A clear and comprehensive return policy reinforces credibility and is crucial for building customer trust. As an online merchant, a return policy helps you reduce the time spent on refunds, address customer concerns and increase profitability. So what should it include and where should you start? We’ll help you get going by exploring the anatomy of ecommerce return policies.
What can be returned?
The first decision you have to make is whether or not you want to accept returns or exchanges. Not sure? Here are 5 product categories that are generally not accepted for returns according to the California Legal Guide. Your local government should have similar documents available.
- Food, plants, flowers, and other perishable goods
- Customized goods received as ordered
- Goods which cannot be resold due to health considerations
- Products returned in non-resalable condition
- Returns without original tags, packaging and receipts or invoices
If you sell an assortment of products, outline which items can or cannot be returned.
List the refund amount customers can expect. For example, shipping fees are generally not refunded while taxes are. If you charge restocking fees, list them in your return policy as well. Customers should be able to calculate the exact amount they will receive.
How much time?
Specify the return period (in days or months), customers have to return their order. Not sure how much time is appropriate? Consider this key factor - payment processers store customers’ credit card information for a limited number of days. Without this, you will not be able to refund customers. Other factors to consider include the order delivery and return shipping times.
For a very clear return policy, we suggest indicating when the return period starts. Is it the day the purchase is made, orders ship, or customers receive the package? Also, include the activity that must be completed before that period ends. For example, do customers just have to ship their return or should you receive the package by the then. Finally, specify how many days it will take for your business to process the refund and keep customers updated by systematically updating their return status.
Where should customers send returns?
List the address return packages should be sent to and don’t forget to include the department. To help ensure customers ship to the right location, include a return slip customers can tape outside of their package.
You should also specify who pays for the postage. Having customers pay for the postage is cost effective, however, they may select a cheap and unreliable shipping service. Regardless of who pays, insure your product(s) with tracking services.
What about exchanges?
Can customers return an item for an exchange or store credit? If so, what is the process like for customers? How long will it take? Also, list any fees they will have to pay such as restocking fees or additional shipping charges. If you do not accept exchanges or offer store credit, clearly state so.
When retailers run sales, it can be assumed that those goods cannot be returned. However, this assumption varies from person to person, so explicitly state the applicable return policy for sales. For example, if you use language like “as is”, “all sales final”, “gifts with purchase”, or “BOGO (buy one get one free)”, clearly state it will not be accepted for refunds.
Let customers know what happens if products are received past the return period. Will customers receive store credit, get a refund at a discounted amount, or will you simply return the item back? A strict return policy may protect you against losses, however, it may also dissuade customers from making purchases.
Include a clause that lets you make reasonable changes or updates to the return policy at your discretion. As you learn more about your customers’ shopping habits, you can modify the return policy to better reflect their expectations. If you find that you receive too many returns, check out these 10 ways to reduce returns.
Let us know if this has been helpful, or if we’ve missed anything by commenting below. Looking for an ecommerce software that helps you manage orders and returns more efficiently? Download PrestaShop’s shopping cart software to get started!(Author’s Note: This blog post is intended to help you draft your return policy. Please consult your lawyer to ensure your return policy adheres to local and/or federal laws.)