Although every e-commerce website deals with returns, return policies look very different from one site to another. Some businesses offer a full refund on online returns, while others offer store credit in exchange for returned products. Some businesses provide free return shipping on product returns, while others pass shipping costs to customers.
Ultimately, a good return program fulfils your company's goals without being too costly to operate or too difficult for your customers to find, understand, or use.
Smaller businesses, by contrast, may benefit from a less generous program. According to data from CNBC, the average return represents 30% of the purchase price. This cost may be too much for businesses operating on tight margins. Instead, many smaller businesses offer stricter return policies, such as charging for shipping or only offering store credit.
In the end, there's no one-size-fits-all return program. You’ll need to crunch the numbers and consider how much each aspect of your policy could impact your bottom line. We’ll examine some of these costs in the next section.
When designing a returns policy, merchants should consider several factors to balance customer satisfaction and profitability. Some of these factors include:
These statistics highlight the most common return reasons, and can help merchants to better understand why customers return products, and to design returns solutions that take these factors into account. According to Invesp:
As a merchant, it is important to be aware of the legal framework surrounding returns in the European Union (EU). The EU Consumer Rights Directive sets out minimum standards for returns, including the right for consumers to return goods within 14 days of receipt for a full refund, without giving any reason.
In addition, EU member states may have additional consumer protection laws that apply, so it is important to be familiar with the specific requirements in your country. Failing to comply with these laws can result in legal consequences and a loss of customer trust.
It's essential to make your returns policy easily accessible to customers so they can understand their rights and the process for returning a product. A dedicated returns policy page on your website should be easy to find and clearly outline your policy, including any conditions that must be met for a return to be accepted and the timeframe within which returns can be made.
Providing detailed product information on every product page can help to reduce the number of returns by ensuring that customers have all the information they need to make an informed purchase decision. This can include product dimensions, materials, care instructions, and any other relevant details.
It's important to be transparent about the types of products that are eligible for returns and any exceptions, such as perishable goods or custom-made items. This helps to manage customer expectations and reduce the number of returns.
Setting clear conditions for returns helps to ensure that products are returned in a resalable condition and reduces the cost to your business.
Defining a specific timeframe within which customers can request a return is an important aspect of your returns policy. This helps to manage customer expectations and ensure that the return process is handled promptly.
Typically, merchants set a timeframe of 14 days from the date of delivery, in line with the minimum standards set out in the EU Consumer Rights Directive. This gives customers a clear deadline for initiating the return process and helps to manage expectations.
However, it's important to consider the nature of your products and your business model when setting the timeframe for returns. For example, if you sell perishable goods, you may set a shorter return timeframe. On the other hand, if you sell high-ticket items, you may offer a longer return period to build customer trust and encourage purchases.
Providing clear instructions on how customers can initiate a return is an important aspect of your reverse logistics strategy. This helps customers understand the process and feel confident that they can easily request a return if needed.
There are several ways to provide instructions on how to initiate a return, including:
Offering free return shipping can make the process of returning a product much more convenient for customers, and can help to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. This can be particularly important for online purchases, where customers may be reluctant to initiate a return due to the cost and hassle of return shipping.
Matter of fact, a study by Accenture found that 69% of consumers say that the availability of free returns is the most important factor when making an online purchase.
Here are some benefits of offering free return shipping:
Of course, offering free return shipping may not be feasible for all businesses, and there are trade-offs to consider, such as the cost of shipping and handling and the impact on profitability. However, the benefits of offering free return shipping outweigh the costs for many businesses.
This will help to ensure a great customer experience, ensure you that your customers are fully aware of their rights and the process for initiating a return, and will reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings or disputes.
Here are some tips for making your returns policy easy to understand:
In addition to offering refunds, consider offering other options such as exchanges or store credit. This can be particularly useful for customers who are dissatisfied with a product but would like to purchase a different item from your store, rather than receiving a refund. According to a survey conducted by Accenture, 48% of customers who returned a product said they would prefer to receive store credit, while only 27% preferred a cash refund.
Here are some benefits of offering exchanges or store credit:
Offering a satisfaction guarantee or extended return policy for high-ticket items can build customer trust and increase customer confidence in your brand. By offering a longer return period or a guarantee, customers can feel more secure in their purchase, knowing they can return the item if they are not satisfied.
According to a survey by MetaPack, 63% of customers are more likely to purchase if a retailer offers a satisfaction guarantee. This can be particularly beneficial for high-ticket items, where customers may be more hesitant to purchase due to the cost.
Here are some benefits of offering a satisfaction guarantee or extended return policy:
In conclusion, managing returns is an essential aspect of any e-commerce business. By following the best practices discussed in this article, you can streamline the returns process and increase customer satisfaction. From having clear return policies to offering easy-to-use return portals, these tips will help you create a positive customer return experience. Implementing these best practices will benefit your business by reducing costs and also help you build a strong reputation and loyal customer base. Remember, happy customers are repeat customers, and a positive returns experience is key to returning them to your online store.