9 Tips to Create a “Selling” Return Policy for Your eCommerce Site

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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What if I told you that your eCommerce return policy could help you sell more products? With online returns nearly quadruple the rate of brick and mortar returns, finding the best way to maximize the consumer experience can make all the difference to your bottom line.

There are several reasons why consumers request returns, including:

  • Wrong items delivered
  • Items damaged in shipment
  • Gift returns
  • Quality or fit issues
  • Products don’t match online descriptions
  • Buyer’s remorse

While some returns will be inevitable, a strong return policy can help reduce the rate of returns and keep your customers returning. Check out these 9 tips for creating a return policy that can help to decrease returns and even help you sell your products:

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Have a return policy and keep it simple.

First, make sure you have a documented return policy. Returns are a natural part of retail and commerce, and you need a system and clear policy in place to provide effortless returns to customers.

smartphone agreementThe “All sales are final” statement is dated. Successful retailers know customers have plenty of options if they make returns too difficult.

A return policy demonstrates you have a plan to appease customer dissatisfaction. Use terms that everyone can understand. This isn’t the time to use legal jargon; you want to avoid confusing your customers. Having a solid, easy to understand return policy instills confidence in your business.

Be transparent.

Don’t make it difficult to find your return policy. Openly displaying your return policy instills confidence in the consumer. When customers are forced to call because they cannot find your return policy, it adds to their frustration. They were already dissatisfied with something and looking for resolution.

Sending a customer through a whirlwind of automated phone menus, or through multiple pages of your website, is not clear or upfront. Keep your customers by being transparent.

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Make your policy “hassle-free.”

Returns can be a drain on your resources, and they are often a hassle for your customer, but they don’t have to be. Nobody expects to return something they spent time and hard-earned money on, so make the process as easy as possible.

List all the conditions of the return clearly, using language anyone can understand. Customers are more likely to make a future purchase from you if you’ve made the return process easy and hassle-free.

A 2013 Fast Company report on Zappos proved that a no-hassle return policy generates profit. According to the report, the more expensive footwear had a 50% return rate, but that return rate didn’t have a negative impact on revenue. In fact, Zappos’ best customers returned the most products, but they also spent the most money.

make your return policy hassle-free

Some ways to make your return policy hassle-free:

  • Offer return shipping labels included with the original shipment.
  • Consider creating an online portal for shipment tracking/return tracking.
  • Include a shipping label printing option in your portal for returns.
  • Provide detailed return instructions in shipments.

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Consider a “free return” policy.

While the prospect of footing the bill for returns may sound like it will eat up your bottom line, that’s not the whole story. In many, if not most, cases, a quick and easy free return creates a more loyal customer.

A study published in the Journal of Marketing showed stores offering free returns see customers spend up to 457% more than they did before they initiated the return in the first place. The opposite also proved to be true: In cases where consumers were asked to pay for return shipping, repeat business dropped by 75-100%.

Those customers never came back.

UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper, a 2016 study that comScore conducted for UPS, revealed that 60% of online shoppers prefer free shipping for returns, 51% want a hassle-free returns policy, and 40% like to see a returns label in the package.

According to the data, the key to a happy, delighted customer is to give freely and be shockingly generous. Customers love “free.”

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Don’t hide the return costs.

If you do require customers pay for return shipping, do not hide the cost. There are few things worse than finding out you need to pay for something you didn’t expect to and, as the data above revealed, this is guaranteed to drive down return business.

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Make it visually appealing.

Your returns page should be visually appealing. We’ve already covered that it needs to be easy to find—but is it easy on the eyes? In addition to using common language, you want to make sure it’s not riddled with long paragraphs of explanation.

Bullet points, lists, and easy-to-follow instructions will eliminate customer frustration, making the consumer more likely to come back.

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Offer in-store returns.

62% of shoppers are more likely to shop online if they can return an item in-store, according to Invesp Consulting’s infographic of online return rate statistics. This option completely circumvents shipping costs for everyone, and it can create a resolution to a customer’s problem more quickly than a lengthy return process.

Additionally, according to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study 2016, 70% of shoppers who return items in-store make an additional purchase when at the store.  

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How long you accept returns is a conversion point.

Do you accept returns within 30 days? What if you extended that to 60, 90, or even 120 days? The length of your acceptance of returns demonstrates your confidence in the product. Now, I’m not suggesting taking returns for the lifetime of the product—although some successful companies do.

Polar Bottle will replace customer’s water bottles throughout their lifetime, and will even replace a damaged or lost cap.

Manduka yoga mats offer a lifetime warranty and will replace a yoga mat that has simply broken down over normal use.

Outdoor clothing juggernaut Eddie Bauer boasts an unconditional lifetime warranty on all products. Now that exudes confidence.

Consider a return policy that demonstrates confidence in your products, and which gives customers peace of mind.

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Promote your return policy.

You believe in your products. Promoting your return policy drives that point home with confidence. Always ensure that your products are accurately described, they perform as expected, and customers won’t find any surprises.

Part of promoting your return policy is getting it front and center during the shopping experience. For a brick and mortar store, it’s easy to post this information in clear view near the checkout. eCommerce retailers need to work it into design elements in order for your customers to see it readily.

Display a badge and/or link to your return policy in multiple places to promote it, including:

  • Around frequently asked questions and support contact
  • Above the fold on a product page in conjunction with security badges and payment and shipping info, and added to cart buttons
  • As an additional trust signal during checkout, alongside shipping and payment security certificates

A confident retailer instills  customers with confidence, improving the chances of a conversion on the first sale and developing the kind of trust that contributes to return visits.


A return policy that clearly demonstrates the confidence you have in your products is guaranteed to develop trust between you and your customers. If you are open and honest about how you’ll fix a problem, offer hassle-free returns, and communicate how they can return an item they’re not satisfied with, the likelihood of repeat business grows exponentially.

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