Best Practice

How To Create The Best Returns Policy For Your Customers

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Victoria Doherty

Reading time: 4 minutes

Returns aren’t something that an e-commerce company wants to face, but they’re a part of business. In fact, they cost UK retailers around £60bn per year. It’s more important than ever to have a sturdy process in place. In this article we provide some top tips on creating the best returns policy, both for you and your customers.

Introduction

A clear, straightforward returns process is undeniably one of the most important components of your e-commerce business. Implementing the best returns policy possible is the backbone of any good customer service strategy.

Why? Because shoppers are likely to consult your returns process even before buying an item. We all do it as customers. We want to know that there’s a plan in place should anything go wrong, that it’ll be easy for us to send back the purchase. Yet, a recent report using data gathered by digital payment provider Klarna showed that a majority of UK retailers need to improve their returns process, with 77% of the shoppers surveyed dissatisfied with the service they received.

As an e-commerce business owner, creating a streamlined returns process requires an awareness of the multitude of reasons that customers return items. Returns don’t only occur because of an error on your part. There could be so many reasons for a return. Clothes don’t always fit, items aren’t as expected, the price point turned out to be too high: these are not necessarily negatives but rather opportunities for you to identify areas for improvement. Moreover, don’t forget that even the most successful e-commerce sites out there have items returned.

A great returns process is truly your chance to exhibit the best possible customer service. There are some best practices in creating the ideal returns policy, so let’s take a look at those together with some of the best in class.

Display your returns policy clearly

Show your returns policy for the world to see! Customers shouldn’t have to go digging for it.

Consider displaying the most important parts of it on every product detail page perhaps with a link to the full policy. This grants customers an uninterrupted browsing opportunity should they wonder what your return policy is before adding something to their basket. It provides that extra level of transparency which customers recognise and appreciate.

Naturally, your policy should also be written in plain English. Avoid legal talk or anything which could be ambiguous. Keep it as clear as possible.

Image showing USPS returns van, showing that having returns partner is important to create the best returns policy


Have an FAQ section

Consider implementing an FAQ section on your site that’s separate from your returns policy. This should contain all the answers to the most common questions you receive regarding returns.

This is your chance to save both your customers and you more time in the long run by not repeatedly answering the the same questions.

ASOS do this very well with their extensive FAQ section, covering everything from return partners to when a customer can expect to receive a refund. This kind of transparency ultimately increases trust in your brand. 

Image showing ASOS' returns FAQ section, an vital factor in the best returns policy you can have.

Offer the biggest return window possible

While this may not be possible with all product types, you should still aim to give your customers as much time as is feasible to return their purchase. Make it clear the condition in which items are to be returned in order to be accepted to avoid any potential disagreements further down the line.

“You may think that offering a larger deadline such as 60 days will result in more returns due to ‘buyer’s remorse’, however it’s actually been shown that the longer a customer has an item the more likely they are to become attached to it.” Source: here.

Offer free returns if possible

A free returns policy is largely the norm in e-commerce nowadays, and it plays a leading role in the best returns policy.

Customers don’t want to be faced with return charges. After all, they’re already going through the hassle of returning an item, meaning they’re not content with it for whatever reason.

It’s important to not assume that customers will just take advantage of a free returns policy. In fact, it shows that you care about them having the best experience possible by making the returns process hassle-free. In theory this means more loyal customers and thus more sales, rather than you being out of pocket.

If a free returns policy is not yet feasible for your business, there should certainly be one in place for items received damaged/incorrect/not as described.

If you do offer free returns you should consider including a pre-printed label in the package. This makes life easy both for you and your customer, allowing you to easily track the SKU of the item and the reason for return.

Provide clear communications

Consider sending an email to the customer as you receive their return, and then perhaps again once their refund has completed. This keeps them in the loop and reassures them that you’re handling the return as promised.

Include in the email how long their refund will take to process together with any other important information.

This one from ASOS is an excellent example:

Best in class

These are some of the ‘best in class’ we’ve found for their extremely generous, customer-focused returns policies.

Bed Bath and Beyond – 365-day return policy without even requiring a receipt as the company offers to digitally track a customer’s order. Not only that but if no order is traceable, the company still have options for the customer. This is undoubtedly an excellent example of how to create the best returns policy.

Image showing Bed, Bath and Beyond's returns, one of the best policies out there.

B&Q – offer a 45-day return policy, 15 days more than the norm for similar retailers.

Image showing B&Q's 45-day return policy, one of the best return policies available.

ASOS – possibly one of the easiest returns processes of all clothing retailers. The company offer 100% free returns with everything taken care of. They even offering the option to collect a package straight from the customer’s doorstep.

Image showing ASOS' return policy, one of the best return policies available.

IKEA – with their extensive 365-day return policy on almost all items, IKEA really are the best in class in this line up. They’ll accept items that have already been assembled, even without the original packaging.

IKEA offer one of the best return policies.

Main takeaways

In summary, the best returns policy is crystal clear, easy to access, and unambiguous.

Your returns policy should be easily accessible at every stage of the customer journey. It gives your brand a trustworthy image and provides both new and returning customers the full transparency they need to make a purchase without worrying about how to return it, should they need to.

Be as lenient as you can with your returns window and offer a free policy where possible. This won’t encourage a higher return rate but rather provide your customers with the best service possible.

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