If you have an eCommerce store, there’s no use in denying the inevitable; some of the product you sell will end up being returned by the consumer at a certain cost to you. Here’s the thing, though—whether that cost is just a few dollars on shipping or completely ruining your reputation as a trusted and valued brand is completely up to you… and your return policy.
The reality of the matter is, there’s no use in being a stickler or penny pincher when it comes to creating a return policy that is fair to both you and your customers. By having too strict of a return policy, you risk losing consumers and their social reach as quickly as the shopping cart. And if a return policy is too lenient, the risk becomes being taken advantage of by people like Karen—the overly inconvenienced middle-aged lady who always wants to speak with a manager.
Here at DigitlHaus, we recommend the middle ground, or what we like to call ‘The Goldilocks Zone’ of return policies. Instead of “not too hot, not too cold” we go with, “not too strict, not too lenient,” but just right for you and your customers. Here are some things to keep in mind while shaping up a return policy for your eCommerce store. These tips will maximize your conversion rates and ensure lifelong loyal customers, all while staying in this safe, comfortable zone.
Integrate Your Product and Brand into Your Return Policy
You know your product and brand better than anyone else, right? Then you will be able to figure out some of the leading reasons why customers are sending your product back to you. This can be obviously frustrating, especially in retail sales when Douglas ordered a medium even though we all know he only fits in a small.
Without being condescending to your customer, you can write in a line or two of content on the checkout page that reassures your customer that their return is valid in relation to your product and brand. Something like, “Wrong size? No problem! Return for store credit within 30 days and we’ll cover the costs of shipping.” Here, you’re being flexible by doing what you can to help them—but not being a total pushover. This “understanding” you offer them at places such as the checkout page will give your customers a peace of mind and further convince them to buy more of your product after a return.
Build Trust with Transparency
There’s nothing a customer will hate more than when find out they’ve been misled—about hidden fees, shipping costs, taxes, etc… They will think, “Screw this store” and abandon ship before even considering buying your product. You have to be open and honest about your product and your return policy by being as transparent as possible.
This means using basic, easy-to-understand language while drafting your terms and conditions in your return policy. You and the average consumer aren’t dumb, but return policies aren’t relationships—they’re not meant to be complicated. By keeping it short, simple, and concise and also reinforcing your return policy in places other than the shopping cart (a banner, under a product description) you’re being transparent with your customers and therefore building trust with them.
Be Kind and Take the Time to Follow Up
After a customer makes a return, it’s easy to think they might not ever come back or recommend your business to others. It’s time to ditch this type of attitude and leave it in the gutter where it belongs. One of the reasons they may not come back is because there wasn’t enough of an incentive to shop again, or proper attention wasn’t being paid to them after they sent your product back.
However, this is an easy fix—without having to bend over backwards and lick their feet. Simply send an email shortly after a return was made and with an apology. Showing this kindness really goes a long way. Also, offer them something for the inconvenience. Whether that be a discount, free shipping on their next purchase, or a special deal on an exclusive product, they will more than likely take the bargain and be more than happy to give your store a second chance.
Flexibility and Convenient Customer Service
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, returns are going to come at an immediate cost to you as a business owner. But then again, it’s easier to think about the present dollar signs instead of the future dollar signs, isn’t it? Despite this fact, if you want to get your head in the end-game when it comes to your return policy, you will reap the rewards by being flexible and convenient for your customers in the long run.
Flexibility: Offer free returns, exchanges, or give them the choice of a refund or store credit. More often than not, if you don’t offer some sort of flexibility in your return policy, customers won’t even attempt to buy your product. If your return policy is more customer friendly, they will be eating out of the palm of your hands. It also doesn’t hurt to sneak a peek at what your competition is up to with their own return policies and see how they compare.
Convenience: On the customer service end of things, it mostly boils down to people not wanting to talk on the phone. If customers can easily return the product without having to pick up the phone, the better their experience will be.
Oh, the Holidays…
The period after Christmas can obviously get hectic when it comes to returns. We get it. But, you can make it easier on yourself and your customers without the hassle. Extend your return window till the end of January for purchases made from November 1st until December 25th. Your customers will be happier knowing that buying your products as gifts comes with that extra reassurance.
Ultimately, if you can achieve the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ with your return policy—not too strict, not too lenient—your business will benefit greatly. By taking these steps, you’re protecting yourself from customers that like to take advantage, all the while ensuring happy and loyal customers for the future of your eCommerce store.