How can you write a return policy that will increase your sales?
You have optimised your catalogue, improved the management of your orders, met your delivery deadlines... So why spend time now on your return and refund policy?
- The first reason is legal: you must offer your customers a way to change their minds within 14 days. They will then have 14 days from their withdrawal to return the product. So if you have to create a return policy you might as well make it a good one, don't you think?
- The second reason is economic: a return policy has become a real business asset. Nowadays, it's the 3rd most important factor for purchasing on the Internet, after price and delivery. According to a study by WBR Insights, 89% of e-consumers now look at your return policy before making a purchase. And 55% say they have already decided not to purchase because the return policy was unclear or too rigid. So this can be a big pitfall if you neglect it!
Yes, but how do you write a return policy that converts?
In just 3 steps we're going to show you how to convert your visitors into customers, thanks to your return policy.
Step 1: The writing
You are not going to rewrite your return policy every day, so you need to design it carefully from the start!
Your return policy must be written in a language easy to understand. At all costs avoid legalese ("In the context of a distance sale, by correspondence or Internet, the consumer has a right of retraction...") and negative sentences ("In the case where the guarantee period has expired, we shall not take back or exchange any article, for any reason whatsoever").
The main object of your return policy is, in fact, to reassure your customers. 71% want to read it! In fact, by reading it, buyers want to ensure they will be well treated if they have issues. It is the guarantee of the quality of your service. So be clear and transparent!
Tip 1: Write your return policy as if you were explaining it verbally to one of your colleagues.
Tip 2: Ask questions to add structure to your policy and make it lighter to read. Be sure to give concise answers (no more than 2-3 lines) to each question:
- How long do I have to change my mind?
- Can I exchange an item?
- What do I need to do to return my item?
- Will I have to pay for returning items?
- When will I be reimbursed?
- How do I know that you have received my returned items?
Example: The North Face
Tip 3: Remember to say in what condition the item should be returned (packaging, parts to keep, etc.). This will allow you to improve the resale of returned products.
Tip 4: Include contact details for Customer Service (email - phone). The buyers will immediately feel more comfortable because they will know that a human being is available to help them in case of problems. They will almost certainly not contact that person, but feel happy and reassured by her existence!
Tip 5: Be visual! If customer has to make several steps to send back his item, nothing is easier than a small diagram to guide him:
Example: English Tea Store
Step 2: Dissemination of your return policy
So you've understood that a return policy has become a selling point. Which means you need to get it widely circulated!
- If you have an FAQ page (which we can only strongly advise you do in order to avoid redundant questions from customers): add your return policy to it.
- If you have a website: put a link in your footer to access it directly, as Amazon does:
- If you have a shop on a marketplace: insert a direct link to your return policy in your product descriptions. You will immediately appear safe and secure to your buyers. If you offer the free returns, write it out clearly in the description, it's a powerful argument!
Of course, these 3 places are cumulative. Don't choose one or the other but every one of them. In fact, 60% of online shoppers want to be able to return an item without assistance. It's up to you to give them the means to do it, after all, it's time saved for you!
Step 3: Make your return policy commercial
You are carefully following the law and offer, like everyone else, a 14-days withdraw period. But why not go a bit further and differentiate yourself from your competitors (without risk)? Here are 3 ideas to make a difference:
Extend your returns deadlines
Nowadays, most e-commerce sites have a 30-day return policy. Increasing this period will improve how your customers perceive your reliability. The extension of the returns period will reassure buyers and increase sales, without in any way causing returns to explode.
A pertinent example is that of 3rd Power Outlet which increased its return policy from 14 to 90 days and simultaneously reduced the number of returns and increased sales.
Automate your refunds
Immediately refunding your buyers when they change their minds or have a problem improve your results in two different ways:
- The satisfaction of your buyers, who will feel listened to and understood. Positive feedback on refunds and returns are the reviews that have most impact on a shop.
- The increase in your sales: most consumers immediately replace their purchase and 97% are ready to do it at your shop if the returns and refunds process was simple.
Tip 1: Use a returns portal to identify the return reason: if it wasn't the right product, you can push an exchange. Otherwise, you can angle the e-mail that informs them about the refund towards a future purchase.
Example: If the reason for the return is that the purchased speaker is too big, you can refund and suggest your range of mini-speakers.
Tip 2: If you are selling high value products that require a parcel check, bear in mind that the maximum refund period accepted by the customer is 1 week.
Tip 3: What about automatically refunding your customers by informing them that they will be reimbursed in the case of non-receipt of the return package? This is what Amazon does!
Offer a tracked returns process
Ideally, you must be able to offer quick returns. But more than speed, you need to offer transparency in after-sales service. It is important to set up automatic notifications that will tell your customers when their package is received, its processing and its re-delivery in the case of exchanges.
But why is this also important to you? Because, thanks to this tracking, you will avoid the up to 30% of messages from your customers which are only reminders or requests for "basic" information (Where is my package? When will I receive my exchange? etc.).
Offer free returns
Studies show that 2 out of 3 buyers would buy more and more easily if returns were free. This is a clincher! However, be careful that your cash flow is able to support such an approach.
If it's possible: go for it! The try-before-you-buy trend (you only pay for the items you keep after the withdrawal period) increases the rate of returns but pushes people to buy more. On average, this is ultimately 1 or 2 additional items purchased if the returns are free and easy to do. The study of complete.com clearly shows the commercial advantage of free returns:
Again, free returns demonstrate above all your reliability: you give out the image of a brand that is not afraid of returns because it is convinced of the quality of its products. The customer is reassured and buys.
Tips: If you offer free returns, consider maximising its value by including mention of it in your product descriptions and during the purchase process!
After these 3 steps, you will definitely be ready to write the clearest and most convincing return policy! Of course, other important elements must be taken into account for successful after-sales management such as, cultural differences in international sales, the logistics of returns or the processing of your after-sales service messages. No worries, we'll be back soon on these topics.
For the moment, in order to help you as much as possible, we're offering you the possibility of downloading a clear and effective return policy template, to be completed with your own information:
Written by Marie Chaudy
Marketing Manager at Revers.io, e-commerce and reverse logistics specialist