Returns are an inevitable, if not exactly desirable, part of running an e-commerce business. Developing a robust, customer-friendly returns policy might not be high on your to-do list when building your business, but doing so is necessary if you don’t want to lose potential customers. Almost half of online shoppers check a company’s return policy before buying from them. Many of these customers will take their business elsewhere if the process is too complicated or expensive.
On average, online shoppers return about 20% of the products they purchase. While this certainly isn’t ideal, you can create a returns policy that can transform returns from a headache into a competitive advantage. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Make Returns Easy
Even in the best of situations, returning a product by mail can be a pain. Take some of the burden off your customers by streamlining the process as much as possible. First off, give them a liberal amount of time to make the return. 51% of consumers surveyed indicated they expect at least 30 days to make their return. Secondly, don’t make them jump through hoops to return a product. Generally, they won’t mind printing out a shipping label, but demanding that they obtain an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) is annoying. And a no-questions-asked policy will put customers at ease and make them feel like they aren’t getting the third degree.
Tip #2: Make Returns Inexpensive
Customers don’t want to pay for returns. 74% of customers will reconsider making a purchase from a merchant if they see that there are return shipping fees. And they are generally averse to paying any sort of “restocking” fee, which they tend to view as a bogus expense. If your bottom line can support it, don’t charge for returns. It may be wise to include a return shipping label in the box for the customer’s convenience. The less a customer has to worry about return costs, the more likely they are to purchase from the same merchant again.
Tip #3: Make Returns Transparent
Customers want to know what is happening with their returns at any given time. Don’t keep them in the dark. Provide them with an easy way to track their return so they can follow its progress. They’ll want to know when the product gets back to your warehouse. Give them status updates so they know you have received and are processing the return. Let them know when their refund is ready. The more you communicate with your customer, the happier they will be.
Bonus Tip: Buy Online, Return In Store
Finally, 83% of shoppers feel more comfortable returning an item to a brick-and-mortar store than sending it through the mail. If you have a presence in a physical location, allow your customers to return items they purchase online there. They might send it back through the mail anyway, but having the option to return in-store will make it more likely they’ll purchase from you.
Returns can be costly and sometimes challenging, but developing a policy that makes returns simple for customers can give you a leg-up on your competitors. Remaining customer-oriented through the customer’s entire journey, including returns, is the way to build loyalty, generate repeat business, and drive your brand to success.