Attract, retain and satisfy customers with a clear online returns policy

Canada Post

For online merchants, a clear, easy-to-spot returns policy is increasingly important. How you choose to handle returns, and how effectively you communicate your returns policy to your staff and customers, can make or break sales. It keeps customers coming back for more. If they find your policy unclear, it can prompt them to abandon their carts or stop shopping with you altogether.

Why returns matter so much to online shoppers

Shopping online involves a certain degree of risk: “What if it doesn’t fit? What if the product is totally different than I thought?” These types of questions can lead online shoppers to overthink their purchase before check out. You can manage customers’ expectations, fears and reservations by creating a clear and customer-friendly returns policy for your online store.

What customers really want in a returns policy

If your customers know that they can return items to you easily – at no or low cost, without an interrogation, through a simple process – their fears will be put to rest and they are more likely to become loyal customers for your business.

All they really want from you is clarity and ease. Most Canadian online shoppers expect merchants to be upfront about their returns policy so they can decide if it works for them before they buy.

How to craft and communicate a clear returns policy

To craft a clear and simple returns policy for your store, you need to keep a few key considerations for your business in mind, but also consider your returns strategy from your customers’ perspective. You’ll also need to choose what type of returns solution might work best with your chosen strategy.

Once you make these strategic decisions, it’s time to think about how to implement and communicate your policy – both internally and externally.

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Start from the inside out

In order to provide a good returns experience to your customers, you need to make sure that all the people in charge of the different areas within your company that play a part in the returns process understand your policy and can communicate it clearly. Depending on the size of your business, this could be a few people or a few dozen people across functions like your customer care group, logistics, billing and e-commerce teams.

Always train your staff on your returns policy

Start by setting up staff training sessions. Your goal should be to equip your teams with everything they need to know in order to process your returns properly. Ensure that the staff members that will have direct contact with customers are able to communicate, or reiterate, the policy that appears on your website clearly.

Make the returns policy crystal clear to customers

A returns policy is only effective if your customers can find it and understand it.

Is your returns policy easy to find?

Today’s shoppers won’t call your customer service line or a store’s physical location to hunt down your returns policy. They look for it on your site and expect to find it easily. If they can’t, you might lose their business.

In the last few years, merchants have prominently promoted their returns policy by placing it in banners on their homepage. Think about it from the shopper’s point of view – even before they start browsing, they already have complete information about their end-to-end experience with the brand. This helps them make informed decisions that are more likely to create higher satisfaction levels with a merchant.

Here are a few things you should communicate to your shoppers in your returns policy:

  • The products your return policy applies to.
  • If you offer exchanges and/or refunds.
  • How long shoppers have to return an item, and when that period starts – at the time they place their order, or when the customer receives their package.
  • How shoppers can make their returns – by mail or in-store or at designated physical locations.
  • Where shoppers can find the tools they need to get the item ready to ship back to you.
  • Who covers the cost of return shipping.
  • If the shopper will be informed when the item gets back to you and the exchange or refund is processed.
  • Approximately how long it will be before the shopper receives their exchanged item or refund.

Don’t skimp on returns policy details

Online shoppers expect a fair bit of detail when it comes to returns policies. When they know exactly what to expect, the chances of a rude surprise are greatly reduced. This helps them feel more comfortable shopping with you, and encourages them to trust your brand.

Start strong but prepare for your returns policy to evolve

You need to have a clear process for managing returns in place behind the scenes in order to provide clear and concise returns information to your customers. Don’t worry if you haven’t got it all figured out from the outset – you can hammer out the finer details of your strategy over time as you adapt to the changing needs and expectations of your customers. The more seamless and integrated your returns strategy is from the outset, the more likely it will resonate positively with customers and act as a tool for customer acquisition and retention.

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