A large part of success with an online business is keeping the customers happy, a task that involves a mutually beneficial ecommerce return strategy for when they are less than happy with the product they received. Some may err on the side of not allowing returns at all. While this may seem to keep more money in your pocket, it can convince some consumers not to buy and causes negative reputation to spread.
The best ecommerce return policy benefits both you and the person who opened their wallet to purchase one or more of the products you offer. The following tips will help you strategize and finalize a policy or set of rules that minimize risk and maximize both brand reputation and profits.
Minimize the Chance of Returns From the Start
If you take appropriate steps to reduce the chance that the customer is not satisfied with his or her purchase, your return or refund policy will not be tested as frequently. Always be honest and transparent with the description of the products, include multiple quality pictures, and suggest that shoppers contact you with questions before the final sale is made.
Know When Sales Should be Final
There are some product types that cannot or should not allow returns. These include things like intimate apparel such as underwear, lingerie, and even swimsuits, and body jewellery or earrings. You are within your rights to also sell items “As Is.” This means that the customer is buying the products in its current condition and they have no recourse if it ends up not fulfilling their needs.
Keep Your Ecommerce Return Policy Clear
Clearly display the rules surrounding your particular policy for returning merchandise, exchanges, and refunds. Customers need to know what it is to feel comfortable making a purchase. Use natural English language (or whatever international language your target audience uses) instead of “legalese” so every rule is understood by the majority. Also, write your own unique one. Never copy and paste from another ecommerce store or online retailer.
Consider No-Questions-Asked Returns
The ultimate return policy for consumers is one where they can return any merchandise for any reason, at any time, and for a full refund. While this could have them whipping out their credit cards because shopping at your online store has virtually no risk, it is a difficult policy for the business to maintain.
People may return things they damaged or used, or wait so long to return that you have moved on to other product lines. Giving full refunds in these situations will cut into your profits and leave you with unsellable inventory. Creating a “No Questions Asked” policy with stipulations may temper this risk.
Reveal The Rules Up Front
After a nice blurb about how much you want them to be happy when they buy from you, post the rules near the top of the page with a bold heading to make them visible right away. This is where your ecommerce returns strategy is revealed.
Few things to consider:
- Time Limits – Do you offer returns for 30 days, 90 days, or at any time after purchase?
- Product Condition – Does the product have to be in unused, unworn, condition to be eligible?
- Product Type – Are some products exempt from any exchanges or refunds?
- Packaging or Shipping Materials – Some shops require original packaging or shipping materials in order to know why any damage occurred.
- Exchange or Refund – Does a dissatisfied customer get a new product, store credit, or full refund of the purchase price. Are shipping costs included?
Walk Customers Through The Process
The last thing you want to do when offering ecommerce returns is to confuse your customers. If the process is not quick, simple, and intuitive, their opinion of your shop will fall. People share their experiences with different companies on social media and directly to friends and family. The last thing you want is for them to say how annoying or difficult it was to get any help from you.
Lead the customer step by step from the point they realize they want to return a purchase to the final exchange or refund.
- Tell them or link to their Order Page so they can find all the necessary information in question.
- Explain how to submit the exchange or refund request: through email or with an on-site form.
- Clearly, state what information you need from them to process the transaction.
- Finish by telling them to click the Submit button or send the email.
If the process changes based on the type of merchandise, their method of payment, or whether they want an exchange or refund, clearly indicate the steps for each with bold headings or links. Asking what the customer wants to do helps them find their way.
Tell Them What To Expect
Customer expectations are a huge part of building a positive reputation for your company. When it comes to returning merchandise and getting new products or money back, they need to know what, how, and when. Never promise more than you can comfortably deliver, but always deliver what you promised, or maybe a little bit more.
What will they get when they send back the product? Should they expect a new product of the same type? Perhaps they can pick another product from your selection and within a certain price range. If they get a refund, state clearly how much it will be: the full purchase price, price minus shipping, price minus a restocking fee, or any other combination.
Reveal how long everything will take. Your targeted consumer base will appreciate the fastest service possible. If things take too long, at least knowing when they will happen helps build trust. Tell the customer they will get a confirmation email within 24-48 hours, a return shipping label in three days by mail, a replacement shipped out in five days, or a refund in 7 days to their credit card or another account.
In-House Refund Policy Tips
Know your own returns and refund policy inside and out so you never give confusing information to the customers who are not happy with their ecommerce purchase. Make sure every employee who may ever answer the phone, an email, text, or social media post also knows it perfectly. If the rules ever change, post them clearly on the site, on your social media pages, and tell everyone who shops with you online so no one gets surprised.
Above all else, your ecommerce returns strategy should convince any potential customers that your company is trustworthy and dedicated to their satisfaction. The more you reveal in simple language, the more they will understand and agree to your rules. Never act coy about what products are covered, how much money they will get back, or whether there are time or condition limits. This will only lead to dissatisfaction or outright anger.
Your refund or exchange rules are like a contract between you and the shopper. If they feel like the odds are stacked in your favour, they will not make a purchase. On the other hand, if your policy for ecommerce returns includes a no questions asked, full price plus shipping refund no matter how long ago the item was purchased, your company will lose out in the end. Find the balance that works for your budget and stick to it.