How to Write an Ecommerce Return Policy

People who are just starting out in ecommerce often want to get things rolling as soon as possible. You have a great idea and great products, so you want to share them with the world. But there can be downsides to jumping in headfirst without laying down some preliminary groundwork. Despite being a bit boring, a return policy is one of the most crucial pieces of being successful in ecommerce. Here’s how to write an ecommerce return policy.

Returns Rates Are Higher in Ecommerce Than Regular Retail

People love buying goods through ecommerce retailers because it’s so convenient. It’s much easier to shop from the comfort of your home than it is to find parking, wander through a department store and wait in a checkout line. But consumers expect a lot from online sellers. Their demand can put strain on ecommerce brands—especially ones that don’t have deep wells of resources. It’s not uncommon for ecommerce return rates to reach or exceed 30 percent of all purchases.

One of the major reasons for this is owed to the very definition of ecommerce—specifically (as stated by Shopify) the exchange of physical goods and digital funds. This imposes certain limitations. Among them, people can’t try on a product when they buy it online. While you can usually get a good idea of the general appearance of something, you can’t really know it’s right until it’s in front of you. You might like the way something appears online; but things often end up looking and feeling different once they arrive in the mail. Additionally, it’s tough to gauge how well something will fit when you’re buying it from an ecommerce store. These issues can lead to a good number of returns.

Customers compensate for this by augmenting their purchasing habits. Shoppers will often buy multiple versions of a product, so they can be sure they’ll get the best fit. They then return the other one, which will be costly for whoever needs to foot the bill.

Be Explicit and Consistent

It’s extremely important that, no matter how you construct it, your return policy is clear and consistent. A vague return policy will leave you open to consumers making complaints, which is going to be harmful to your business in multiple ways. Successful entrepreneurs know retaining a customer takes precedence over winning a single dispute.

When your return policy is clearly stated and fair, you’ll face fewer upset customers. Furthermore, your return policy needs to be consistent. Variations in the policy will confuse people, which can create disputable scenarios. If you do need to make a change to your policy for some reason, announce it broadly and prominently so few shoppers are caught off guard.

What Are Things to Consider with a Return Policy?

Now that you understand the conceptual framework for a return policy, you need to know what specifics should be included in this important disclaimer.

Return shipping costs are one of the biggest factors to think about. Surveys among consumers show that high shipping and return costs are one of the top reasons for cart abandonment in ecommerce. In other words, offering free shipping both ways is a great way to entice people into pulling the trigger on a purchase.

Then again, as already mentioned, high return rates can end up costing entrepreneurs more if they offer consumers free shipping and returns. Consider the pros and cons of various shipping and return pricing policies when determining what makes the most sense for your business.

You also need to make a hard deadline for how long customers have to return an item. It’s common for companies to offer 30- to 60-day return policies. But you might want to increase or decrease this duration depending on the specific goods sold from your e-store. You’ll also want to make rules about the condition of returns. Ideally, you should be able to resell something that gets sent back. You probably won’t want to accept returns if the customer has trashed an item. But you need to lay out the exact terms in your return policy, so this doesn’t become an issue.

Putting together a good return policy is one of the most underrated aspects of building a successful ecommerce store. Considering all potential confusions or disputes will allow you to avoid them down the line.