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eCommerce returns policy: 9 tips to build your own


Written by Starshipit

eCommerce returns policies are an important part of your post-purchase customer experience. In fact, 67% of customers check the returns page before even making a purchase!

Easy returns management builds trust, improves customer feedback, and increases the chance that customers will tell other people about your brand.

We’re here to make sure you know what a returns policy is in eCommerce, why it is so beneficial to your business, what happens if you don’t have one, and steps you can take to draft your own returns policy document.

What is a return policy in eCommerce?

A returns policy outlines your business’ rules for returning and exchanging products. This is a procedural document that states when, how and why customers can request a return or refund.

Returns management is a normal part of running an eCommerce business.

Approximately 30% of all online products are returned. This could be because it arrives damaged, is the wrong size, or maybe customers just ordered multiple sizes to try on at home. Your returns policy will protect you and your customers when this inevitably happens.

eCommerce returns management is crucial for customer service and building trust in your brand.

Necessity in having a returns policy

If you are running an eCommerce business in 2022, returns policies are no longer optional. It is a basic expectation for customers.

Up to 84% of customers will not go back to an online store after a bad returns experience. On top of that, 54% of online shoppers won’t even make a purchase if your returns policy is unclear.

Nobody enjoys processing returns, but you still need an effective returns policy that allows customers to purchase from you with confidence. Brand trust will almost always be worth more than the cost of processing a return!

You should also remember that returns are not the same as refunds. Some customers will request full refunds (which you should also have a policy for). However, returns and exchanges don’t necessarily mean the end of the world.

Benefits of having a customer-centric return policy

Putting the customer at the center of everything you do is the best eCommerce return policy. On average, businesses that focus on excellent customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than those that don’t. You can’t afford to ignore returns policies!

  • Builds trust

Your brand reputation matters. 81% of customers say that trust is an important factor when deciding to buy. Making it easy for customers to solve problems, get the right product, and ship products directly to their house will paint you as a trustworthy brand in a sea of potentially terrible eCommerce experiences.

  • Improves customer experience

Returning an item isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for customers. In fact, 92% of customers would repurchase if the returns process is simple. You can easily stand out against competitors if you can return or exchange products without any hassle.

  • Encourage repeat purchases

A 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25-95%. If you can create a first-class purchasing and returns experience, your customers will come back, tell their friends about you, and become loyal customers who spend 67% more on average than new ones.

Why on-demand delivery is a necessity in online shopping

Disadvantages of having a poor return policy

What happens if you don’t have a good return policy?

The simple answer is that bad news spreads faster than good news. If you have consistently bad feedback, your sales and conversions will start to dip over time.

The way people feel about your brand (and the way they talk about it to their friends) will directly affect your bottom line. 92% of customers have said that they trust the product purchase recommendations made by their family and friends. The same goes for recommendations about which brands to avoid.

So it’s time to build a good returns policy that both protects you and builds a positive post-purchase experience!

9 Tips for building a returns policy process document

Now that we’ve convinced you that returns policies are a no-brainer, it’s time to build your own returns policy template. Your full returns policy document will be more in depth than what you post on your website for customers to see when they are clicking purchase. Let’s go through a few things to remember when you are building a policy.

  • Keep the language simple and to the point

Your job is to reduce any friction for customers making a purchase. Condense your returns policy into 1-2 simple sentences maximum. You can always link to a more in depth policy elsewhere on your website.

  • Disclose any fees associated with returns

When you are starting out, you may want to put shipping for returns onto customers. As you grow you will probably be able to absorb this. However you want to organise returns, it should be clear whether it is free or not. For example, you may offer exchanges, but only if they pay for shipping themselves.

  • Promote your policy

Don’t hide your returns policy! Make it a part of your marketing. This will give customers even more confidence when they are deciding to buy because you are extremely transparent about returns.

  • Define a time frame for returns

How long will you give people to organise a return? For example, if you have seasonal stock it is especially important to give a shorter time frame so that you can re-sell if possible. Make this time frame very clear on your website, product pages, and confirmation emails.

  • Define the expected condition of returns

Most eCommerce businesses expect products to be returned in re-sellable condition to qualify for refunds and exchanges. As long as you are clear on this, this is a fair policy. In this section you should also develop a process or policy for replacing items if they arrive damaged.

  • Think about the language you use

Imagine you are about to purchase something. Which of these returns policies would you trust?



“Something wrong with your product? Need a different size? Don’t worry! You can simply click the returns link on your order confirmation email and get it back to us within 30 days. For our full returns policy, FAQ or to talk to customer service, click here.”

For the best eCommerce returns policy, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and assume that most people aren’t trying to take advantage of you.

  • Absorb any mistakes you make

Sometimes you might be at fault. The easiest way to deal with it is to admit and fix your mistake as quickly as possible. This is why it is so important to have a policy document that you and your staff can follow. Returns don’t have to be the end of a customer relationship- they could be an opportunity to show them how much you care about their customer experience!

  • Outline or give examples of your policy in action

When you are building your policy document, give real world examples to refer to. For example, maybe somebody emailed you to process a return instead of going through your official system. Maybe you had someone order 10 different sizes but didn’t process the return within the time frame. Give examples and what you did about them in case it comes up again.

  • Set up behind the scenes systems

Your returns management should be streamlined for you and your staff. Using a shipping integration makes it super easy for customers to request return packaging (or include it in their parcel). Make sure staff are aware of the process and know when refunds are appropriate.

eCommerce refund and returns policy examples

Need an example of a good returns policy? Below are a few Starshipit customers who are killing it with their eCommerce returns management. We are using them as examples because their shipping and returns policies are hassle free and customer centric.

Showpo Returns Policy

ShowPo has instant returns management with easy shipping. They also use language that puts customers at the heart of returns while still explicitly stating what can and can’t be returned. Click here to read the full returns policy page on their website.

Eat your water exchange and returns policy

Eat Your Water Australia has a clearly marked “Exchanges & Returns policy at the bottom of their homepage. This is important for eCommercebusinesses when more than half of customers check returns policies before purchasing. Check out their clearly outlined returns policy.

Simplify returns with a returns portal

Fulfilment automation software (like Starshipit) can simplify the returns process for your eCommerce business, making things easier for both your staff and your customers.

Starshipit includes options for both manual returns (where you process the return) as well as self-service returns (where customers can process their own returns through a branded returns portal.

Using a self-service returns portal has several key benefits:

  • Reduce support queries – When customers can manage their own returns, that’s one less call or email that comes through to your support team, allowing your team to focus on more urgent issues.
  • Increase your sales – Customers are more likely to make a purchase when they know they can easily arrange a return if a product isn’t suitable. For example, if it's not the right size. This is also a win for the customer experience.
  • Understand why returns happen – Track why customers return items so you can identify common themes.

You can also customise the returns portal to suit your business. For example, you can use the rules engine to ensure your portal mirrors what’s in your returns policy (like rejecting certain SKUs).

You may also want to send branded emails and SMS notifications throughout the returns process to keep customers in the loop.

Learn more about the Starshipit returns portal

Interested in the other features of a branded returns portal? Check out this article on our Support Centre for a full list of features.

Final thoughts

Writing a returns policy is an important part of building a trustworthy and customer-centric business. Putting in the effort to write this document when you are starting out will help you grow and protect you as you scale.

Want to make returns even simpler? Starshipit is the “premium shipping integration without the premium price tag”. Manage returns like a pro and build an award-winning eCommerce brand with Starshipit! Contact one of our shipping experts today or start your 30-day free trial.

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