The A to Z Of Online Returns

Shopping online often accompanies an acquired taste. First and foremost,  it requires trust. Customers base their purchase on an image and details describing a product before ultimately hitting “check out” on their computer screens. Comfort is often given in the form of return policies. If e-commerce retailers outline return guidelines clearly for customers, it will allow a more enjoyable shopping experience while also saving time in customer correspondence, complaints and other customer service based issues.

[tweetmeme]Suggested points to consider within your return policy include the following:

1. All Sales Final – Ideally, this is not your return policy option. Stating that all sales are final is like stating “go ahead and leave our site now”.

2. Exchanges Only – The advantage of offering exchanges only is that you are still guaranteed a sale and do not have to provide a refund. While this limits your customers comfort zone of easy shopping, it still allows them to return one item for another. This typically also means the customer has to make the exchange at the time of the return.

3. Store Credit – Online shopping often includes shipping fees, however if you subtract fees involved for shipping and provide store credit, customers can feel good about getting store credit in case they don’t like the product they ordered, if it’s defective or possibly the wrong size. Make sure to state your specific guidelines clearly in your return policy so there is no confusion.

4. Complete Refunds – It sounds too good to be true and it is. There is no such thing as “complete refunds” since you will have paid processing fees for credit card payments, shipping expenses and possibly more for one single transaction made. Now consider this transaction a return that you plan to refund entirely. Have you lost money? Most likely yes. It’s okay not to offer complete refunds to help protect your business, but this is an option that may be right for you. It’s something to consider… if even for just a second!

5. Charge Backs – Restocking, shipping, customer service… these can all entail expenses that your customer may need to pony up for. In a perfect retail world, they won’t have to deal with these issues and you can manage them behind the scenes. But when necessary, charging a restock fee or a shipping fee is necessary. Determine what’s best for your business by looking at your competition, your overhead and your general business goals.

While a return policy isn’t always the prettiest of words you have to write, it’s certainly among the most important. Consider your options and consider your customer. Finally, get it done and get it online. Nothing is worst than dealing with a customer who wasn’t clear on your policy after they have already made a purchase!

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