How to design the perfect return policy?

How to design the perfect return policy?

Julie Ribeiro

Julie Ribeiro

July 28, 2020

1. How to manage returns and reshipment of ordered products?

Whether it is accessing information on the brand's website, trying to get your head around the return policy, or tracking your returned package—everyone has been confronted with a difficult product return experience.

But as an e-merchant it is important to keep in mind that 20% of customers do not finalize their order if the return policy is not clear or if it is not satisfactory. And 20% of your buyers, that's not nothing!

It is therefore possible and even preferable to improve the customer experience as much as possible at all levels. Between the writing of the return policy, its implementation and customer support, you have plenty to do. 

2. Return policies: simplicity and customer service

About 55% of internet users have abandoned a purchase because the return policies were not clear enough. Writing return policies is not to be taken lightly! From mandatory clauses to the right wording, here are some tips for writing your return policies.

Legal and mandatory rules for all orders and returns

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Between the cooling-off period and the implementation of returns, return policies are governed quite strictly by law. Take your time to understand them!

What is the withdrawal period?

When a customer buys a product online, it is called a "distance selling". However, for online sales, the law provides a withdrawal period of 14 days as a basic principle and it is open to each customer. 

During these 14 days, the customer is completely free to change his mind about his purchase and return the purchased product to you. He is then not obliged to justify his decision to withdraw.

When retracting, the customer must:

  • Notify you of his decision within 14 days of receipt of the goods.
  • Return the product to you within 14 days of declaring it.

How to implement returns?

The customer must also be informed of the possibility of retraction before he proceeds with the purchase. It is therefore necessary to provide a return policy which the customer can easily take note of.

This return policy is very important! Indeed, if you do not clearly inform your customer about his right of withdrawal, then the customer has an additional period of one year to return the goods.

If a customer decides to return the product to you, you have the obligation to reimburse it. This refund must include all expenses incurred by the customer during the purchase. In other words, you will have to reimburse the price of the goods as well as the shipping costs related to its delivery.

However, it is possible to make the customer responsible for paying the return shipping costs. But beware! In this case, the customer must be warned before his purchase that he will have to pay these costs himself. If the return policy does not contain this information, you will have to pay the return costs yourself.

Please note: as soon as you receive the goods, you have 14 days to make this refund. In the event of a late refund, the amount of the refund will be increased by:

  • 10% for a delay of less than 30 days;
  • 20% for a delay of between 30 and 60 days;
  • 50% for a delay of more than 60 days;

Exclusion of returns

Nevertheless, for certain goods, the right of withdrawal is excluded. This is the case when:

  • The goods have been personalized for the consumer;
  • For reasons of hygiene or health protection, the goods may not be resold to another customer;
  • It is unsealed or customer-installed computer software. 

However, where the right of withdrawal is excluded, you must indicate this in your privacy policy.

Bigblue tips: Do you still have questions about your return policy? Not sure how to write it? If so, online legal services such as Avostart can put you in touch with a specialist lawyer quickly, so that you can find answers to all your questions.

3. Make returns and serve your brand image

Beyond their purely legal dimension, return conditions are a very powerful marketing tool, as 95% of internet users recommend a brand if the return of products has been facilitated.

In other words, if the customer feels understood and has the right to change his mind, and that the refund procedure is fast, he will be less hesitant to go ahead with his purchase on your e-commerce site. For example, if a customer wants to order a mug for Father's Day, and your return policies are clear and accommodating, not only will he go through the checkout process more easily, but he will also talk about it to those around him!

So, increase sales and improve your brand image. Two reasons not to skimp on writing your return policy! To be optimal, your return conditions must be clear, flexible, and competitive.

Clearly stated conditions

72% of consumers say they would buy more online if the return procedure was simpler and more accessible. To make your return policy a marketing lever, we therefore advise you to use a vocabulary that is accessible to everyone.

It is also important to answer the simplest questions, those that all consumers ask themselves: return deadlines, possible exchanges, product return steps, refund period, tracking email to notify the customer of the progress of the return...

Keep it simple and concise. A few sentences should be enough to provide your client with the answer they're looking for.

Flexibility of returns 

Customers greatly appreciate the adjustment of returns according to the period. For example, during Black Friday or the Christmas period, perhaps it makes sense to extend the originally planned return period by 14 days.

For example, ready-to-wear brand Headict allows 14 days for a refund, and up to 30 days for a credit note or exchange. Even more concretely, Zalando extended their return period to 100 days during the Covid health crisis. So, if you sell mugs for Father's Day, you can increase your return period 3 weeks before the event, to facilitate any exchanges or refunds. 

A competitive policy

Standing out is always good for your e-commerce. And with a competitive returns policy, you will attract a lot of customers and increase your conversion rate!

Here again, it is a question of adapting according to circumstances and periods. For example, you can set up a system of free returns in the weeks leading up to Father's Day. If you do this and extend the return period, your personalized mugs will sell like hotcakes!

Bigblue tips: 60% of buyers prefer a purely automated process so they can schedule their returns on their own. To satisfy them, be sure to describe the return procedures precisely and set up automatic return forms!

4. The implementation of tools to enable the return of purchased products

1 product out of 4 sold online is returned, compared to just 10% of goods in traditional trade. To satisfy your customers, in addition to tackling the theoretical dimension of your return policy, you need to put in place tools for its practical application.

