Returns policies – get them right

It’s incredibly important to integrate into your E-commerce strategy, a policy which ensures that all customer returns are dealt with promptly and effectively and in the same manner each time.


The benefits of dealing well with customer returns is simply that, customer satisfaction leads to better retention and higher levels of sales.


It could be worth your while doing a bit of research, comparing rival sites and then creating your own best practice guidelines.


Let’s begin by pointing out that you want to limit the amount of returns you receive as much as possible. You can do this by providing customers with as much onsite information as possible, throughout the shopping process. Make sure that they have all the information on colours, sizes and fabrics that they will need at their disposals on the product pages. The more information a customer has the higher the likelihood that they will make the right decision when buying a product, and not regret it later down the line.


Now lets just say your customers do find themselves wishing to return some of your products, you want to ensure that the process is quick and easy for them.


If like many online retailers you plan to supply your customers with packaging and labels, preferably with prepaid postage on them, keep a few things in mind. Take care to ensure that the bags provided are durable and solid and that they fit the items being returned. If the items are too large, then you will need to provide your customers with a courier service option to pick the items up.


It is strongly advisable that you include in your site an easy to read, jargon-free returns policy. Make sure it is sensibly placed. Do not force customers to scroll down to smaller navigation menus at the bottom of the page- this is too time consuming. You want to ensure that after reading your returns policy that customers are under no uncertainty of how to return items. Make sure the policy is displayed brightly in an appropriate section of the site. In the case of B&Q they have placed the link to their returns policy at the top of their homepage, next to the delivery options. The returns policy page its self is well detailed with information on how to arrange returns which must be done via phone or email if home collections are needed.


B&Q also give the option of allowing customers to return items at their local branches. This is something you will have to consider and establish right from the outset. What return options will you make available to your customers?  There are multiple variants to chose from: free post, drop off at nearest store/ post office, or do you require your customers to call your site and arrange for collections.


It is highly time consuming and tedious to expect customers to call you and arrange for their items to be collected. If a larger, delicate item needs to be collected from the consumer and then taken back to the depot make this option available via a drop down on your site, rather than requesting a call from customers to make arrangements.


If you offer free returns, then shout it from the roof tops, display this boldly on the returns page.


Customers may want a full refund rather than an exchange of items. Make sure you allow for this, via multiple avenues. Allow the customer to get an in-store refund, both at collect + points and at the regular cash desks.  If you require that an item be sent back to your depot, make sure that the address of said depot is outlined clearly in the returns page.


You may need to provide seasonal variation in policy during the busy Christmas period. If so clearly state this, well in advance of the Christmas shopping period.


Lastly, you need to decide exactly when you intend to process returns. How long will customers have to wait? This will need to be outlined clearly in your returns policy and adhered to.


The reason behind the above recommendations, is that all too often customers are deterred from using online stores, due to poor customer service experiences, relating to the return of goods. Customers frequently make wrong purchases and opt to exchange their items, especially when it comes to clothing. Allowing the process to be as smooth and seamless as possible encourages customers to return to your store and continue to shop for future items, that chances are may need to be returned in future.