posted on your website. Failure to provide a transparent eCommerce return policy or making the returns process a confusing hassle can negatively impact your bottom line. If customers have to hunt for your return policy or jump through hoops to send a product back, they’ll likely just go to another competitor’s site. On the other hand, a transparent, seamless policy and returns process can create a boost in brand loyalty and revenue!

Provide Visibility Into Every Stage of the Order Fulfillment Process—Including eCommerce Returns 

The transparency shouldn’t stop once a customer has placed an order with you! It’s just as important to provide transparency once your customers’ returns are on their way back to your fulfillment center. Customers will want to know the status of their return and refund or exchange. So, it’s important to work with a fulfillment provider who can give you and your customers visibility into this process. It’s a good idea to always give your customers tracking information for their return shipment and set up automatic text alerts to notify them once their return has been received and refunded.

Consider Offering Free Returns

Did you know that 79% of customers won’t purchase from an online store that charges return shipping fees? Free return shipping won’t make sense for every business’ margins, especially smaller online retailers or ones that have just started up. But, if it’s possible, offering free eCommerce returns may cause a big enough increase in overall sales that it ends up paying for itself over time. Try crunching some numbers to figure out just how many additional orders you would need to fulfill in order to break even on free return shipping. If you do need to charge for eCommerce returns, make sure those costs are clear to the customer and that there are no hidden fees. 

Process eCommerce Returns Quickly 

In 2016, 88% of customers said they would limit or stop shopping with a merchant that took too long to credit their refund, and 77% said they’d be less likely to recommend a retailer to their social circles if it takes too long to issue a credit. These numbers have only continued to increase as returns processes and banking processes continue to get faster in order to align with more demanding consumer preferences. For this reason, it’s important to work with a fulfillment provider who has efficient fulfillment logistics in place so they can process returns as quickly as possible.

Turn to an Expert Fulfillment Provider 

Working with a fulfillment provider means your customers’ returns can be handled by a third party rather than your own internal staff. This frees up time for your staff to focus on other tasks. Additionally, skilled fulfillment providers will be able to leverage years of industry experience and expertise as well as the most cutting-edge technology in order to manage your eCommerce returns faster and at scale. This can include providing customers with prepaid return labels, sharing return tracking information, and supporting integrations through their fulfillment software that will automatically text return and refund updates to customers.

Create and Execute the Best eCommerce Return Policy with The Fulfillment Lab!

It’s time to say hello to the future of fulfillment and efficient, effective order fulfillment processes with The Fulfillment Lab! Our innovative eCommerce fulfillment services include:

  • Proprietary, easy to use Global Fulfillment Software™ that makes automating text updates for eCommerce returns simple 
  • Access to our 14 fulfillment centers (2 domestic and 12 international) to expedite the eCommerce return process
  • Full visibility into the end-to-end fulfillment process, including eCommerce returns 
  • And more!

With these eCommerce fulfillment services, you can easily overcome the obstacles of eCommerce returns! Ready to get started? Reach out to one of our team members today!

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