Improving the process internally

As an e-commerce owner, you have many tools at your disposal to facilitate returns. They are more or less simple to set up, you just have to choose the ones that suit you!

The creation of a return form

As stated, consumers like to handle product returns from A to Z. From this point of view, it is therefore a good idea to create an automated and easy to fill out return form.

Plan to ask questions about the whys and hows of the return in order to improve and solve this problem in the future. You can even turn this form into a conversion channel. For example, if your customer bought a mug for Father's Day but it's too small, you could offer them a range of larger mugs.

A well-written return form can increase your conversion rate: you might as well take advantage of product returns!

The creation of a page dedicated to returns 

Information is the key to successful e-commerce. So, make sure you create a page on your e-commerce site entirely dedicated to returns and their conditions. For example, you can list the different stages of the return, and even schematize them! The better your customers can visualize the steps, the better your communication will be.

You can even include an FAQ about returns to answer your buyers' questions efficiently and concisely. 

For even more originality and personalization, it is even possible to communicate these steps in a physical way! In the package containing the Father's Day mug, you can, for example, slip a flyer, which lists and illustrates all the return steps.

The conception of an adapted packaging

50% of 18 to 24-year-olds buy on the internet with a view of returning certain products. Both for your image and for the respect of the environment, it makes sense to design reusable packaging for returns.

Therefore, it is preferable to send your products in a box that can be closed and used for the return of your products. This will prevent your buyers from returning their products in old boxes from an old order which may be much too large for the product. This practice is not very good for the environment. 

Setting up a tracking system

As with delivery, it is important to remember to inform your customers of the progress of their return. If you have read our article on the 9 do's and don'ts of delivery, you already know that customers are reassured when they are informed in real time. 

You can therefore set up a parcel tracking system so that they can follow the progress of their return live. Applications such as 17track exist to track your parcels, without going through the carriers' sites (in France and abroad).Simple to set up, and ideal to make life easier for your customers!

Attach the return label when sending the goods.

This possibility is not really unanimously accepted by e-merchants, because it is a double-edged sword. Some brands (especially fast fashion brands)include the return label in the parcel sent. This makes the return procedure easier in case of a problem: no need to print the slip, just stick it on the parcel.

However, attaching the label can be a false good idea. Indeed, for a return to be handled by the distributor, both the transport label AND the return slip are required. So even if you include the return slip in the package of your mug, your customer will have to print the shipping label (specifying what's in the package, the value of the mug, addresses, etc.). If he doesn't read the return conditions correctly, he won't think about it: this will lead to logistical problems and delays. So, attaching the return label is not just a good idea!

Don't forget that the presence of the return slip plays a decisive role in the return of a product. Not attaching it can therefore help to limit returns, at the very least not to encourage them.

The inclusion of the return price

Again, this is a double-edged sword. Nearly 80% of consumers want a free return: such a policy therefore makes it possible to satisfy the majority of your customers.

That said, it greatly encourages returns. Even the slightest doubt about a product will make consumers likely to return it. This can also lead to abusive returns: when an internet user buys several items (several sizes of jeans, for example), with a view of returning some of them. And this is not good for your stock and logistics, nor for the environment! 

Some e-commerce brands have therefore found a happy medium: in France, returning a product is free, but the second one has to be paid for.

Bigblue tips: By setting up a FAQ, you reduce the number of repetitive customer interactions, and you give yourself the opportunity to improve your logistics and marketing. Investigate the reasons for returns and the questions asked, and adapt your e-commerce site to what you find! 

For example, when writing your product sheets: 22% of returns are linked to the product image not accurately reflecting the product advertized. By analyzing the problems according to the products, you will increase your awareness of ways to improve your e-commerce.

Optimizing returns through outsourcing 

When facilitating your return policy, you are not obliged to do everything yourself. You can outsource the whole logistical part.

Collaboration with specialized partners

Some professionals have become experts in the field of product returns.Companies like Shoprunback, Return Magic and can take over your reverse logistics, to take the weight off your shoulders. 

Their job is to automate returns and to be an intermediary between you and your customers. And when you consider that the average return time in France is 22 days, it may not be a bad idea to bank on speed!

Using the services of a logistician

Depending on the logistician you work with, the difference can be quite significant in terms of returns. 

Some logisticians, such as Bigblue for example, take care of all reverse logistics, from returns to shipping. They take care of the entire logistics process and notify your e-commerce and customers in real time of the progress of their returns.

Bigblue tips: 5% customer loyalty can increase your profits between 25% and 55%. Whether by word of mouth or by reordering from you, customer service plays a huge role in retaining your customers! Investing in the outsourcing of returns management can therefore become beneficial for your turnover in the long term, provided you use the right logistics specialist. 

5. The proper management of returned products, at the service of your turnover!

As an e-commerce brand, it is possible to improve your returns process on different scales, depending on your opportunities for development. The ultimate goal is to optimize your customers' experience, and at the same time, your brand image.

To achieve this, you can improve the way you write your return policy, focusing on clarity and flexibility in order to stand out from the crowd. It is also advisable to dedicate an entire page of your e-commerce site to return policies to help your customers to see clearly and place orders with full knowledge of the facts.

If these options are complicated to set up on your scale or if you want to delegate the reverse logistics to a professional, you can outsource this service by calling in a specialist logistician. 

The work of an e-merchant doesn't stop at the delivery of a product-you have to look further, and put yourself in the shoes of your buyers, from A to Z. What is the ideal service for your customers?

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