Keep your Ecommerce Return Policy Aligned with your Brand
By keeping your return policy aligned with your brand, you will create a more consistent experience for your shoppers. And they will take notice.
A return can be one of the most divisive experiences in ecommerce. UPS found that 73% of consumers base future purchase decisions off past return experiences. It’s almost impossible to continually grow your business without properly handling returns.
Your return policy is the first touch point in the returns process – it's likely the first thing that customers see when returning a product, and it controls nearly the entire returns experience.
In addition, as many as two-thirds of shoppers may visit a site’s returns page before making a purchase. Customers want the assurance that there is a reasonable course of action if their purchase doesn’t go quite as planned.
Simply put, a better returns process will result in happier customers. You may have a good return policy in place, but how can you ensure that it aligns with your brand? Let’s go through how you can craft the optimal policies for your business, as well as some best practices and tips to present your return policy.
The first step is to define the priorities of your return policy.
A return policy can sometimes feel like us versus them. But, you need to find the balance that is best for you and your customers. You can think about a return policy on a scale, with a product focus on one side and a customer focus on the other.
A product focus is concentrated on immediate value, particularly minimizing costs and maximizing recovery value on returned products. With this approach, return policies tend to be stricter. A customer focus prioritizes the customer relationship, and makes the most of the long-term value of customers. Here, return policies tend to be more lenient.
No brand is completely focused one way or the other; it’s all about finding the right blend for your business. As a benchmark, as yourself, “Which is more valuable: a purchase or a customer? And by how much?”
The relative value of a customer versus a purchase will give you an idea of how customer-focused your return policy should be. If customer retention is a big priority, you should probably strive for a more lenient return policy to encourage long-term customer value. If not, you might instead focus on the short-term value.
Considering your blend of customer and product focus, ask the big 3 questions.
A great starting point to a return policy is to answer a few simple questions: when, how, and what? Of course, every business is unique. Your return policy will probably require a bit more detail, but these questions provide an excellent foundation.
“When” refers to the return window – how much time customers have to begin a return. Often, ecommerce brands have a return window between 30 and 60 days. Keep in mind that you don’t want the decision to return a product to be urgent; a longer window could actually result in less returns.
“How” refers to the types of compensation customers can choose, such as refund, exchange, store credit, and warranty. The more return types you can offer, the better. Try offering a longer return window for return types such as exchange or store credit. That way, customers still have the option to return a product, but the case stays within the company. Ecommerce giants have set an expectation of free return shipping. So, if you can, offer at least one return type with free shipping.
“What” refers to any exclusions or conditions that must be met. For example, perhaps products that have been worn cannot be returned. Or, maybe there are final sale items that are completely excluded. Try not to be overly restrictive with exclusions and conditions. A customer who is unable to return a product is likely to be more unhappy than a customer who returned a product. An automated returns portal can be extremely helpful, so there is never the awkward friction of a customer service representative rejecting a return.
Keep your return policy simple and accessible.
It’s not enough just to have a great return policy. It also needs to be adequately presented and formatted. You should ensure that your return policy is easy to find.
A good deal of shoppers visit a site’s returns page before making a purchase – if visitors can’t find your return policy, they may lose trust before ever converting. On top of that, you want it to be fairly easy for customers trying to return a product to get started, so try not to bury the return policy deep within your website.
Be sure to include a link to your returns page in the footer of your website, so it’s always available. Consider including additional links to the returns page in sections such as “FAQ,” “Contact Us,” or “Shipping,” as well.
Some brands even include a preview of the return policy on product pages. While you don’t have to go quite this far, it demonstrates that your return policy is a sign of trust in your products.
In terms of appearance, keep your return policy on-brand with the rest of your site, within reason.
Chances are good that no other pages of your site have unformatted paragraphs of text, so why start now? Consider the typical tone and style of your brand and keep your return policy concise; you should be able to glance at the policy and still find everything you need.
Aim for a better returns process, even beyond your return policy.
The truth is, no one likes returns – not retailers and definitely not customers. Returns can be some of the most divisive experiences in ecommerce. But, smarter returns management leads to happier customers and more profit.
Your return policy governs the returns experience for customers. It specifies what items can be returned, when, and for which types of compensation. The return policy heavily impacts the customer relationship, and can even influence customer conversion.
It’s very important to balance the needs of your business and your customers. By keeping your return policy aligned with your brand, you will create a more consistent experience for your shoppers. And they will take notice.
This guest post is brought to you by Matt Blevins, ecommerce growth analyst at ReturnLogic. Click here to see more of his writing on ecommerce, Shopify, and returns.
ReturnLogic is an ecommerce returns solution. We enable brands to better manage their returns, and ensure a smooth experience for their customers.
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