How To Handle Print-On-Demand Returns
Rebecca Fox

September 19, 2023

Handling print-on-demand (POD) returns can be more challenging than regular returns and exchanges, so it’s important to know how to manage POD returns for your online store.

The big benefit of print-on-demand products is that every order is custom-made and tailored exactly to each customer’s needs. However, each order being unique also makes returns and exchanges an exceptional challenge, since products can’t easily be returned and resold to another customer.

Since print-on-demand returns pose such a unique challenge, it is important to learn how to handle them effectively, as returns play a key role in providing a positive customer experience.

The Challenge of Print-On-Demand Returns

Returns can be a hassle if you’re a print-on-demand seller because it can reduce your profits, especially if you can’t resell the product. 

Communicating clearly with your supplier and having a well-defined POD return policy can prevent a lot of return requests due to misunderstandings. 

6 Tips For Handling Print-On-Demand Returns

Knowing how to handle print-on-demand returns gives you a huge competitive advantage since they’re a type of return that has more elements to take into consideration.

Here are some tips to help you handle print-on-demand returns more effectively:

1. Clearly Communicate Your Return Policy

It’s important to have a clear and concise return policy in place for your print-on-demand products, to set expectations for your customers regarding the returns process.

Fit the Policy to the Product

Return policies for print-on-demand (POD) products are different from those for regular products. 

Your POD return policy should include:  

  • Who is responsible for return shipping 
  • Return conditions
  • Supported return types
  • Return time frame

Your return policy should be suited to the types of print-on-demand products that you offer. 

For example, you might decide that if your customer receives a damaged, misprinted, or faulty product you will refund or replace it, however, if your customer simply changes their mind after placing the order, they won’t be able to replace the item.  

Consider the types of products you sell and whether they can be resold. Make it clear how the POD product may look different from how it appears on the listing page. 

Clearly Display Your Return Policy

After creating your POD return policy, post it everywhere. Put it in the FAQ section of your site, in product descriptions, on the checkout page, and in confirmation emails.

Having a clear return and exchange policy for print-on-demand products helps your customers know what to expect in the case of an incorrect or damaged product, and reassures them that they are making the right choice by purchasing from your eCommerce store. 

According to a UPS study, 66% of customers will review a store’s return policy before buying, so it’s important to make it clear and easy to find.

2. Verify Your Supplier’s Return Policy

As part of creating your store’s POD return policy, find out what your print-on-demand supplier’s refund policy is. 

Supplier Refund Options

Check whether your supplier offers partial refunds for returned products and exchanges, whether they can resell returned products, and whether they accommodate exchanges and returns. Your return policy will be largely influenced by your POD supplier’s policy. 

Supplier Restocking Fee

Many POD suppliers don’t charge for returned products if they are undamaged. 

If your supplier does have a restocking fee and you choose to have your customers be responsible for that fee, make sure to communicate the restocking fee price and conditions in your POD return policy.

Supplier Shipping Policy

Your print-on-demand supplier may have different policies regarding shipping. Depending on the situation, they might prefer to send a replacement product before receiving the returned item, or delay sending the replacement until receiving the returned item.

Additionally, if the returned item cannot be resold, your supplier may not want to receive the item back at all. 

In such cases, you may choose to refund the customer or replace the product and have the customer keep the damaged or incorrect product since you won’t have anything to do with the returned product.

Make sure your store’s shipping policy is compatible with your POD supplier’s shipping policy and clearly communicated to your customers.

3. Define Return vs Exchange Options

Explain what return resolutions you offer, and under what circumstances. When do you accept exchanges, and when only refunds?

Specify Exchange Turnaround Time

Be clear on exactly how your print-on-demand exchange process works, how long the process is expected to take, and whether or not the return shipping is free.

Decide on Return and Exchange Conditions

Determine which POD products require a return and which can be handled through an exchange or store credit. 

