5 Ways Your E-Commerce Return Policy is Sinking Your Profits

Who actually enjoys laying out their e-commerce returns policy? As a Shopify store owner, the last thing you probably want to think about is someone wanting to return your product to you.

It can be an icky feeling and it takes money out of your pocket.

But if you’ve made enough sales you’ve probably realized it’s just the nature of the beast.

In fact, a whopping 67% of online shoppers check the returns page before making a purchase.

It begs the question if that many people are looking at your e-commerce returns policy page:

Why not design the returns process in your favor to win over those people with a cart full of items trying to decide if it is worth buying from you?

What’s that? You don’t think it can be done?

Well, buckle in. That’s exactly what this article shows you how to do.

E-Commerce Return Policy Sales Killer #5: Making Returns Info as Complicated as Possible

Believe it or not, nobody likes reading long and drawn-out material of any kind.

Your returns policy isn’t really a legal document, so why make it read like one?

e-commerce return policy - making things complicated

Have you ever felt comfortable looking over a purposefully confusing document? Of course not.

Your prospect is human, just like you, and would very much appreciate you translate your returns policy into an easy-to-read, well-formatted page.

Any attempt to deter them through complicating the information makes it feel like an attempt to blindside them and lock them down into a product they are dissatisfied with.

This especially rings true if you are a drop shipper and you carry a ton of different manufacturer brands.

Why make them read through the unnecessary information and sift through it?

Rothys highlights their free shipping and free returns prominently in their header bar
Rothys highlights their free shipping and free returns prominently in their header bar

LabSup has a slew of return policies due to carrying multiple brands. At least they break up each section but it could be a lot easier to read.

If I were LabSup, I would make an easy graphical selection screen where the customer could select the brand image of the product they are trying to return.

Humans are visual creatures. So why not explain your policy with easy-to-understand visuals?

e-commerce return policy - returns the right way, using graphics

Magic Cola Fashion has the right idea. It’s an easily identifiable step-by-step process with visual aids.

You can even go a step further and use something like the Readability Test Tool to get different scores on how easy your page text is to read.

Want an easy way to make your e-commerce returns page look beautiful? Give Return Magic a whirl. It’s a killer app you can connect to your store to beautify your old, boring e-commerce returns page and make returning items a breeze.

However, your e-commerce returns policy isn’t worth much if your staff does this next sale killer…

E-Commerce Return Policy Sales Killer #4: Not Having Your Staff Well-Versed on E-Commerce Returns

One of the biggest killers isn’t a technical problem at all. It’s a human factor.

Have you ever had a run-around with customer service representatives on the phone? One person tells you one thing then another tells you the opposite? It’s maddening.

Don’t let that happen to your own customers.

Any knowledge gaps between your employees can be disastrous for your business. Invest in training your employees right and consider developing easily understood procedures to follow.

Doing this not only makes your customers happy but your employees will feel more confident in their job, and you’ll feel better with less intervention.

Here’s a few customer service ideas to get you started with what I call the Triple-A approach and they all tie into together:

  • Eliminate Arguments. Arguing isn’t acceptable and will not make either party happy. Instead of telling you why I’ll let a wise teacher named Dale Carnegie: “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? Well, suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non-compos mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. And – A man convinced against his will.  Is of the same opinion still.”
  • Ask why? It’s valuable to know why your customer is returning a product. It becomes easier to handle e-commerce returns queries that have a similar line of reasoning. You can also further address these issues in your sales copy or eradicate the source of the issue with your suppliers.
  • Acceptance and apologies. Teach your team the importance of listening first and being able to summarize the customer’s concern back to them. Or what’s known as active listening.

Then, give them procedures to follow on how to make the situation right.

Another great lesson from Carnegie was his one-liner for dissolving confrontation: “If I were you I would undoubtedly feel just as you do“.

e-commerce return policy - dale carnegie

In a word, compassion. Teach your employees how to show empathy and your company will be praised by consumers abound.

And when your customers DO return an item…you can’t let your employees do this next sales killer.

E-Commerce Returns Policy Sales Killer #3: You Stop Selling When a Return Happens

The idea of selling something to someone after they’ve returned an item may sound a little ridiculous.

Most people think when a return happens, a customer wants to wipe their hands of your business once they get their money back and then run for the hills.

