There are two kinds of eCommerce businesses: those that copy-paste a return policy and adapt it to their company guidelines and requirements, and those that actually take time to sit down and craft their own return policy and use it as an ace up their sleeve. Spoiler alert, you want to be the second kind of brand.
By carefully creating a return policy, you can align it to your brand and use it to nurture relationships with customers and consequently increase conversion. Plus, it minimises unnecessary calls to customer service and ultimately reduces returns.
Let’s see how we can create a good return policy, shall we?
What is a return policy?
It’s your company’s process and requirements for accepting returns and covers what the customers can expect and what steps they should take to process a return.
It protects your business from fraudulent or inappropriate returns and credit cards chargebacks that can negatively impact your company and provides a plan for you and your customers to follow to ensure a clear procedure.
The importance of a good return policy page
According to Invesp, 67% of customers check the return policy page before making a purchase. The number might seem quite high at first glance, but it starts to make sense when we realise that customers that buy online can’t try on or out products beforehand. If they have to return the purchased item or items, they want to make sure what to expect of the return process. It’s fair.
If this number of customers actually find your return policy page of their liking the chances of purchasing increase and, ultimately, conversion spikes.
Your return experience is a reflection of your company's image; you can lose customers and reputation if you do not deliver a good customer experience and maintain continuity throughout the whole customer journey. To make sure that you touch base on all the points that customers most care about, we're going to break them down and explain the information that must be included.
Return costs: free or paid returns?
With the uncertainty that comes with online shopping, it’s not unreasonable to learn that 79% of customers want free return shipping. Generally speaking, customers want peace of mind when shopping online, which is why offering free return shipping to your customers is like sending a comforting signal. Whether you choose one or the other, it’s essential to specify it so that customers cannot be mistaken and be disappointed in case the return is paid.
Should you offer free returns?
The word free does wonders to boost customer satisfaction and retention, but while it might be a business strategy to provide a hassle-free customer experience, the logistics behind returns mean extra costs for your business that impact revenue.
It comes down to analysing the extra costs behind returns and studying if it’s something you can face (financially speaking) or not yet.
Return shipping conditions
An easy return experience fosters loyalty and increases conversion which can be reflected in the fact that 92% of consumers agree to buy again from the same brand if the returns are easy. One of the main factors of easy return shipping conditions is the return label and the access to it.
How should you go about return shipping labels?
There are different types of return shipping labels and with it come different ways to write a return policy. Let’s get to know the most commonly used return shipping conditions:
- Pre-printed return label. The brand provides a pre-printed shipping label in the purchased package.
- Email driven return shipping label request. The brand provides a digital copy of the return label after the customer has to request it by email. It’s the customer who has to print it to be able to return the purchased product.
- Automatically generated. Generally provided by a return management software which automatically generates a return label that is sent to the customer in a form of a QR code or a PDF to be printed out.
It might be that some of the products in your store aren’t eligible for return. It’s very important to clearly specify which ones in the return policy, of course, but also on the same product page and right before check-out to make sure that the customers are informed in different ways and parts of the customer journey.
Non-refundable items have to be identified clearly through the purchase journey to avoid mix-ups. Failing to properly communicate this can negatively impact your customer’s journey and leave them disappointed and frustrated, which can potentially turn into negative reviews and comments on social media, as well as use unnecessarily your customer support time. Brand reputation is hard to build up and it can go away as fast as breathing in and out.
Return window: What’s the right return window length?
It’s one of the most important parts of the return policy. It’s crucial to inform your customers of how long they have to return an item. Generally speaking, most eCommerce brands set a 14-30 days period from order date, others prefer 90 days.
Did you know that 80% of the returns processed happen in the first 14 days? You might think, then, that setting up a 14-day return window might be enough, but if you offer a longer return window, the majority of customers will still return between the first few days and you make sure to give enough time for the rest to calmly return their purchase.
It’s also essential to disclose when the return window opens: from the moment the item is purchased, when the brand ships it or, the most common choice, when the customer receives the parcel.
In-store return is a perk for hybrid brands and customers for various reasons like cutting costs for brands and offering a great experience to the customer.
If your brand offers free return shipping, in-store returns can minimise shipping costs and environmental impact, as well as help, get items back to the shelves quicker. In-store personnel can provide a more personalised experience to the customers and even re-covert some with something as simple as in-person interaction.
