E-commerce return policy: how to get it right

E-commerce return policy: how to get it right

Jonathan Kam

Jonathan Kam

September 27, 2021

When it comes to providing a seamless post-purchase experience for their clients, e-retailers tend to focus solely on shipping: free or very low shipping costs, shorter delivery times, proactive package tracking. Everything aims to reassure buyers about receiving their package on time. 

And rightly so, the delivery experience is a crucial step in any consumer journey. But what about sending the products back? Even if it’s an unfortunate situation, your company will certainly deal with customer returns. And faster than you thought, your e-commerce return policy can highlight problems.

From the deadlines to return an item, to the terms and reshipment conditions, including who will pay for it... The conditions for returns, exchanges, or refunds of an order placed on your site must be as transparent as possible.

Put the odds in your favor with 6 best practices to optimize your reverse logistics. Maybe you’ll turn your e-commerce return policy into a highly effective conversion lever!

1. Why is your e-commerce reshipment policy so important?

Let’s start with the bad news: you will not be able to avoid reshipment. However, they can become an opportunity! If correctly implemented, a returns policy for e-commerce offers you the chance to prove to your future clients that you care about their needs and address their concerns. This is particularly important, knowing that most e-tailers don’t meet the expectations of their customers.

According to a recent study, 54% of consumers said that free returns are important when purchasing from specific a e-commerce. And 34% of them will not buy if the reshipment costs are not free.

In contrast, only 14% of e-commerces offer free returns. While 60% of them aren’t ready to put in any effort to help buyers return the products.

Such a gap is an opportunity for your brand to stand out from the competition! It is even more urgent, knowing that 92% of buyers indicated they would buy again on the same e-shop if the returns processes are simple. 

2. The risks of a sloppy designed returns policy

E-commerce return policies weigh in more heavily than we could imagine in the success of a brand. While this is the case across all sectors, not all of them are impacted equally. For instance, the fashion industry averages a return rate of 25%.

Being slow to meet customer’s demands concerning returns can negatively impact your revenue. Buyer dissatisfaction will quickly show on client’s ratings and reviews about your e-commerce. This will also be the case for negative comments on your social media. 

If left unattended, your brand image will suffer, and you’ll struggle even more to convince new clients to trust you. A vicious circle to avoid…

Operationally, an inefficient e-commerce returns policy will make you waste a lot of time. And thus, it will distract you from growing your business. 

Continue reading, and don’t panic. We’ll explain step by step how to avoid the most common mistakes. 

3. Which are the main components that you should definitely include in your e-commerce returns policy?  

Before jumping into optimizing your e-commerce returns policy, you must understand your obligations. If you sell within the European Union, you must respect the current legislation. It stipulates that all online purchases can be returned to the merchant within 14 days following the acquisition. This is known as the right of withdrawal.

The latter applies without requiring the client to justify their decision. They must be reimbursed for the product or given store credit for the same amount. You must also pay for the initial shipping costs, but you are not obliged to pay for reshipments. After 14 days, the clients may exchange the product if it doesn’t match your description.

The same applies if the package is damaged. According to studies, replacing a damaged product can quickly become expensive: up to 17 times the initial shipping cost. On average, during the shipping process, a parcel is dropped or falls 17 times. And unfortunately, damaged goods are responsible for over 34% of returns.

For additional information on your legal obligations concerning returns, visit the European Consumer Center France.

4. Good practices to optimize your e-commerce returns policy

You are aware now of the rules you must follow when implementing an e-commerce returns policy. However, that is the bare minimum! You need to push the legal frame and convince online buyers visiting your website to buy from you, eyes closed! 

Here are 6 best practices that will allow you to stand out from the competition and boost your conversion rate. Putting them into practice will ease the returns management process and enable you to focus on the core of your business.

Calculate your reshipment rate (and limit it as much as possible)

First things first! You need to calculate and analyze your current returns rate. How to do it? Just divide the number of returns by the total number of orders on a given period. For example, if you sold 1000 units this month and 100 of them were returned by your clients, your return rate would be 10%.

This will enable you to think of a strategy that responds to the specific needs of your business. The goal, avoiding establishing return policies that could put your shop in a complicated economic situation.

Do whatever you can to limit your returns rate. You can achieve this by writing precise and detailed product descriptions. For example, a size equivalence tool will be more than welcome if you have a fashion brand. And why not test augmented reality tech to enable online shoppers to try on your clothes before purchasing?

Your e-commerce return policy must be easy to find

Often, merchants fear that making their reshipment policy too visible will encourage clients to return articles. However, they also risk making their purchasing experience online frustrating! Hiding information damages brand trust. We must remember that 20% of online shoppers will not go through check-out if the returns policy is not transparent.

The easier it is to find and the more explicit it is, the more time you’ll save your customer care team!

Use straightforward language

Your e-commerce return policy technically states the legal conditions of exchange, of course. However, avoid using technical jargon that could confuse potential customers. Keep it simple, so they don’t have to read several pages to understand the conditions related to their purchase.

We recommend you opt for a detailed description of your return policy in your site's terms and conditions while giving customers a concise, step-by-step summary of your returns management process.

The main things you should mention are:

  • The delays to accept returns;
  • The process to follow to make the return request;
  • The cases in which items are not reshipped (defective or damaged products, for example);
  • The terms of refund and exchange;
  • Who will have to pay the return shipping costs.

Another best practice is to provide them with a return label directly in their package. Or, make it as easy as possible to download or print it from your website!

Bigblue returns portal

4. Give them more time to return the products 

Giving extra time may seem counterproductive or even likely to encourage returns. However, many e-merchants find that their return rate slightly decreased after they applied this best practice. Moreover, this decision allows them to boost their conversion rate.

The more consumer-oriented your e-commerce return policy is, the more they will be encouraged to buy. Transparent and accommodating conditions have a positive psychological effect on buyers. This is demonstrated by the example of Zappos, which offers a 365-day return policy. 

5. Make it easy to track the packages

In the same way that clients appreciate tracking their package when they purchase from you,  they will also be reassured if they can track  returned items. Carriers such as Chronopost, Colissimo, or Mondial Relay provide a tracking number in case of problems or disputes. Be sure to offer several options to your buyers, from the return from the post office to the return via a relay point.

Another easy way to stand out is to create personalized tracking emails. Rather than relying on your carrier, personalize your tracking messages for a smoother, more readable experience. You can (and should) also match these emails to your brand colors. Our customers who have done this have a 75% open rate!

Bigblue branded tracking emails

6. Re-engage your customers following a return

Just because a buyer returned a product, it does not mean you lost them for good. Don't forget that acquiring a new customer is 7 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. You might as well focus your efforts on keeping your existing customers to maximize your results.

Following a return, send the customer an email thanking them for their trust and a discount for future purchases. It is also an opportunity to ask for feedback. Who knows, you may discover new ways to improve your customer experience? This will help you refine your e-commerce return policy, update your FAQ and improve your product descriptions.

The more efficient your returns management is, the better impression you will leave on the consumer. This way, you will reinforce their trust in your brand and maximize your chances of turning them into loyal customers!

5. E-commerce return policy: key takeaways

The success of your business depends almost entirely on the experience you provide to your customers. So consider optimizing your return policy by making sure it's as clear, precise, and transparent as possible.

This will help you limit the potential logistical or legal problems that an unhappy customer could cause. Moreover, your e-commerce return policy will also become a real asset to differentiate you from your competitors. And at the same time, you will reinforce your brand image and the trust that Internet users give you!

Frequently asked questions
Everything you need to know.
No items found.

Similar articles