Returns are an inevitable and key part of any ecommerce order fulfillment process. It’s therefore important to have strong policies and systems in place in order to deal with and manage ecommerce returns in an appropriate manner.
Creating an ecommerce returns policy
It’s crucial to have a solid returns policy that’s clearly visible and linked to on your ecommerce site. Not only does this reassure potential customers, but it also gives your support team a clear set of guidelines to work to when dealing with returns.
Key things to include in your ecommerce returns policy:
- Timescales. Clearly state how long a customer has to make a return, and also whether this timescale is from date of purchase or date of delivery.
- Packaging. Decide whether you will accept returns only in an item’s original packaging or if anything is acceptable.
- Condition. Does it need to be in original condition, or is wear and tear acceptable?
- Return label. Clearly direct customers to how they access any necessary return labels.
- Shipping costs. Make it very clear whether you are swallowing shipping costs for returns, or if/when the customer is responsible.
- Solution options. Communicate whether you issue refunds or just store credit, and also if some items are non-returnable (e.g. underwear if packaging is opened).
- Processing refunds. Let the customer know how any refunds will be issued (PayPal, original payment method, etc) and the timescales for this.
Processing ecommerce returns
Once a customer initiates an order return, it’s imperative to then follow through with it in line with what’s written in your policy. Here are some best practices on how to do that:
Making customers pay for return shipping can put them off making the purchase in the first place. It’s therefore highly recommended to include free return shipping as a standard part of your policy.
Once a returns policy has been put in place, it’s important that all support staff are knowledgeable on the ins and outs of it. This ensures the customer is helped as much as possible and that you’re not processing returns unnecessarily.
Consider the impact
How stringently you stick to your return policy is up to you. Quoting legal terms and policy details to customers because they missed the return deadline by a day is a great way to guarantee they never shop with you again.
Managing returns with your own support team and label generation is a great way to stay in control of the customer experience. However, it is possible to outsource the process to varying degrees.
Popular shipping companies tend to also provide this as a service, including:
Refund on time
Too many credit or debit card chargebacks can be detrimental to an ecommerce business. So make sure to issue refunds in line with the timeframes stated in your return policy.
Receiving and updating stock
It’s crucial to get any returned items booked back into stock and ready for sale again as soon as possible. So it’s a good idea to use shipping software that also allows you to control inventory and update stock levels across all sales channels once a returned item arrives.