How to Create an Effective Ecommerce Return Policy

Returns have become the norm in ecommerce. In a 2017 survey,  48% of consumers stated they returned an item they bought online in the previous year.

Considering the risk and uncertainty associated with online shopping, it’s no wonder that almost half of all online shoppers check a business’ return policy before making a purchase.

Effective ecommerce return policy - return stats
Image source: Narvar


This makes the return policy a crucial part of your ecommerce website.

Your return policy can have a strong impact on your conversion rate, as well as your revenue. A good return policy can also help you improve customer retention and loyalty.

Customers who are happy with the way you handle returns are more likely to buy from you again. In fact, as many as 95% of shoppers claim they would buy from a business again if they were satisfied with the business’ return process.

Return policy - customer loyalty stats
Image source: Narvar

If you want to improve conversion rates, generate more revenue and increase customer retention and loyalty, you should put in the effort to improve your return policy and adapt it to your customers’ needs.

What Should Your Return Policy Contain?

While every ecommerce business is unique and has its own set of needs and circumstances, you should aim to address the following information in your return policy:

Returnable Items

If you want to allow customers to return certain types of products but not others, you’ll need to clearly state this in your policy.

Return Window

Do you have a time limit after which customers won’t be able to return their item? Make sure to mention it.

Item Condition

What kind of condition does the item need to be in for you to accept the return? Be clear about this to prevent customers from returning items they’ve damaged, broken or worn.

Fees

If you charge restocking or return shipping fees, make sure you let customers know ahead of time.

Reimbursement

Do you offer full or partial refunds? Perhaps you only offer store credit for returned items.

Regardless, don't forget to include information on how you will reimburse customers — and approximately when they can expect to see the money or credit in their account — after they return an item.

Return Process

Perhaps most importantly, your return policy needs to contain information on how your return process works and outline the exact steps customers need to take to return their item. Additionally, you may want to offer how your store processes returns along with a timeline.

Once shoppers read your return policy, there shouldn’t be any confusion about how the return process works or what they need to do to return an item.

9 Best Practices for Creating an Effective Return Policy

We’ve talked about the importance of your return policy, as well as the crucial information you need to include in it.

Now, we’re going to cover a number of best practices you should keep in mind when crafting your return policy.

  1. Keep it Simple

 Fifty-one percent of customers who are not satisfied with a business’ return process state it was too much work to return the package.

Return policy disappointment stats
Image source: Narvar


Your return process needs to be as easy as possible. Try to automate it as much as you can and give customers an easy way to request and manage returns.

Consider including a return label along with instructions on how to return an item with all the packages you send. This will significantly simplify the entire process for customers and help create a hassle-free return experience.

If customers know they can return an item with ease, they’ll feel a lot more comfortable buying from your business.

  1. Demonstrate Your Return Process

A lengthy return policy can seem intimidating to shoppers. It also opens up the possibility of customers misunderstanding your return policy and the overall process of returning items.

You may want to consider creating an image or video demonstrating your return process and all its steps. Explaining your return policy in image or video form will make it easier to digest.

Here’s how Bonobos does it:

There are plenty of online tools that can help you do this. You can use Canva to design a graphic outlining your return policy or Lumen5 to create a video explaining your return process.

  1. Provide Multiple Return Options

Thirty-eight percent of shoppers state they prefer to return an item to a nearby store instead of shipping it back to the retailer’s warehouse. When asked why, they cite getting immediate credit and being able to shop for other items as the main reasons.

Return policy in-store return stats
Image source: Narvar

Try to offer multiple return options to your customers. If you can’t do this year-round, consider expanding your return options during the holiday season. Customers will appreciate your flexibility.

  1. Avoid Using Legal Jargon

Your return policy isn’t the place to use complex terminology or legal jargon. Most shoppers won’t have the patience to read through a complicated or lengthy return policy.

So, keep your return policy concise and avoid using complicated or ambiguous language. 

Here’s how Hyphen Sleep does it:

Hyphen Sleep return policy
Image source: Hyphen Sleep
  1. Don’t Copy Another Business’ Return Policy

Your ecommerce business is different from all the other businesses out there. So, you don't want to copy another business’ return policy word for word.

Duplicate return policy
Image source: Google


As you might imagine, seeing the exact same return policy on dozens of different websites doesn’t exactly instill confidence. It’s fine to use a return policy template as a starting point, but make sure to customize it to suit your needs and align with your brand voice.

  1. Educate Your Staff on Your Return Policy

Your staff needs to know your return policy inside out to handle returns and deal with customer requests.

Educate them on what constitutes a valid return request so they can approve legitimate requests and deny others — also address when they have power to approve special requests or when they should get manager approval. This will help to avoid confusion and ensure each return is processed smoothly.

  1. Extend the Return Window

A short return window is a turnoff for most buyers. Today’s shoppers expect to have at least 30 days to make a return. If you offer a smaller return window, you might detract potential customers from shopping with you.

Return policy return window stats
Image source: Narvar


Try to give customers at least 30 days to return an item. If you can offer a bigger return window (like Target does), even better.

Target return policy
Image source: Target
  1. Offer Free Returns

Sixty-two percent of consumers state they would buy more from retailers that offer free returns, while 74% claim they actively avoid making purchases from retailers that don’t offer free return shipping.

Out of all conditions listed in the average return policy, restocking and return shipping fees are the biggest reasons why shoppers decide not to buy from a particular retailer.

Return policy drawback stats
Image source: Narvar

These practices can cause shoppers to develop a negative attitude toward your brand. Apart from losing an unhappy customer, you’ll also lose any potential referrals they might have sent your way.

  1. Use an RMA System

An RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) system is designed to help businesses manage returns. It usually involves customers submitting a form stating the reason for the return. This information is then used to generate a shipping label for the customer.

An RMA system can automate a large part of the return process, enabling you to keep track of returns, add returned items back into your inventory and help you track the financial impact of all the returns your business has processed. By using an RMA, you’ll be able to speed up the return process and create a better experience for your customers.

Improve Your Return Policy

An effective return policy can have a significant impact on your bottom line — it can help you improve conversion rates, increase customer retention and loyalty, and generate more revenue.

Craft a return policy that makes you feed good — and one that makes your customers feel good about purchasing from you.

Boris Mustapic

Boris Mustapic is a writer and content marketing specialist with a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. Having built his own successful ecommerce business, he likes to share his knowledge with ecommerce enthusiasts. Apart from writing about marketing and ecommerce, Boris also enjoys a good book and a glass of red wine.