Your Ecommerce return policy probably isn’t the most exciting part of your online store.
It is, however, something that’s required by law. Even if you’re selling on a marketplace like eBay, Bonanza, Etsy or other sites like Etsy, you’re required to have some kind of return or refund policy.
For all its advantages, online selling comes with some concerns on behalf of your buyer.
The main one being that,
your customer can’t hold, touch, see or feel what they’re buying before they own it.
A generous returns policy means that your buyer can commit to a purchase, knowing that if it’s not perfect, they can return it, exchange it, or even get a refund.
Little things like this add up to really impress your customer and ultimately make them a return buyer. It also does wonders in optimising your conversion rate.
That being said, you won’t make money if people are constantly returning your product ‘just because’.
So now we’re going to take a look at how you can build a transparent ecommerce returns policy – one that will benefit not only your customer but also your business.
In this article, you will learn:
- What a return policy is and why you need one
- Easy to apply real-life examples of quality return policies that build trust
- How to craft your own ecommerce return policy to keep your customer happy.
Using return policy samples and real-life examples, you’ll see how to craft a returns policy that builds trust between you and your customer.
What is a returns policy and why do I need one?
All good ecommerce stores (and retail stores, too) should have the following 3 policies on display.
- A refund and return policy. This is what we will touch on today
- Terms & Conditions. These are more relevant when it comes to personal accounts.
A returns policy is an outline where you inform customers about your return and refund process.
It clearly tells your customer what they can and can’t return and for what reasons. It also states an approximate timeframe for their return or refund to be handled.
In almost all countries, it’s a legal requirement that any kind of merchant offers a way for a customer to return, refund or exchange a product. Even digital products in digital stores!
It’s essential that a customer is informed about the ways that they can do this.
By telling your customer they can return their purchase, you increase your chances of creating a lifetime buyer and brand advocate.
Too many return policies are in place to protect the seller by simply confusing the buyer. Some may even not have a refund policy, but is that entirely legal?
Let’s take a look.
Is a ‘no refund policy’ or ‘no return policy’ legal?
Depending on where you reside and the laws of that state, territory or country, yes, it’s legal.
But it’s a terrible idea.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You’re about to buy something from an online store. You then see that if the product doesn’t work as described, you can’t return it.
Would you then buy that product?
Probably not! But if you’re still wanting to implement a ‘no return and no refund’ policy, you need to be aware that the rules vary all over the world.
Return and refund policies on products, digital or physical, online or retail, are not required in the US.
There are however individual state laws that require specific notices when you have a ‘no returns policy’ or ‘no refund policy’.
- California – Retailers are required to clearly post their refund policy unless they offer a full cash refund, exchange, or store credit within seven days of the purchase date. Retailers failing this requirement are required to accept full refunds within 30 days of purchase.
- New York – A store is legally required to post its refund policy. If the store doesn’t post any return policy, the law requires the store to accept returns within 30 days of purchase.
- Texas – There’s no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer’s return and refund policies.’
- Florida – Retailers that don’t offer refunds must clearly display this fact at the place of sale. Failing this requirement, customers may return goods for a full refund within 20 days of purchase.
- North Carolina – There’s no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer’s return and refund policies.
Do you want to learn more about return and refund policy in your state? Click here to find out more.
In the European Union, you don’t have a choice. You are required by law to accept refunds and returns on all products – physical or digital.
EU consumer law states that:
‘a trader must repair, replace, reduce the price or give you a refund if goods you bought turn out to be faulty or do not look or work as advertised.
If you bought a good or a service online or outside of a shop (by telephone, mail order, from a door-to-door salesperson), you also have the right to cancel and return your order within 14 days, for any reason and with no justification.’
Click here for more information about consumer law in the European Union.
Real life examples of the best return policies.
Before preparing a return policy for your own store, it’s important you see what others are doing. It will help you to understand what some common and industry standard procedures are.
Here you will see how a non-existent return policy can become the cornerstone of a successful ecommerce brand.
There are many businesses out there that pride themselves on a lifetime warranty.
Even if that may not be a fit for you and your products, you can learn a lot by taking a look at how these brands approach their return policy. Below you fill find x examples of the best return policies:
1 – Red Oxx
RedOxx is well known for their return conditions, warranty and return policy. Let’s take look at a sample of their return policy:
‘The Red Oxx Lifetime Guarantee is completely transferable for life. Covered are all bags and accessories made by us (both custom and mass produced), at any time in our history, regardless of how they were obtained – gifts, second-hand store, eBay auctions, hand-me-downs, custom work and modifications done by Red Oxx, etc. Our “No Bull” Lifetime Warranty is, in a word, unconditional!’
Very generous! Straight away we can see how this is appealing to the customer.
But what can you learn from this if you don’t have a lifetime warranty?
RedOxx also goes on to state:
‘We will always foot the bill for return shipping –your item will be returned to you via UPS Ground (U.S.A.) and USPS Priority International (outside the U.S.A.) return shipping paid by Red Oxx. ‘
What can I learn from Red Oxx’s unlimited return policy?
Unable to offer a lifetime warranty on your product? No sweat, you can still earn your customer’s favour by paying for their return shipping.