And there are some businesses out there that have the same attitude. This is crazy to me because there’s a wealth of information to uncover in the situation of a return, especially a high ticket item.

People returning items usually feel they’re going to be berated, questioned, suspected, and penalized. They’re in fight or flight mode.

But if your team can do it with enough authenticity and enough calm and sensibility. Only then, you can turn a disgruntled customer with a return into a product praising zealot.

You find out what the customer expected ordering your product, and what they got instead. You can use that information to suggest a more suitable product for their needs.

Let’s say a customer gets a pair of pants that don’t fit. You find out that they usually order regular and they somehow didn’t realize they ordered slim fit.

This extra level of care usually makes a good impression on the average consumer who isn’t expecting VIP treatment.

E-Commerce Returns Policy Sales Killer #2: You Don’t Follow Up After the Return

The winning formula to an e-commerce returns policy is to consider the entire process.

Because having words on a page doesn’t mean the entire process is automated or guarantee it will happen smoothly.

Yes, you should strive to let customers self-serve their needs as much as possible if that’s what they prefer.

However, if a customer decides to reach out, any support interaction should be more than just about solving the matter at hand.

That’s because the long-term goal is determining if you’ve retained the customer for their full lifetime length and value.

You can accomplish showing you care by asking an easy, simple question:
“Are you satisfied with the solution we provided?”

Or something even a little more informal and personal:
“Do you feel like I solved your problem today?”

The best way to make a customer feel like a winner is by thanking them for the entire interaction.

  • Thank them for pointing out the issue they had with the product because now you know how to better address that in the future with other potential and existing customers.
  • Thank them for taking the time out of their day to do business with you in the first place and apologize for the fact it didn’t work out for them (while suggesting other products as we mentioned in #3)

You don’t even have to stop there. Follow up with them in a week or a month to see if they are still haven’t found the solution to the want/need they had for buying the product in the first place.

E-Commerce Returns Policy Sales Killer #1: You Have a Strict Countdown for the Return Time Window

There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens when the amount of time a customer is allowed to return an item is increased.

The amount of sales increase.

Now, so do the number of returns, but it’s not enough to excuse away this profit-creating strategy.

I know this first hand. When I had my online garage door store, part of our returns policy was a 110% price promise.  And in the five years that I ran that business, we had to invoke it just twice.

But don’t just take it from me.

91 percent of consumers interviewed in a recent Harris Poll said that a store’s return policy was an important factor in their purchasing decision and 89 percent of customers say they’ll revisit an online store after a positive returns experience.

So when asked, consumers say it’s important. But what about in practice? Do they mean what they say? It’s clear that this isn’t just speculation. This next study proves that.

Researchers at the University of Texas-Dallas wanted to find out how returns policies affect shopper behavior. They concluded that “More leniency on time limits is associated with a reduction — not an increase — in returns.”

The researchers had varying theories about why this is the case. The theory I agreed with was that the pressure is off the customer to figure out if they like their purchase or are not in a hurry.

They also found out how leniency around the time you have AND the amount of money you can get back are most effective in increasing overall sales. As in, no restocking fees.

Don’t feel that you have to rush to fit your business to a cookie-cutter e-commerce returns policy. The UT-Dallas research suggests that it is complex to pinpoint an optimal returns policy.

However, implementing a longer return time is something to consider to increase your sales.

If you’re looking for an easy way to implement and market your e-commerce returns policy on your Shopify store, you’re in luck.

The Shoptimized™ theme has built-in ‘reasons to shop with us’ areas on the site to draw your customer’s attention to marketable benefits to buy from you like your e-commerce returns policy highlights.

This makes implementing this type of change into your business incredibly easy.

Check out the Shoptimized™ Theme, the highest converting Shopify theme and start marketing your e-commerce returns policy to gain an edge on your competition and get customers to trust your time and time again.

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Bradley Long

Bradley Long

Bradley is a Conversion Rate Expert and store owner since 2005. He’s helped some of the world’s most sophisticated brands to double and sometimes triple their conversion rates. He architected the #1 unofficial Shopify theme, Shoptimized™ and is also CEO of Funnel Buildr, the perfect tool for massively growing your store’s Average Order Value.

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