Exchange and store credit
Returns don’t necessarily mean refunds; in fact, 46% of return reasons are related to fitting, colour or sizing, meaning that the customer actually likes the product but it’s not the right fit. Many brands choose to simplify product exchanges and/or offer store credit, to make for a smoother and hassle-free return experience and strengthen customer satisfaction.
Create a return policy page for your customers, not lawyers
Now that you have decided on your principles, let’s spend some time on how to actually write it in a customer-friendly way.
Intuitive and informative
The return policy page can be just a simple text-based page or a user-friendly, easy to navigate and interactive platform-like experience that simplifies the process by directing the customer exactly to their return reason. Take Caval as an example; their return policy is especially thought to make their customer’s experience as simple, interactive, easy to understand as possible.
Your return policy can be key to increasing your brand’s conversion rate and a tool to nurture customers to keep coming back to your store. Don’t just take our word for it, Invesp’s study shows that 52% of the customers want a hassle-free “no questions asked” return policy. Don’t overcomplicate things; the simpler, the better.
Implement the return policy
Choosing which return policy type will define a lot of aspects when it comes to implementation, thus we’re going to highlight the four main return policies and break down some pros and cons of each.
Email driven policy
It’s probably one of the “oldest” return policy formats but with eCommerce growing at the speed of lightning it’s starting to be outdated mainly because it’s time-consuming and fully manual.
Pros: You (the brand) have control over your returns.
Cons: return management is time-consuming for the brand and the lack of implementation and connection with other tools makes it complicated to collect data in a structured manner. Customers don’t have any kind of overview on the status of their return which leaves them frustrated, anxious and unlikely to shop again in the future.
Customers do it all
This choice is similar to the previous one when it comes to the lack of digitalisation, but in this case, customers get the upper hand.
Pros: Minimises the cost of return shipping and reduces the return rate.
Cons: Brand loses all control over returns and can severely impact conversion rate as customers are left feeling anxious.
Pre-printed return labels
This option works rather well for both customers and your team as it gives customers an already printed return label with their delivery package and your team doesn’t waste time generating them manually.
Pros: Saves time for customers and your team.
Cons: Is not sustainable for the business nor the environment as it encourages customers to return the purchased item/s and doesn’t give you any visibility before the parcel returns to the warehouse. Unavailability to collect data about returns and customers don’t have any way to track the status of their return, which results in calls to customer support.
Use a return management software
Your purchase experience is fully digital through your eCommerce platform of choice; why can’t the post-purchase journey be the same way?
Pros: the brand has full control over returns through a return management platform that collects return data to help plan ahead and reduce returns. Customers gain access to a self-service and digital return process.
Cons: Most return management software solutions are paid solutions, which generally run on monthly subscriptions. Like Netflix, just for your store returns.
Now, what does a return management software have to do with this? Everything; let us tell you why.
Digitalise your brand's post-purchase experience a return management software
If you have a small brand with less than 15-20 returns per month it’s fair to believe that you can pull through with a manual return process. But, like every project, the ultimate goal is to scale and without the right tools in place, there will come a time that manually managing returns will become an impossible and incredibly time-consuming process.
Investing in a return management software from the very beginning will show you a really good ROI by decreasing customer service costs, increasing loyalty and reducing returns.
How can yayloh return management platform help your business?
yayloh return management platform is a life-changing tool for your entire team, but especially customer support. It cuts unnecessary time spent on manual tasks and reduces customer calls. One of our customers, a clothing store called Grandpa, saw a decrease of 40% in customer support time spent on returns since the implementation of the platform.
What does yayloh do exactly?
The return management software seamlessly integrates with your eCommerce platform of choice to help you digitally manage all your returns (online and offline) in one same platform. Not only that; it boosts team effectiveness by automating processes, like generating return shipping labels or sending return status notification updates. It also collects and presents returns reasons in a data analytics dashboard to help you plan ahead and reduce returns.
Long story short, yayloh:
- Offers your customers a beautifully branded self-service digital return solution
- Empowers your customer service team with a platform that helps answer customer queries and process returns faster, increasing customer satisfaction.
- Analyses your return data to help reduce your return rate
Consider your return policy to be an extension of your company. It should align with the brands’ mission, attitude and branding. If used well, the return policy can become an ace upon your sleeve and turn out to be not only a popular page on your website, but also an excellent business and marketing tool that builds loyalty and trust and boosts team efficiency.