Return Policy Guidelines for Ecommerce Merchants
As an eCommerce merchant, it’s important to understand that websites come with some limitations. Retail stores provide an environment where a customer can physically hold an item to decide if they like the look and feel, all prior to making a purchase. However, online shopping typically leads to higher returns since a customer can’t interact with the products sold upfront. So what’s the solution?
Creating a clear and concise return policy can make life easier for both your customers and business. The way a business handles a return can be a defining moment to prove to their customers that they genuinely care about improving their situation. Return policies should be informative and most importantly, easy to understand.
A return policy helps your business streamline these occurrences in a more efficient manner and keep procedures consistent. So let’s jump in and learn more about return policies and how you can create one for your eCommerce business.
Table of Contents
What's a Return Policy?
First, let’s start with the basics. Let’s define what a return policy is. A return policy is a formal document that outlines in full detail the process and requirements that your business has for accepting returns. This policy should also outline the best ways for your customers to initiate a return. Return policies help merchants avoid chargebacks and losing money in unjustified or unusual circumstances.
Requirements for Return Policies
Your return policy should cover the following topics to properly service your customers. This is the bulk of your policy and should be informational and direct to help them easily understand your process.
Determine acceptable time frames - One of the most crucial sections in your return policy should include appropriate times for accepting returns. The most common return policy time frame is 30 days. Although, depending on the business type, 90 days is popular too. A time frame limit is designed to allow your customers appropriate times to point out flaws or concerns. However, anything after a set time limit can be damaging to your business. Customers shouldn’t be allowed to add wear and tear to products for an extended period of time only to return them after typical use. Time frames on returns are incredibly important for preventing dishonest returns. It may seem silly, but without an established time frame, you can expect returns from months and even yes, years ago.
Explain proper conditions for returns - Returns are designed to help customers if a product arrives defective or not as described. However, oftentimes customers will try to return a product for something that they damaged. Damages do happen by accident, but if the item has been devalued, then as a business, you shouldn’t accept the item back. For example, if you sell a lamp and, according to your customer, it arrives perfectly fine but the customer drops it. Your policy should outline that this doesn’t warrant a return. Explaining the conditions for returns is important for a business and can let your customers know what to expect. If customers return at a time that can’t be sold again, then you’ll need to take a loss.
List requirements for returns - Depending on what you sell, there may be certain requirements that you customers must meet prior to asking for a return. For some, this may be an online confirmation or receipt. For others, it may be having a tag still attached. For example, a bikini retailer might require that all tags and lining must still be on the bikini bottom as a precaution. Or if you are going to require your customer to pay for the shipping cost back, this is where you’ll disclose those requirements. Whatever the case for your business, you’ll need to let your customers know what the requirements are.
Decide refund options - When it comes to accepting returns, you’ll need to tell the customer how you plan on paying them back. This can be through a refund or in-store credit depending on the situation. There will be times where customers will request a refund over in-store credit. You can be flexible at times if it feels appropriate, but it’s important to have a refund option outlined that will work in most cases for your customers.
How to Write a Return Policy
As mentioned before, return policies must be clear and concise. If your customers are still confused after reading your policy, it might not be clear enough. The language that you use should be similar to the tone on your website. Return policies can have your brand’s tone added to make them more familiar and welcoming. Keep in mind, return policies shouldn’t necessarily include jargon that is foreign to your customers. You’ll want to make sure that someone who knows nothing about what you sell can understand your policy. This keeps everything easy to understand, which makes customers happy.
Get your policy in front of your customers - If you find yourself dealing with too many uninformed customers, chances are they aren’t acknowledging your return policy. Return policies should be easy to find on your website. Typically, they are located in a website’s footer for easy access. If you really want to go above and beyond, you can include your return policy inside your package so that way there’s no missing it. Another great place to include your policy is within any email confirmations that you send. This can be a great follow up to a delivery or whenever tracking information goes out. Either way, the more you promote your return policy, the more likely customers are to follow it.
Your return policy can easily become the most read page on your site. This is the place to express your concern to your customers and to let them know you are willing to help. Take your time with a particular page on your site. Do your research and even gain inspiration from brands you look up to. The key to creating repeat customers is to be helpful during their time of need. This is a really great place for you to shine and outperform your competitors. Go out there and make your customers proud. You got this!
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