Guest Column | September 30, 2021

5 Best Standards For A Stellar Ecommerce Return Policy

By Shelley Schmidtlin, Director of Enterprise Marketing, CleverTap

eCommerce Tech

A little-known factor that can supercharge customer retail experiences is a winning e-commerce return policy. With the pandemic aiding in the significant growth of online purchases, companies must have exceptional e-commerce return strategies in place to ensure maximum customer satisfaction.

According to a report released by the Mastercard Economics institute, consumers around the globe spent $900 billion more through online purchases compared to the trend from two years prior. Although this is great news for online retailers, it requires them to grapple with increased return rates (which rose 70% YoY in 2020). Plus, online return rates can be two to three times higher than brick-and-mortar stores

Returning items can be an aggravating process, but the retailers who nail the process can create happy, loyal customers. Here are five best practices for an exceptional e-commerce return policy:

  1. Make the policy easy to find on the website

Ecommerce policies should be extremely user-friendly. Customers should land on the website or app and be able to effortlessly navigate to the return policy. Placing the policy where it is easily visible will prove to customers that your brand understands returns will occur, and it is perfectly okay when they do. Being as transparent as possible will help customers trust the brand more. 

Additionally, when crafting your policy, make sure it aligns with company values and that it is unique to the brand; this is no time for a copy-and-paste job. Feel free to include customer testimonials to showcase how committed the company is to support customers through both good and bad experiences. Again, this sense of transparency will resonate with consumers as it shows the level of commitment the company has to providing the customer with a streamlined experience.

  1. Give customers a clear idea of what to expect

Make sure to outline what the return process will look like. Within how many days must a customer make the return to receive help from the company? Will the return be free or will customers need to cover shipping? Set a clear time frame and necessary guidelines as it helps to keep both the company and customer accountable. 

Next, what should customers expect in exchange for the return? This might look like in-store credit, a refund, or exchange only. Clearly indicate the estimated time that the customer will receive their items or money back. This part of the return policy must be as detailed as possible to prevent customer confusion and frustration.

  1. Think of your return policy as an extension of your customer service efforts

At the end of the day, all customers want is to have an easy and positive experience with brands. Why should your return policy be exempt from the overall experience? Be tactical when developing your policy, and refrain from using intimidating and stiff language that could scare off potential customers. Evaluate whether or not your policy invites the consumer to engage in a relationship with the brand rather than simply make a one-time transaction. 

Over-communication is key here. If there are changes to the return policy, let customers know as soon as possible via email, SMS, push notification, etc. Sharing these updates lets the customer know that the company has their best interest in mind.

  1. Ensure employees understand and can implement the return policy with ease

Employees need to understand the ins and outs of the company’s return policy. If there is any confusion, then reevaluate and realign. Your employees should feel they have an adequate understanding of your return policy for the benefit of the customer. This will make the experience pleasant for all involved and can help to retain and earn loyalty from customers. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to adjust the policy

If the last two years have taught the world anything, it is that being agile is key to running a successful business. The global pandemic trained business leaders to expect the unexpected, and brands had no choice but to find resolutions through inevitable shipping delays, staffing shortages, and low inventory. Though the pandemic may be a once-in-a-century anomaly, it has been an exceptional lesson in driving companies to make quick, significant changes to their business models, with return policies being a pivotal aspect in these shifts. Allowing for flexibility will reassure customers that the company remains true to its goal of creating a positive e-commerce experience.

The Bottom Line 

A staggering number of returns is the inevitable counterpart to a booming e-commerce economy. With the average e-commerce returns rate hovering around 20-30%, brands need to have an airtight plan on how they will execute a return policy that maximizes customer satisfaction. These five practices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a unique and personalized policy. With online shopping continuing to grow, retailers with a streamlined, detailed e-commerce return policy are sure to be set up for success.

About The Author

Shelley Schmidtlin, Director of Enterprise Marketing at CleverTap, has over 15 years of agency and corporate marketing experience in fast-changing industries. As Director of Marketing for the Americas, Shelley is leading the go-to-market strategy and growth for North America and Latin America regions. Currently and during her tenure at Salesforce and Zendesk, she's led teams to support Enterprise Marketing growth in North America for all verticals, including e-commerce, travel and hospitality, and media and entertainment by activating the brand across multiple channels. As a Demand Gen leader, she deploys ABM best practices using seamless marketing tech stack integrations and database marketing to optimize the marketing funnel. Shelley is an artist, volunteer coach, and board member for a nonprofit.