After the rush of holiday shopping and the opening of gifts… come the returns. UPS has named January 2, 2020, National Returns Day for the anticipated record-breaking 1.9 million packages to hit their network. 

Customers send back purchases for a variety of reasons: the wrong size, the item arrived damaged or it doesn’t meet their expectations. Whatever it may be, they’ll likely ask for a replacement or their money back. And whether you’re reselling as a side hustle or running a full-time eCommerce store, returns, refunds, and exchanges are all part of doing business. And to save yourself time and money, you’ll want to have a clearly communicated return policy in place. How does yours stack up?

Decide on a Return Policy

Many of our SMB buyers often sell on more than one marketplace, such as Amazon, and might manage several different return policies. Did you know that two-thirds of consumers will check your return policy before hitting the ‘buy’ button? One thing is for certain: return policies are no longer an afterthought for small businesses. A clearly communicated return policy can actually generate new business and increase customer loyalty.

Decide whether to standardize/offer consistent return policies. Will there be just one return policy (Amazon’s for example) or will there be different policies for each site? Or will you have separate return policies for different product offerings (e.g., low-end versus high-end, etc.)?

Promote customer-centric return policies. If you choose an “Amazon-style” return policy with instant returns and free shipping, then this is something worth promoting upfront as part of your company’s brand, just like Amazon does. Make it a promise to your customers in order to generate new ones and increase loyalty among them. A customer-friendly return policy is often the key difference between businesses with a strong repeat purchase rate and those that rely on one-time purchases only.

Set Up a System for Succes

Having a system in place can take the pain out of returns and exchanges for both you and your customers. Whether you’re receiving your first return request or trying to update a less-than-ideal process, creating a system can immediately help cut down the hours spent on returns and exchanges. First, you must distinguish the difference between returns and exchanges.

If a customer wants a return, they are essentially saying that the product did not meet their expectations for one reason or another and want a refund. An exchange, on the other hand, means that they were satisfied with the quality of the item and the buying experience, but chose the wrong item.

You’ll want to determine this early on in your system which of the two categories the customer falls into, so you know how to process their request. Decide whether a product is eligible for a return, exchange, or both, before it is sold and clearly state it on your website in your return policy page.

Write Your Return Policy

You’ll want to establish and formalize your return policy so you can present it clearly to your customers. A written return policy allows you to treat all requests the same and avoid handling things on a case-by-case basis, which can be a time-suck and also more costly.

Policies will vary slightly depending on your business and the products you sell, but every policy should include the following basics:

  • What items can be returned vs. what can be exchanged
  • What products are “final sale” (non-returnable, non-exchangeable)
  • When things can be returned or exchanged (e.g. 30, 60, 90 days post-purchase)
  • In what condition can items be returned (e.g. lightly worn, with tags still on, etc.)
  • What products can be returned for (store credit, refund, a product of equal value, etc.)
  • How to initiate a return or exchange (e.g. an email address to contact or a web page to visit)

Place Your Policy

Now that you have a well-written return policy, it’s important to place it where customers will actually see it. Be sure to include links to your policy in several hard-to-miss places throughout your website. A few good places to list your policy include:

  • Your website footer
  • FAQ page
  • Product page
  • Cart
  • Checkout

Despite your best efforts for a great customer experience, chances are you will still encounter a few unsatisfied customers along the way. But how you choose to deal with these customers is an important factor in the growth, staying power, and reputation of your company. If you figure out a relatively painless way to handle returns and exchanges, you’re more likely to retain customers and get good reviews. For more reselling tips and advice, please visit our Reseller Resources blog.