How to Create a Branded eCommerce Returns Policy

July 8, 2021
| by Rebecca Fox

Return policies aren’t a one-size-fits-all process.

Your return policy is an extension of your company and should represent your brand’s core values, attitude, and tone. Put time and thought into planning a return policy that fits your business and conveys your brand messaging, not just your return requirements.

Having a well-defined eCommerce return policy is essential for making returns and exchanges easy both for you and for your customers. The clearer your return policy, the better. 

How to make your return policy on-brand:

Having a branded return policy shows that you care about your customers and their satisfaction with your products and service. A return policy is more than simply a definition of how, when, and under what conditions customers can return their purchased items.

A great example of an eCommerce brand that is known for its return policy is Zappos, who have a generous 365-day return window. The extremely flexible return conditions result in high return rates, but also lead to Zappo’s customers spending more money and remaining loyal to the brand since they know they can easily return anything that doesn’t fit. 

In developing your branded return policy, there are a few aspects to consider.

Focus on the Customer

Creating an easy-to-navigate shopping journey for customers is a big part of eCommerce. The customer experience should be seamless, simple, and aesthetically pleasing.

Today, in the age of TikTok and Instagram, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. If your return policy page takes more than around 30 seconds to scan and understand, customers are likely to be deterred and take their business elsewhere. 

Keep your return policy concise and easy to understand.

Free Shipping 

A way to focus on your customers is by offering free shipping on returns. 79% of online shoppers expect return shipping to be free, and only 49% of online retailers offer free return shipping.

Extended Return Windows

Offering a long return window is another way to focus your return policy on your customers. An extended time frame to request returns gives customers peace of mind that they have plenty of time to decide to return something if it’s not suitable.

Self-Service Returns

Instead of making customers jump through hoops and sit on the phone for hours or wait days for an email response, you can provide an automated return portal through which customers can easily request a return.

Provide pre-paid return shipping labels that can be printed at home, and offer store credit and exchanges as alternatives for refunds. This makes customers feel rewarded and keeps them loyal to your store.

Focus on the Product

Another way to craft an on-brand return policy is by focusing on the products themselves. If your brand is all about high-quality products, your return policy should reflect your brand integrity.

Improve Your Product Descriptions

Make sure to offer as much information as possible on each product page, as well as information about warranties and the high quality of your products. It’s also worth including high-quality images and or videos of the product. 

Providing customers with as much information as possible before they make a purchase is the best way to reduce the possibility of them being surprised or unhappy with their purchase, thus decreasing the likelihood of them asking for a return.

If multiple customers return a certain item because it doesn’t match its description, the product description needs to be improved.

Communicate Integrity

Offering easy returns and exchanges implies that you’re confident in the quality of your product and reassures customers because they know that if the product is faulty or broken they can easily return it.

Collect Feedback

When customers request a return, ask them why they want to return the item and ask for photos of the item they received. Collecting the reasons for returns can give you insights on how to improve your business and increase customer satisfaction, whether that’s adding photos to your product pages or improving your customer service.

Reviewing return reasons can give you a lot of insight into where your business can be improved and how to increase customer satisfaction.

Focus on Sustainability

Customers love brands that mirror their own values. 83% of customers consider the environment when making purchase decisions and 78% think that companies could be doing more to be environmentally friendly. 

People are increasingly choosing to buy from eco-friendly brands, and advertising that your company takes steps to be environmentally friendly can encourage customers to choose you over other brands.

Offer Exchanges Instead of Refunds

Encourage product exchanges rather than refunds. Many products are returned because they don’t fit or aren’t quite what the customer expected, but aren’t necessarily damaged or faulty. A lot of products that are returned are fit to be resold, and sending customers replacements for their returned products can leave them satisfied while saving the returned product from going to waste.

Consider Where Returned Products Go

Purchasing a product begins a carbon trail that includes sourcing the materials, manufacturing, shipping, and transportation. If a customer then decides they don’t want the product, or it doesn’t work, the product probably goes straight to a landfill where it remains for hundreds or thousands of years.

Only 20% of 3.5 billion returned products in the US are defective, meaning that billions of products are thrown away for no reason.

Depending on what kinds of products you sell, there might be life left in a returned item, even if it isn’t fit for resale. Returned products can be sent to donation centers or charities that sell the products for a discounted price or donate to people in underprivileged communities. 

Create a Return Policy That Works for Your Business

It’s worth putting some time and effort into planning how to portray your brand through your return policy. Define your brand values and decide what you want your return policy to focus on. 

Your store’s return policy conveys its values and priorities and reassures customers that they are in the right place.

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