2 – Darn Tough
Socks are normally something very personal. They’re a cheap commodity and if they’re damaged, you throw them out, get another pair.
Darn Tough socks want you to know that you can return their socks – anytime, for any reason, even if you’re not happy with them. Worn or unworn, damaged or undamaged.
Their returns policy has 2 different procedures:
- For unworn socks or socks purchased less than 30 days ago
- For worn socks or socks purchased more than 90 days ago.
What can I learn from Darn Tough’s outstanding return policy?
Keep your policy simple. A returns policy can be confusing by nature. Don’t make it any more confusing that it has to be.
3 – Glossier
Glossier is a New York-based women’s skincare and cosmetics company. With millions of online sales each year, how do they handle returns?
Their returns policy is simple. No fancy confusing words, nothing that will scare off a buyer, turning them into a reluctant buyer.
Take a look at the sample below:
What should I do if I receive the wrong product?
If you received a product different from the one that you ordered, sorry about that! Please contact us at [email protected] and we’ll be sure to get you the Glossier you ordered!’
You’re reading something written by a human, not a lawyer that’s out to pass the problem back to the customer.
What can I learn from Glossier’s easy and simple return policy?
A return or refund policy should build trust. By talking like a human, to a human, in simple, plain English, you’re doing just that.
A simple return policy will also help you to expand into foreign markets where English is not your customer’s mother tongue.
When you keep your language simple, you
- build trust with native speakers of your language
- build trust with non-native speakers of your language
- keep things easy for your customer, as they may be frustrated after having to return a purchase.
Ok, you have seen some of the best examples of return policies from small and medium enterprises.
Now we’re going to take a look at how the heavy-weights of the ecommerce industry manage their returns and refunds.
Even as a small ecommerce seller, the way the big businesses do business can help you learn and grow in many ways – not just with your return policy!
What are the return policies for the big players like eBay, Amazon, WooCommerce and Shopify?
These 4 websites cater to nearly 80% of every single online transaction.
Amazon and eBay are marketplaces and have an overall blanket policy on returns that all sellers must acknowledge.
WooCommerce and Shopify are independent platforms, with no set rules. Let’s take a look at how they’re all different.
eBay return policy & eBay refund process
eBay is a marketplace that sells items from independent sellers. It’s a requirement of each individual seller to create and implement their own return policy.
If you sell on eBay, you should create a return and refund policy yourself.
However, the eBay Money Back Guarantee states that regardless of the seller’s individual policy, a product can be replaced or have their money refunded if:
- An item isn’t as described in the listing
- An item isn’t received
- 7 days after the specified timeframe for a transaction in the same country as the buyer
- 30 days after the specified timeframe for a transaction in a different country as the buyer
eBay has a much more detailed account of their own Money Back Guarantee in more detail.
Take this into consideration when creating your eBay return and refund policy. No matter what you do, eBay can get involved and overthrow your own policy if they think it’s not fair.
Amazon return policy
Just like eBay, Amazon is also a marketplace. Therefore, it specifies that all sellers must individually create their own returns policy.
But just like eBay, Amazon has its own policy that applies to all transactions that happen there.
Amazons Seller Return Policy states:
‘Items shipped from Amazon.com can be returned within 30 days of receipt of shipment in most cases. Some products have different policies or requirements associated with them.
Third-party sellers must either provide a return address within the United States, provide a prepaid return label, or offer a full refund without requesting the item be returned’
If you’re a third-party seller on Amazon, it’s up to you to make sure that your policy is honest and fair.
Keep in mind, too, that many Amazon sellers speculate that a fair and quick returns policy can help improve your Amazon SEO. The fewer returns you have, the better chances you have of winning the buy box.
WooCommerce and Shopify return policy
WooCommerce and Shopify are independent platforms that you use to build a website on. Neither Shopify or WooCommerce offer an overall return or refund policy that you must follow
Instead, it’s up to you, the seller, to create and implement a return or refund policy that suits your business. Remember that you will be subject to consumer laws relevant to your state, country or territory.
Interested in using WooCommerce or Shopify to build your web store but not sure which one is best? Have a read of our article:
The most important points of return and refund policies.
So now you’re aware of what a returns policy is and why you need one – plus, we’ve seen some inspiration from the best ecommerce stores and their return policies.
It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of making one yourself.
The reason your brand has a refund and returns policy isn’t just because of law.
It’s to make sure your customer feels safe.
It’s to build trust between you and your customer so they don’t feel they’re going to get ripped off.
Here we go with our 8 simple steps:
Step 1: Create a return policy so good that you can flaunt it.
A beneficial returns policy is worth its weight in gold for marketing.
In the return policy example above, we can see how Red Oxx make their policy a cornerstone of their marketing
Veteran founded, owned and operated, all bags have a ‘no bull’ lifetime warranty.
This is one of the first things you see when you land on their website. Straight away you know that no matter what you buy from them, it’ll have a lifetime warranty.
They place their selling point on the front page so immediately build that trust.
You may not offer a lifetime warranty on your products. You may offer 5 years, 10 years, 30 days.
Regardless, if you create a policy that truly benefits the customer, show it off. Make it an integral part of your branding.
