Enrick - Apr 24, 2019

Managing returns in dropshipping

Your dropshipping business is working like a charm. You are making big sales, your list of customers is increasing day after day, and your numbers won’t stop growing. You are constantly improving your marketing strategy and you are optimizing your channels to generate more profit.

However, you suddenly face a problem… one of your customers wants to return a product.

You dropship your products though.

You neither manage stock nor a warehouse. You don’t have racks full of products to easily exchange them, or to do it in a short time. 

Hence, you should be prepared to manage returns when you sell online ; without stock, and when the goods are sent to your customer directly from your supplier. But how? We asked Enrick from Dropizi who gave you his advices.


Returning goods in general


We all know it. Returning goods are not part of the excitement of selling online. Customers may be annoyed, which may annoy you and your supplier too.

Nonetheless, this is an essential step when selling online, even when you dropship!

If you are quite efficient when you manage returns, then you can make a difference. Giving a good experience with returning a product will increase customer loyalty. On the other hand, a bad experience may get your customers angry and damage your reputation. 

You need to consider 2 main phases for your return strategy:

  • How to be prepared for returns before they are requested?
  • How to manage returns when they are requested?

In order to get both answers, think about the last time you had to return a product. How did you feel? How did the company manage the return? After this, would you buy again from them?


Be prepared for eventual returns and know your suppliers


If you want to succeed managing returns, the best you can do is to be prepared in advance. You need to know the return practices and policies of your suppliers before you start your dropshipping business. And if you’ve already started selling online, double check stipulations, so you can be sure they are right and avoid unpleasant surprises.

When you are working with a supplier, it is crucial to know the policies they apply. These are going to vary depending on each wholesaler or supplier. I urge you to get all the information required.

The supplier will ship the product directly to your customer ; it is a key part of your dropshipping business.

You should be able to answer several questions: 

  • In what period of time may your customer return a product after he or she purchased it?
  • Will the customer need to pay return fees?
  • Will the supplier accept returns if your customer made a mistake? (wrong color, wrong size, etc.)
  • How does the supplier manage the process of returning a product


Accord your return policy with the supplier’s policies


You must shape your return policy according to the way your supplier manages returns.

1. Period of withdrawal

For instance, if your supplier agrees on a period of withdrawal of 30 days, tell your customers they may return goods within 20 to 25 days. This is going to allow you some leeway, and to prevent delays, memory lapses, etc. And you ought to use the same logic if you have several products, so you can harmonize the whole process. 

If one of your suppliers accepts returns within 25 days and the other one within 20, explicitly inform customers that all returns must be done within 15 days. You can also specify different return time frames depending on the product range, but you will probably face some kind of misunderstanding.


2. Return address

If in your case, you have to deal with multiple suppliers, you must not display all the return addresses. Treat them individually. Ask your customers about the product in question, as well as the problem that led them to request a return, before providing the return address.


3. Tracking number

Bear in mind that returns are accepted only if the customer has shared the tracking number with you. This is crucial to avoid disputes.


Now that you designed a return policy in accord with your supplier policies, you need to be aware of the following.



Main reasons to return products


  • Your customer ordered a product that doesn’t match the size or color

This is quite usual and pretty common among fashion stores. When you buy products online, you can’t wear the article to try it. Some suppliers will cover returns, but some others won’t. Usually, this will be specified in their return policy.

Once again, be sure to agree with your supplier on this information. This can make a difference.

In every instance, our recommendation is to exchange the article, no matter the return policy of your supplier. We would just ask the customer to pay for the shipping costs because it wasn’t your mistake. Unless you can take care of the return shipping costs as well.

You’ll certainly have to order a new product for the second time, but take into consideration that an excellent customer service will get you more prospects.


  • The product doesn’t match the description

There could be 2 reasons for this problem to exist: You made a mistake when you were writing your product description and uploading the pictures, or your supplier sent you the wrong information about the article.

If you are mistaken, take responsibility for it. And if it is not your fault, you should also take responsibility for it! Your customer is your priority.

How would you feel if you bought something on a website and the manager in charge tells you: “I’m sorry. It’s my supplier’s fault, you should talk to him”, while not taking any responsibility, and without looking for any solution to solve the problem? You won’t buy again from that shop, that’s for sure.

If it is the supplier’s fault, they will refund you, and will send another article to the customer. And if they don’t, you should start looking for a new supplier.

First and foremost, begin by modifying the information on your product description.


  • The article is damaged or defective

This kind of return rarely occurs if you got a good supplier. Nevertheless, this could still occur.

When this happens, be sure to cover all the costs for your customer. Don’t make them pay for shipping, and send them a return label as quickly as possible. You need to make things easy for them, so they won’t waste time.

Save time and avoid lengthy chats thanks to the free tool Loom that allows you to film your screen and save your face and your voice to help them offline. 



Focus on solutions, not problems


Your customers don’t know if you work with a supplier, or that you run a dropshipping business. By the way, it’s better like that! You shouldn’t lay the blame on the shipping company or the supplier. Your customers don’t care who is responsible or not. Your customers want to replace the article, or to be refunded.

Tell them you are sorry for the mistake, then explain immediately what you are going to do to solve the issue.

Customers who experienced a remarkable service are most likely to speak favorably about your brand. Word-to-mouth marketing is pretty efficient and often forgotten. 


Determine if the return is necessary


Depending on the product to return, sometimes, it’s better to avoid the return. Most of the time, in a dropshipping business, the products you bought from your supplier didn’t cost too much.

So, in such a case where customers ordered an article and at the end, it is not quite what they expected, my advice is for you to let the customer keep the article, then send them a new one. 

Your customer will be really glad for this detail, and it won’t cost you too much.


The process for returning products


As stated before, the process to return products will change accordingly to your suppliers’ practices.

For instance, if you dropship with AliExpress suppliers, you should try to avoid returns and grant a new product for your customers asking for it. 

In the general run of things, this is how the return process would look like:

1. A customer requests to return goods

You need to establish the reason the customer wants to return the product before contacting your supplier, and ask for the address for returns. Also, be sure to apologize to the customer (if it was your mistake or your supplier’s) and tell the customer that you are taking care of the issue, and that you will find a solution as soon as possible.


2. The supplier accepts the return

The next step is to give the return address to the customer. According to your supplier’s return policies, you may need a return label. Conventionally, the supplier provides this label. 


3. The customer will receive the new article or will be refunded

 Once the customer received the article, an exchange or replacement could be asked. If so, try to send a new article. If that’s not possible, refund your customer, and just after that, send a follow-up email, so you can be sure everything went well.


In conclusion, returns can be a marketing lever that can help you generate more sales and to get loyal customers.

On one hand, buyers rarely remember where they shopped. On the other hand, buyers remember stores that outstandingly managed the returns of their products. 

Written by Enrick

Passionné de référencement naturel et de rédaction web, Enrick est en charge du SEO pour la solution e-commerce WiziShop et la plateforme de dropshipping Dropizi.