Depending on the product, and whether it can be resold or not, you might decide to send a replacement product or issue a refund without requesting the old one to be returned.

4. Simplify Your Returns Process

Simplifying your POD returns process can help you provide a positive customer experience, increase customer loyalty, and reduce the costs associated with managing returns.

Automate Your Returns

Automating your returns process can be particularly beneficial when it comes to handling print-on-demand returns. 

Since each POD product is unique and custom-made for the customer, processing returns can be more complex and time-consuming than with regular products. 

Here are some ways in which automating your returns process can help you handle POD returns more efficiently:

  • Self-service returns – Using a self-service return portal, you can let your customers select which item they want to return and how they want to handle the return, and then easily manage your returns on the back end using a returns management dashboard.
  • Better accuracy – Automating your returns process can help you ensure that each return request is processed accurately, helping you avoid errors and reduce the risk of unhappy customers.
  • Improved communication – Return automation can improve your communication with customers, with automated emails sent to customers to confirm the return request, provide updates on the status of the return, and notify them when the refund or exchange has been processed.

By automating your returns process, you can handle print-on-demand returns more efficiently and provide a better customer experience. 

5. Track Return Trends

Tracking your returns data can help you identify patterns and common issues with your print-on-demand products. 

By analyzing the reasons for returns, you can gain valuable insights into what customers are looking for in a product and where your products may be falling short. 

This information can help you improve your POD products in the following ways:

  • Identify product quality issues – By tracking returns, you can identify recurring quality issues with your print-on-demand products such as poor material quality or printing errors. 
  • Improve product descriptions – If customers are frequently returning products due to incorrect sizing or fit, it may be necessary to improve your product descriptions to provide more detailed sizing information.
  • Identify design flaws – Tracking returns can help you identify design flaws that may be causing customers to return products. 
  • Increase customer satisfaction – By improving the quality of your POD products and product descriptions, you can increase customer satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of returns. 

By using this information to improve your product descriptions and products, you can reduce returns, increase customer satisfaction, and ultimately improve your bottom line.

6. Reduce Return Requests

By implementing strategies to reduce returns, you can improve the efficiency and profitability of your business while retaining revenue, increasing customer loyalty, and reducing restocking and shipping costs.

Here are some tips for reducing the number of return requests that come in:

  • Provide detailed product descriptions – Make sure your product descriptions are accurate and include all the relevant information about the product, such as materials, sizing, and customization options. This can help customers make informed purchasing decisions and reduce the likelihood of returns.
  • Use high-quality materials – Use high-quality materials to produce your print-on-demand products. This can help ensure that the products are durable and meet customers’ expectations.
  • Conduct quality control checks – Conduct thorough quality control checks on all of your products before shipping them to customers. This can help catch any defects or issues before the product is shipped.
  • Provide clear customization instructions – If your print-on-demand products are customizable, make sure the instructions for customization are clear and detailed. This can reduce the likelihood of returns due to errors or misunderstandings.
  • Offer samples – Consider offering samples or swatches of your products or materials to help customers make informed purchasing decisions. This can help reduce the likelihood of returns due to customers not liking the product or materials.

By implementing these tips, you can help reduce your return requests and improve the overall efficiency of your print-on-demand business. 

Streamline Your Print-On-Demand Returns Process

Managing print-on-demand returns can present a unique challenge. However, by implementing effective strategies and taking proactive steps to prevent return requests, you can reduce the negative impacts of returns and improve the overall efficiency and profitability of your business.

Whether it’s providing accurate product descriptions, using high-quality materials, automating the returns process, or tracking return trends, you have various options to manage returns effectively. 

By prioritizing customer satisfaction, providing an excellent customer experience, and incentivizing repeat business, you can maintain positive relationships with your customers and build customer loyalty.

While managing returns for print-on-demand products can be complex, investing in effective strategies and taking a customer-centric approach can create a positive and efficient business model that sets you apart from competitors.

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