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 e-commerce 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’

Every e-commerce store is unique. For example, free return shipping might be impossible for large items delivered by freight truck. In that case, think of other ways to make returns easy for customers. Allowing drop off to your warehouse is one option. Crystal clear return instructions that are easy to find and read go a long way, too. No matter what you sell, try to make your return policy the best it can be.


6 steps to make online returns & refunds easy

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 e-commerce copywriter to write your returns policy. Returns are more complicated than simply sticking the product in a box and sending it back. E-commerce 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 e-commerce, 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.


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