1) What kind of return policy do customers prefer?
Return policy- a strategy that can very well make or break repeat customers for any business. It is also one of the first things customers consider before buying a product from you. In fact, around two-thirds of customers look at a brand's return policy page before purchasing. A good return policy can help you retain customers for longer and build a trusted name for your brand. In contrast, a bad one results in simply the opposite- lack of customer satisfaction and a good amount of negative reviews.
So what convinces these consumers to trust a brand's return policy over others? That is precisely what we'll be going over today and understand the kind of return policies that customers prefer. To help every eCommerce business, we will cover some brands that use different types of decent return policies which can be used as inspirations.
2) Types of Different Return Policies
First things first, let's grab a quick look at the different types of return policies that currently exist out there. We'll also mention any brands (that are well-known) which happen to use them.
2.1) Product exchange policy
The first one up is precisely what its name suggests, a return policy where you return a new piece of the ordered product. There is also the option to offer the concerned customer another product with the same value as the one. The latter can be a convenient choice for any firm that may have exhausted its stock for a specific product.
Bean Box is one of the best examples of companies using an exchange return policy. The large coffee subscription service has a good return policy wherein if you don't find the coffee ordered to your liking; you can contact them via email and receive a new one. You do not need to go out of your way to return your original product to them either, helping Bean Box create trust and retain their customers.
2.2) Final sale
Final sale is yet another way businesses can save shipping and return costs. The only reason for you to return any product will be for one of the two reasons :
- Shipping the incorrect product or to the wrong customer.
- Shipping a broken/damaged product.
For the most part, you'll see this policy being applied in brick-and-mortar retail stores. Unlike websites, customers won't have the time to read an entire worded-out notice. Hence a simple sign stating 'No returns or refunds accepted here' can be seen, following the strictest form of the final sale return policy.
The final sale works to save the business from bearing costs of different aspects such as shipping and keeping your product safe from the risks of being damaged even further when it is sent back to you. While the initial cost-effectiveness may grab your attention, it is vital to understand that, in the long run, it is not the best option. The reason is trust. If you (an eCommerce company) display your product as something that cannot be returned unless the item itself has prior damage, then it is unlikely that customers would care to buy such an item.
Online stores such as Papichulo Style describe their all sales final return policy in an excellent manner. As long as the product delivered was damaged or given to the wrong customer, you can manage to get a return or a full refund.
2.3) Credit exchange
The last policy on the list deals with you giving a refund to your customers rather than exchanging the actual product in question. The refund itself can (and is usually) be given in the form of store credit such as gift cards. An excellent example of this policy is the eBook website Rakuten kobo. When you return an eBook, you get refunded in-store credit for the same amount you spent.
3) What Customers Prefer In a Return Policy
So, we've taken a look at the different return policies, companies that utilise them and the common problems that most customers face while returning. Let's look at the brighter side of things and find out what customers prefer in a return policy.
3.1) Quick turnaround time
This should be a given, but having a quick turnaround time can show the customer that you care about them and value their trust in purchasing from your store. For returns without receipts, have the best team track the order down to help you solve the matter more quickly. A time frame of around 1-2 weeks to return another fresh product or credit can increase customer satisfaction and help your customers feel safer for future purchases since they know they're in good hands!
3.2) Guided toward the first step
A simple mistake brands may make is not stating the first step to start a return process. Having only a write-up on your return policy with no guidance on how buyers can even begin is a definite no-go. Instead, you can direct your customers to an automated return portal where they can initiate the return process and enter the order details. In case of a no-receipt situation, you can ask the customer to mail or call your customer service team and start tracking down the order based on the given information.
3.3) Not handing out sensitive data
It's important to know who exactly is returning your order to avoid any misconduct or fraud. However, this can be one of the biggest turnoffs for most customers. If your return policy keeps the 'enter your data' part to a minimum, customers will be assured that you aren't asking for anything that has nothing to do with the return. Not the best idea to ask someone's birth date when they're just trying to return a shirt that isn't their size, right?
3.4) A seamless overall experience
For most businesses, the return process is a nightmare and a way to lose profit. However, you can turn this notion on its head by making your return process seamless. If you have a good return policy, offer additional benefits and encourage customers to spend with the knowledge that they can take their chances with a different product, you'll walk the steps of making your return process a profitable aspect of your brand.
Customers need to be shown that you value them, and once you're successful in doing so, they'll remember the overall experience and support you whenever they need a product that you offer.
4) Problems Faced by Consumers Due to Bad Return Policies
Now, let's look at some common problems customers face due to lousy return policies and how they impact the business. We have primarily focused on drawbacks that result in losses, poor service or negative feedback.
4.1) Having a tight time limit for returns
When customers realize the time limit for a product return is too short, it can disappoint them. Having tighter deadlines means delayed returned items. Generally, businesses keep a 15 to 30-day return policy, which is sufficient for a consumer to test the product and check its performance.
According to a study, about 80% of customers return their product within 14 days of its delivery. This means that your time frame should be long enough so that you do not get bombarded within a few days or that customers try to ask for a refund months later.
4.2) Lengthy return process
When a customer is looking for a refund, a lengthy process will only serve to frustrate them. So, ensure everything stated in the process is straightforward, and the refund is made swiftly to impact positively.
If the process of your return policy is too long, then consumers will lose interest after reading them while deciding to purchase an item.
4.3) Shipping costs
Put yourself in the shoes of your consumers for this one. You buy a product online, find out that it is damaged or not to your liking, decide to return it, and are given the responsibility of handling the shipping cost to replace it. Not the best situation to be in. This problem can affect businesses in a significant way since a lousy return policy can drive away their current or new patrons.
4.4) Unclear instructions
The simpler the language of a return policy, the better. It is entirely understandable that you want to include many details about the refund process to avoid confusion, but ironically, it does confuse the customer.
5) What To Avoid Writing In Your Return Policy
As mentioned earlier, a good quantity of users goes through the refund policy before buying a product, which means a quick refund process can attract more customers. On the contrary, a bad policy can drive away more potential and existing customers. To help you, we'll list some things you should avoid to add to your return policy at all costs.
5.1) Unnecessary information
One of the first things to avoid is filling your policy page with loads of text. While it may seem like a good idea to mention almost every little detail to avoid any misconduct, misuse or fraud with the return process, a lengthy policy will not appeal to the customer. As long as you mention the critical points about your return policy, you should be able to get your point across. In fact, if you try to purposely have a long return policy with the idea that customers will not make a return due to it, the entire concept will give out a wrong impression of your brand. Your consumers will find a way to make the returns anyway.
5.2) Using complex terms
Trying to return a product and finding nothing more than a page of legal jargon can be highly irritating for a customer. Instead of forcing your customers to aid additional help from your customer support team, you can use easy-to-understand language and make things clear for all customers equally.
5.3) Giving no space
A lengthy return policy is already daunting to go through. However, it's the first impression that makes it worse. It's best to avoid making too many paragraphs in your return policy to help readers skim through quickly and also segregate essential points. Your actual policy may be small, but piling it all in one paragraph can make it look highly wordy. Having shorter sections helps all readers go through each point more clearly since there is more room to breathe.
6.1) What are some great examples of good return policies?
Ans: While many companies have a different and decent return policy, brands such as Costco, L.L Bean and Nordstrom are best known for their return policy.
6.2) How can I improve my current return policy?
Ans: You can avoid the points mentioned above and implement what customers prefer in a return policy to make improvements.
7) Wrapping it all up
Overall, these were some aspects that customers prefer to have in a return policy. You can try out the different return policies and understand which suits your brand's style best!