How to Make Your Return Policy Your Competitive Edge
Rebecca Fox

December 31, 2023

One thing many eCommerce merchants overlook when trying to build their competitive advantage is their return policy. These days, free and fast delivery has become a standard expectation for customers, but what about returns?

Take a minute to consider – what drives a customer to choose your brand over another? What keeps your customers coming back? We’re going to give you some tips on how to make your store stand out from your competitors.

Why is Your Return Policy Important?

Returns have a huge impact on customer loyalty. Clearly defining how your returns process works and advertising it appropriately will make your customers know what to expect. 

Over 60% of customers read a return policy before making a purchase, so it’s worth putting time and effort into creating a return policy that sets clear expectations and reflects your store’s values.

How to Create a Competitive Edge with Your Return Policy

The way you choose to define your return policy can put your store at an advantage over others in your industry. The vast majority of Shopify stores don’t use AI to support their returns or offer free return shipping – these are just a few of the ways you can make your return policy stand out.

Put the Ball in the Customer’s Court

Customers like having a choice. From being able to choose different colors, sizes, or delivery options, people like feeling like they have control over their choices. So give your customers options in your returns policy, too.

There are many simple ways to let your customers have a say in the returns process while reducing your costs:

  • Give your customers the option to choose their preferred return solution – store credit, exchange, or refund. This enables your customers to get the item they really wanted or to get their money back in the way that is most convenient for them.
  • Let your customers choose to donate their unwanted items and receive a refund instead of sending them back. This gives your customers an opportunity to do good while saving you the expense of return processing and the hassle of restocking or disposal.
  • Offer various different return methods for your customers to choose from, such as return-to-store, shipping with a pre-paid label, and drop-off points. This gives your customers the flexibility of returning their items in a way that works best for them.

Offer Plenty of Time to Return Items

One way to make your return policy stand out is by having a unique time limit for returns. Offering an extended time frame for customers to return items can reassure customers that they have plenty of time to decide if they want to keep their order or return items that don’t fit or aren’t quite right for them.

On the other hand, it’s always important to find a balance. 

For example, L.L.Bean offers a whole year for customers to return items for a refund. Until 2018 they used to offer lifetime returns. Having some kind of limit is important. Even if it is a wide time frame, setting a defined time frame is a good idea.

There are Shopify stores with anywhere between a 7-day and 365-day return window, and it’s up to you to decide what return window works for your store, based on your products and customer base. You can also experiment with different time frames to find the right time frame for your store.

If you do decide to set a particularly long return time window, make sure you advertise it to show customers that you care about them and that this is one of the things that sets you apart from your competitors. Clearly display your return policy in your store’s header, footer, checkout page, and in order confirmation emails.

Although 63% of customers expect a 30-day return window, each Shopify store has its own considerations, and there is no one correct way to handle it. 

Provide Free Return Shipping

It’s no secret that customers love free return shipping. Buying products without getting to try them out first is always a risk, especially for first-time buyers. Having to pay for return shipping adds friction to the returns process. 

79% of online shoppers expect return shipping to be free, and only 49% of online retailers offer free return shipping, so providing free shipping on returns will make your store stand out.

Offering free return shipping reassures customers that they won’t get penalized for receiving a damaged product or for discovering that the product doesn’t fit right or isn’t quite what they expected. By offering free return shipping you’re acknowledging that buying online can often be difficult and that you will support your customers in resolving any issues.

Make Your Return Policy Easy to Read

A complicated return policy that’s hidden in the fine print of your website may deter customers. In order for your return policy to be effective, make sure it’s clearly written, easy to understand, and accessible to your customers.

Make your return policy page easy to skim through by using simple language, bolding, and bullet points. Then make sure to display your return policy clearly on your website so that it’s impossible to miss.

Automate Your Return Process

Nowadays when pretty much everything is online, customers want to be in control of their online returns as well.

Customers want an easy way to request a return without having to call or email in advance. Use a returns management system to provide a self-service returns portal so that customers can easily request a return. 

With a returns management system, handling returns will be easier and more efficient for you, and your customers will experience a smoother and more convenient returns process.

83% of eCommerce retailers do not yet use AI technology to support their supply chain and returns management. Be one of the first to jump on the wave that is the future of returns.

Make Returns Your Competitive Edge

Your return policy can absolutely be the thing that makes your online store stand out from your competitors. The eCommerce industry can be extremely competitive, so you need to think about what makes your store different from others and what will make your customers choose you over them.

The ReturnGO AI-driven returns management platform lets you give your customers control of their returns and makes handling returns way easier for you. 

Stay ahead of the game and start automating your returns.

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Streamline your return process and ensure a great post-purchase experience for your customers.