Step 2: Make your return policy easily accessible.
If your returns policy isn’t something that you want to include in your marketing, at least make it easy to find.
A link in the footer of your web store means that everyone has easy access if they want it.
Outdoor Research makes it easy for everyone to find their returns policy
Any experienced ecommerce seller will tell you that a lot of sales are lost on the product listing page. This can be for a wide range of reasons.
One of these reasons may be because a buyer doesn’t wholly trust your brand or your store.
Advice: Avoid this problem by placing a link to your returns policy right under your ‘add to cart’ button.
Step 3: Don’t make demands in your return policy
If someone is reading your policy, they’re reading it because they want to buy and they have the intent to buy. But they need to see that little bit of trust to get them over the line.
But if your return policy is littered with words like ‘must’, ‘required, ‘not responsible for’, you’ll have the opposite effect.
A sample of vocabulary not to use in your returns policy
Words like this, especially when trying to build trust, scare people. They make you seem as if you’re wiping your hands clean of any problems.
You sound like you’re refusing to help your customer after they’ve given you your money.
Does that sound like a good way to build trust, repeat business and a buyer for life?
Yeah, not really.
‘We’re sorry you’re not in love with your purchase. Please send an email to [email protected] with your order number within 30 days of receiving your product, we’ll take care of the rest’
…sounds a whole lot better than…
‘RETURNS ARE ACCEPTED 30 DAYS AFTER PURCHASE. EMAIL [email protected] WITH ORDER NUMBER’
Be a person, not a jerk.
Step 4: Your return policy is for the customer – be clear and to the point
As mentioned earlier, an honest and somewhat lenient returns policy can build a lot of trust with your customer.
Remember K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Your returns policy will be complex by nature, but don’t make it any more confusing that it has to be.
These are all the main problems and situations that your quality returns policy should address. Solve these problems and you’re well on the way to creating a happy customer.
- How long does your customer have to return the product?
- Can they only return it if it’s damaged or not as described, or can they return it if didn’t meet their expectations?
- Packaging – does the product have to be returned in the original packaging? What if the packaging is slightly damaged?
- Who pays for returns? The more shipping fees you (the seller) absorb and pay for, the happier your customer will be. Whatever you decide, make it clear who pays for what.
- You sent your customer the wrong order – will you send it express? Will you pay for it?
- Can a buyer exchange a purchase for the same thing in a different colour or size? If there’s a price difference between variants, how will you handle that?
- Does your customer receive store credit for a future purchase, or do they get their money back?
Step 5: Know your return policy and make sure your staff do, too
If you have staff fulfilling orders or dealing with customers, make sure they know your returns policy inside out.
A good habit is to have one person handle a return from start to finish. This reduces the chances of ‘crossed wires’ and other communication problems.
Ensuring that any staff are fully aware of your returns policy means that they’ll spend less time handling returns, and the entire process is smoother for all parties involved.
Step 6: Absorb any mistakes you make
We all make mistakes. You may very well make a mistake that upsets and angers a customer at some point and that’s perfectly ok.
And, naturally, you’re going to go out of your way to solve the problem that you’ve created. One way to turn a negative experience like this into a positive is to absorb the financial cost of such mistakes.
Let’s say for example:
The customer orders the wrong size dress.
Of course, your lenient returns policy lets them exchange the dress for the correct size.
However, your returns policy also states that they must send the incorrect size back to you before you send out the new size. A simple concept and not unreasonable.
But what happens if it is, in fact, you that sent them the wrong size? This isn’t necessarily something that you’d write in your returns policy, but it’s still something to have in mind.
Solve this situation by sending them the correct size via express post, without waiting for the incorrect size to be returned.
This is your mistake, something that has happened outside of your return policy and therefore, your customer may be quite angry.
By absorbing the cost of your mistake and showing good will to solve the problem, you increase your chances of turning an upset customer into a return customer.
Step 7: Don’t copy & paste
Every business is different. There isn’t a single return policy template out there that will fit your brand, without you having to alter it.
Each template needs to be custom made to fit your brand, your product and your business model.
Step 8: Outline or give examples of your policy in action
By now, you’re clear about 2 things
- The sole purpose of a high-quality returns policy is to build trust with the customer and make him come back for his next purchase
- Return policies can be confusing for your buyer.
This last problem can be solved by visually representing how your return policy works.
Look at the example below:
Uboots visually show off their returns policy
Using a graphic or some kind of flow chart, your customer can see how the return process works.
One more simple step in the process of building trust!
Creating a return policy template – conclusion.
Creating a return policy is one of the most powerful ways to provide your customer with a safe and better buying experience.
It may test your personal writing skills, but a stand-out return and refund policy can not only help you sell more but make your brand name more memorable.
Above everything else, remember:
- The overall goal of a return policy is to build trust, then protect yourself.
- Be clear and get to the point
- Don’t scare or confuse your customer.
If you address the points we’ve mentioned here, and reference some of the great return policy examples we’ve included, you’ll create something worth bragging about!
What are some of your favourite return policies that you’ve seen? What are some of the worst return policies you’ve seen?
Let us know in the comments!