Should I Offer Free Return Shipping?

Find out if free return shipping is a good idea for your business by considering the pros and cons of offering. Should you offer free return shipping? 6 steps on how to safely offer free return shipping.

Should I Offer Free Return Shipping?


Believe it or not, a good return policy can make or break your business. Making online returns hard for customers practically guarantees they won’t shop from you again. That may sound harsh, but with so many retailers offering easy, free returns, your eCommerce site may fall behind if you don’t keep up.

LET'S TALK STATS

If you think customers aren’t paying attention to your return policy, think again. Nearly 66% of online shoppers want to know the return policy before buying. Making it easy to find the Return Policy page is step one. 

Step two is a good return policy. The best return policy is easy to read and understand. A recent survey found that 15% of buyers abandon their shopping cart if they can’t figure out the return policy. It must also be fair, so give a reasonable time limit for returns. 

It’s estimated that 49 percent of online retailers offer free returns. Customers expect either free returns or at least a low-cost prepaid label that will be deducted from their return. 

Return Policies Aren't 'One Size Fits All'

When it comes to returning policies, free returns and free return shipping are not the same. Free online returns may mean you can send something back for free, but that doesn't always include free return shipping. If a store offers free return shipping, they will usually provide you with a pre-paid shipping label. This makes it easier for customers to send items back without having to pay out-of-pocket costs.

On the other hand, if free return shipping is not offered by a store or online marketplace, then you would need to pay the postage yourself to send something back. So when shopping online, make sure to read up on a store's individual policies regarding free return shipping before making any purchases as it could save you from some expensive fees.


Pros of Offering Free Return Shipping

Reduce cart abandonment

One of the main pros of offering free return shipping is that it can significantly reduce cart abandonment. According to research, free returns are one of the most attractive features customers look for when shopping online. Consumers typically view free return shipping as an extension of customer service and brands that offer free online returns tend to be viewed more favorably by shoppers.  


Improves customer experience

Offering free return shipping also contributes to an improved customer experience. Consumers want to be sure that they can return a product if it does not fit or meet their needs, and free return shipping makes the process easier for them. Additionally, free returns provide customers with peace of mind that they can send back a product if needed.

Related: How To Return Amazon Items


Cons of Offering Free Return Shipping

Can be costly

One of the main drawbacks to free return shipping is that it can be quite expensive for companies to offer free returns. To provide free return shipping, companies must bear the cost of providing a free shipping label and/or paying for the customer's return shipping costs. Additionally, free returns can also result in additional costs such as restocking fees.


Difficult to track ROI

Another con of free return shipping is that it can be difficult to track the return on investment (ROI). It's hard to determine if free returns are resulting in increased sales or their true impact on customer loyalty. Without being able to measure the ROI of free returns, it can be difficult for companies to decide if free online returns are worth it in the long run.


How to Decide If You Should Offer Free Return Shipping

Analyze costs versus benefits

Before deciding whether or not to offer free return shipping, it's important to analyze the cost versus benefit of doing so. Companies should consider how much money they would need to invest into providing free return shipping and weigh that against potential increases in sales and customer loyalty. Additionally, companies should also take into account any restocking fees associated with free returns and determine if that cost is worth the potential benefit of offering free online returns.


Evaluate customer feedback

Another important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to offer free return shipping is customer feedback. Companies should pay attention to what their customers are saying about free returns and use that information to decide if free return shipping is right for them.


What to Do If You Decide Not to Offer Free Return Shipping

Make the process easy

If you decide not to offer free return shipping, it's still important to make the process of returning a product as simple as possible. Customers should be able to easily find instructions on how they can return an item, such as providing a prepaid return label or free in-store returns. Additionally, companies should also give customers plenty of time (at least 30 days) in which to return items and make the process of returning a product free from any hidden fees or charges.


Provide free shipping for exchanges

Even if you decide not to offer free return shipping, it's still important to provide customers with free shipping for exchanges. This way, customers can exchange an unwanted item without having to pay an additional fee. Additionally, offering free shipping on exchanges can show customers that you are willing to go the extra mile when it comes to customer service.

Overall, companies should carefully consider their options when deciding whether or not to offer free return shipping policies. It's important to weigh the pros and cons of free returns before making a decision and take into account customer feedback as well. Companies should also make sure to make the process of returning a product as simple and free from fees as possible, even if free return shipping is not offered.

Related: What is FedEx Ground Economy (FedEx Smartpost) For Businesses?

How to Offer Free Return Shipping in 6 Easy Steps

These eCommerce returns tips will boost customer loyalty and ensure your products get back to the warehouse quickly so you can sell it again.

Consider the following as guidelines for general merchandise, and modify as needed for your particular business. This is a big part of your customer retention, and abandoned cart strategy, so make it count!


1. Make it easy for customers to find the return policy page on your website.

2. Customers prefer a return to the original payment method. You can also offer store credit or exchanges, allowing you to keep the profit rather than a refund.

3. Spell out the return policy clearly (ex. Is an RMA # required? Does it need to be in the original packaging? What about used or opened items?).

4. Give clear return deadlines. If customers return an item past the return date, specify what will happen (ex. Store credit only, return to sender).

5. Provide customers with pre-printed return labels. They’ll remember that shopping with you was a pleasant, hassle-free experience. This will also reduce buyer uncertainty when they consider future purchases. It’s a small price to pay to boost conversions.

6. Free return shipping is expected these days. It costs more but will keep customers coming back. 

7. Keep track of customer’s return rates to watch for signs of return fraud. Your website terms of the agreement should mention that you have the right to refuse sale under circumstances such as return abuse.

8. Hire an eCommerce copywriter to write your returns policy. Returns are more complicated than simply sticking the product in a box and sending it back. eCommerce writers are familiar with the return process and will know how to write a clear policy with no stones left unturned.

9. If you have a brick-and-mortar, offer in-store returns, too. It’s a great upsell opportunity.

To compete in eCommerce, you have to play to win. Making returns easy is a powerful way to retain customers and get repeat business.

When in doubt, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What would you expect when making a return? You also can (and should!) look at your competitors’ return policy and see if you can make yours better.


For more ways to improve your eCommerce strategy, click her to view more of our articles. 

Conclusion

So, should you offer free returns? The answer is yes - but there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, make sure that you're able to absorb the cost of return shipping yourself; it's not worth it to lose money on each returned item. Second, be clear about your return policy on your website and in product descriptions; customers need to know what they're getting into before they order. Finally, consider using a fulfillment partner like Simpl who can help take care of returns for you without any added hassle or expense. Are you considering offering free returns to your customers? Let us know how we can help!


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