A viable and effective ecommerce return policy is an absolute must for every online retailer.

As is a concise and coherent refund policy (where applicable), informing customers of their rights in the event of dissatisfaction with the products and services provided.

But what kind of information should a standard return policy contain? More importantly, what are the specific benefits of having a fair and amicable return and refund policy in place?

In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at the functions and objectives of an ecommerce refund and return policy, along with a series of return policy examples detailing the information that should be included and how it should be presented.

What Is an Ecommerce Return and Refund Policy?

In the simplest terms, a return and refund policy is an agreement between the seller and the customer regarding the store’s policies on refunds and returns. It informs the customer of their rights, along with the obligations of the store in the event of an issue.

All refund and return policies are unique to the store in question, though will usually contain the following information as a bare minimum:

  1. The duration of the returns period
  2. How refunds are provided (money or store credit)
  3. Refund processing times
  4. Product exchange turnaround times
  5. How to return products and who pays for shipping

Irrespective of the nature of your return and refund policy, it should be easy to make the customer’s rights in the event of dissatisfaction 100% clear.

return policy rules

Why Returns Can Make (Or Break) Your Business

Contrary to popular belief, a refund and returns policy is about far more than ‘ticking’ a basic administrative box. Now more than ever, return and refund policies are having a significant impact on the spending decisions being made by millions of consumers worldwide.

In fact, a study carried out in 2019 by UPS found that almost three quarters of shoppers (73%) place heavy emphasis on a store’s refund and returns policy.  One year earlier, the National Retail Federation reported that total product returns in the United States for 2018 totalled a staggering $369 billion in value.

Two figures that clearly illustrate the importance of having a viable returns policy in place.

Rather than simply showing preference to stores with simplified refund and returns policies, consumers are gradually shifting exclusively to online retailers who make it quick, easy and free to return unwanted items.

Why a Great Ecommerce Returns Policy is a Must-Have

Even so, there are still countless online businesses that deliberately make it as difficult as possible for customers to return products. Many of which believe that in doing so, they’ll cut costs by significantly reducing returns and refund requests.

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that more than half of all shoppers will refuse to do business with stores that don’t have a clearly defined and fair returns policy. Furthermore, just under half of all consumers (49%) actively assess the returns policies of the stores they do business with, before making a purchase.

Far from a simple formality, a good refund and returns policy is about establishing trust with your target audience. In the absence of a fair and viable policy, it can be difficult (or impossible) for the buyer to trust the seller.

Likewise, a customer that encounters a difficult or drawn-out refund or returns process is unlikely to ever use the same store again. Along with providing the customer with fair protections when making a purchase, returns policies are also about protecting your business from potential harm.

If you make things unnecessarily difficult for your customers, they’ll simply do business with your competitors.

STEP 1 Need to return something?
STEP 2 Download a returns form: Fill it out and send it back
STEP 3 Ecommerce recieves the goods and take relevant action to replace/refund/repair your items
STEP 4 Transaction completed

How to Get a Return Policy

Technically speaking, there are five ways to create and publish a clear, concise and viable returns policy for your business:

  1. Start from scratch. The first option is to start from scratch, drawing up your returns policy manually. If you choose this approach, it’s generally advisable to seek support from an experienced third party - perhaps a solicitor with relevant experience. This will help ensure you cover all bases and avoid ambiguity in your text.
  2. Use a return policy generator. The fact is that the widely available return policy generators for your eCommerce sites are much cheaper than paying for legal help to have your return policy made. Return policy generators bear the same legal weight and make the process of creating your return policy less time-consuming while providing equal protection.
  3. Download a template. It’s also possible to download a simple return policy template and ‘fill in the gaps’ accordingly. You’ll find plenty of return policy templates for ecommerce businesses online, though it’s important to assess the quality and completeness of any template you intend to use.
  4. Outsource to experts. Hiring help is also an option, though also tends to be the most expensive option. Experienced ecommerce personnel and qualified solicitors can help with these kinds of things, though even a simple refund and returns policy can prove an expensive investment.

Whichever way you go, the quality and completeness of your returns policy should be carefully assessed prior to publishing. If unsure, have a third party with relevant experience proofread your policy to ensure its viability.

return policy system

What To Include In Your Ecommerce Return/Refund Policy

The basic information that needs to be included in a refund and returns policy is relatively simple. Above all else, the following should be covered - usually separated into clear and concise individual sections:

  1. The period of time the customer has after receiving their goods to request a refund or replacement.
  2. The rights of the customer during this time, indicating whether they are eligible for a refund or a replacement.
  3. The process of requesting a refund or exchange, outlining how and when the items in question should be returned.
  4. The policy of the business regarding who pays for the return shipping and acceptable shipping methods.
  5. The terms, conditions and exclusions that apply to the policy, such as keeping products in their original packaging without removing the tags.

In all instances, the key to creating the perfect refund and returns policy is to keep things simple. Based on the points above, a sample returns policy for an ecommerce business could be as brief as the following:

If you are dissatisfied with the items you receive, you can request a refund or an exchange for a period of 30 days following receipt of the products.

Refunds and exchanges will only be offered where products are returned in the original packaging and in the same condition they were received in.

All refunds will be issued exclusively in the form of a credit note for future purchases, which must be used within 12 months of the date of issue.

MAKE SURE:

  • Items are returned within 30 days of receiving your order.
  • Items are unused, unworn, and with original tags still on. No marks, no stains, no fur and no rips.
  • All original original labels and tags are still attached and intact.
  • Items must be in their original packaging which must be in the original undamaged condition.

5 Best Practices for a Great Ecommerce Returns Policy

Again, simplicity holds the key to effective and understandable returns policies.  Nevertheless, there are also some important best practice principles to be aware of.

Consult any sample return policy from a leading online retailer and you’ll see each of the following five best practices in action:

Best Practice 1. Don’t Hide Your Policy

As an ecommerce retailer, it’s your responsibility to keep your returns policy visible and accessible. Ideally, a summarised snippet of your returns policy should be presented clearly in various locations across your website. It should be abundantly clear to every customer how you handle returns and refunds, without them having to search high and low for the information.

Best Practice 2. Never Copy and Paste - Have Your Unique Return Policy Made

It’s never a good idea to copy and paste any ecommerce website content - particularly important policy information. Your returns policy should be unique to you, written in a tone of voice that suits your business and appeals to its target audience. Use refund and return policy samples from elsewhere as inspiration, but avoid copying them word for word.

Best Practice 3. Use Simple English and Avoid the Scary Details

The importance of avoiding jargon and scary details cannot be overstated. A good returns policy is one that prioritises the satisfaction of the customer, with the business itself taking a backseat. It should be friendly, free of complicated terms and easy to understand. It should also be kept as short as possible, as most people simply don’t bother to read long and complex terms and conditions.

Best Practice 4. Outline the Steps Customers Can Expect in the Process

Always provide a step-by-step overview of how your returns policy works. Let them know exactly when and how they should return goods they’re not happy with, along with how long they can expect to wait for their refund/exchange to be processed. In addition, provide clear contact information in case they have any questions they’d like to ask.

Best Practice 5. Educate Your Staff

Last up, it’s essential to ensure that every member of your workforce understands all aspects of your returns policy. They may be called upon to address questions or concerns at any time, so it’s important to ensure they have the knowledge and confidence needed to keep your customers happy.

education in ecommerce