Working in the world of ecommerce has its limitations, and part of your job as an online store owner is to overcome them. One such limitation revolves around the simple fact that a shopper doesn’t get to physically look at, or feel a product before making a purchase. In an effort to compensate for this, ecommerce merchants can create a well-executed return policy that’s succinct, informative, engaging and easy to understand.
When writing a return policy for your ecommerce website, there are a few things to keep in mind. For example...
Keep the language simple and to the point
The general rule of thumb here is it to write like you speak. If you’re not a lawyer, don’t act like it. Use verbiage your customers can relate to, and feel free to give your return policy some personality. So long as it's clear, concise and not open for interpretation, you’re good to go.
Filling your return policy with complicated language and/or legal jargon will only confuse your customers and lead to an increase in service requests. This not only costs time and money, both could’ve easily been saved by having a well-written return policy in place.
Stipulate a timeframe for returns
It’s important to let your customers know how long they have to return a product. Generally speaking, 15-30 days is standard, and you won’t be doing yourself any favors by accepting returns beyond that time.
Fail to disclose a timeframe for returns and you’ll find customers trying to ship back items months, even years (not kidding), after they’ve been purchased. Needless to say, this is not a good thing for e-store owners.
Define the expected condition of returns
It’s one thing to accept a return if the customer is immediately unhappy with a product or the product is defected. It’s quite something different to accept a return if the product has been used, broken or disvalued in anyway by the buyer.
When structuring your company's return policy, define the condition a product must be in before a return can be processed. If you fail to include this information, customers will attempt to return your merchandise in tatters. And if your merchandise is in tatters, how can you expect to re-sell it?
Choose refund or in-store credit
Customers want to know how you plan to monetarily compensate them before they return a product. Many will demand a full refund of their money while others may settle for in-store credit. As an e-store owner, you need to make a choice between the two.
We suggest offering customers a full refund on all returned merchandise so long as it meets the requirements of your soon-to-be awesome return policy. If you elect to offer in-store credit only, however, rest assure many of your current and future customers will not be happy.
Disclose any fees associated with returns
When a shopper wants to return an item they’ve purchased in your store, who will cover the cost of shipping, restocking, etc…? Things like this need to be defined in your return policy.
There's nothing worse, from a consumer perspective, than receiving a product you don't like only to find out that you have to come out of pocket to send it back.
If you expect your customers to assume financial responsibility for returned items, make sure this is clearly defined in your return policy. Failing to do so will create a gaggle of upset customers armed with keyboards ready and Twitter accounts wide open.
List return requirements
If you've requirements that must be met before a return can be processed, you need to let customers know ahead of time.
For example, you may want to stipulate all returns must be sent unopened and/or in its original package. You should also let your customers know if they need an authorization number, shipping address, purchase receipt, etc…
Whatever conditions you deem acceptable, state them clearly and for all to see.
Promote your policy
A return policy is only as good as its visibility. If no one can find it, than it doesn’t exist, and that spells big problems for e-store owners.
It’s always a good idea to feature your return policy on the homepage of your website. The footer is a popular spot for this and some even like making it a part of the checkout process.
In addition to homepage placement, we also suggest you do the following two things. First, include a printed copy of your return policy inside every package you ship. Second, feature your policy inside the purchase-confirmation email you send to customers.
One last thing…
Think of your return policy as an extension of your company. It should represent your business' core philosophies, attitude and tone.
Your return policy could very well be the most read document on your website. You want it to shine because hey, like the old Head & Shoulders Shampoo commercial once said, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression."
When creating your company's return policy, take your time and come up with a game plan. In other words, map out what you want to do before doing it. Brainstorm ideas, do some research, write a few drafts and ask for advice. When all things are said and done, you'll be left with a return policy that will save you time and money, and who on this planet couldn't use a little more of both?
Thanks so much for reading everyone, and happy selling.