Best Practices for Ecommerce Returns

Last updated: Search Engine Optimization 5 min read
For online retailers, especially small business owners, handling ecommerce returns can be tricky. It’s important to handle these returns in a positive way, providing top notch customer service that doesn’t affect future retention rates.
Ecommerce Return Best Practices
Here are some tips to make handling ecommerce returns easier, both for you and your customers.

Tips for Making Ecommerce Returns Easier

Have a Return Policy

Having a return policy is a MUST for all ecommerce business owners. It establishes trust and inspires confidence, showing buyers that you are committed to providing quality customer service. A well thought out, and correctly implemented, return policy can act as a selling point for your company and be an extension of your customer service team. Return policies should be two things: easy to understand and easy to see. Easy to See Don’t make customers hunt for your return policy. Make it easy to find, whether on the individual product descriptions or as a quick link in the footer of your ecommerce website, allowing buyers to make better buying decisions. Easy to Understand Use easy to understand language to explain your return policy. Your customers shouldn’t have to comb through legal jargon or complex words to know if and how they can return products. IKEA’s return policy is both easy to understand and easy to see. They have a ‘Return Policy’ link listed in the footer of their website, so no matter what page you’re looking at, you can always click on the policy. The ‘Return Policy’ page is user-friendly, letting you know right away that they do accept returns.
Ecommerce Return Policy - IKEA
They even break it down by in-store and online/phone purchases to make it easier for you to find the policy that fits your situation.

Include Return Instructions in the Package

You want to make the ecommerce return process as easy as possible. As you’re putting together your orders, include return instructions inside the package so your customers will know what to do should they need to send anything back. While you may think this is counter intuitive, it actually instills more confidence and trust in your product and company. In addition to instructions, you could also include an addressed return envelope or a mailing label ready to-go.

Don’t Charge Customers to Return Items

Another way to simplify the returns process is to offer free return shipping. Customers who have to pay to return items will remember the inconvenience and ultimately shop elsewhere when they are ready to purchase again. Zappos offers free return shipping on all products. That’s right – all returns are free. This is huge for customers. Zappos also claims that customers who return the most, are ultimately their best customers. “Our best customers have the highest return rates,” said Craig Adkins, VP of Services and Operations, “but they are also the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers.”

Have Detailed Product Descriptions

There’s nothing worse than receiving your item in the mail and realizing that it looks nothing like what you imagined. Not only is this a bad buying experience, but it also opens businesses up to negative reviews online and offline. By providing detailed product descriptions and images of the item from different angles, you’re allowing customers to make the best possible buying decision. (You’re also improving your search engine optimization.) ThinkGeek does a superb job crafting fun, catchy product descriptions. Take a look at this Exclusive Star Wars R2-D2 Measuring Cup Set.
R2 D2 Detailed Product Description
You’re given basic information, price, and various images of the measuring cup set all above the fold. As you scroll down the page, you’re able to read more in-depth about the measuring cups, complete with Star Wars language.
Lengthy Product Descriptions R2 D2
There’s an additional images tab, which shows you more images of the cups, even an image of Darth Vader using them to bake! This product page only gets better, as there is a 1:15 minute video followed by images of real customers using the measuring cups and a Facebook feed showing engagement. This extremely detailed product description leaves little to the imagination. I know exactly what to expect with these R2D2 measuring cups, and am less likely to return them because I had everything I needed to make my purchasing decision. Read 5 Tips for Writing Product Descriptions That Work for more help on writing catchy, fun product descriptions.

Showcase User Reviews

User reviews are a great way to not only boost sales, but also reduce ecommerce returns. Whenever I’m looking to buy clothing online, I always check out the user reviews to get an idea if the item runs small or large, hits the right length, is itchy or scratchy, and is generally comfortable. These reviews, while they can dissuade me from buying completely, give me more information on correct sizing and style – and I return items less frequently. Old Navy, one of my favorite places to shop online, gives a review summary and also lists reviews on each individual item.
Ecommerce Website User Review Summary
User Reviews on Ecommerce Website
They also give good product information and have the shipping and return policy listed for handy reference.
Return Policy & Product Info Ecommerce

Ask Customers Why They’re Returning Products

Asking questions about why a customer is returning parts of their order is a great way to get more insight into your buyer. This can uncover problems you didn’t know existed and help you avoid future returns. You can easily include a few questions on the return slip for customers to answer when they send items back.


Your ecommerce return policy should represent your organization and provide customers with a positive experience. It should also evolve as your company grows, always looking for ways to make ecommerce returns as easy as possible.

Tags: EcommerceSearch Engine Optimization

Richard Horvath

Owner / President

Richard Horvath is the founder of TheeDigital, a Raleigh based award-winning web design and digital marketing agency. He is proud of his team and the results that they provide to their clients.

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