It happens to everyone–the item we ordered online needs to be returned. Maybe the item doesn’t fit, or we changed our mind. Whatever the reason, package returns are a reality of doing business online, and it’s important for businesses to get serious about their returns process.


How important is it for ecommerce businesses to have a simple, stress-free returns process? In a recent survey conducted by Endicia, 60% of consumers have admitted to viewing the return policy before making a purchase, and over 95% of consumers have said they will go back to a business if they’ve had a positive returns experience. Although it may not sit very high on your list of things to tackle, a good returns process matters.


Here are a few ways you can improve your returns process:


Make Your Policy Visible


Display your returns policy in a visible, easy to find location on your website and on your packing slip shipped with your merchandise. Customers can become quickly frustrated if they can’t locate your policy, as a difficult to find policy comes across like you have something to hide.


Make Your Policy Clear


Make your returns policy clear, easy to understand, and specific. Give a time frame for returns, and explain whether customers will receive a full refund or a store credit. Be clear about which products can be returned and their expected condition. Discuss any restocking fees. Spelling out these details upfront can help prevent any surprises.


Include Shipping Labels


Think ahead and include a return shipping label with the original package. Having this already included with prepaid freight makes it easy for customers to return their items.


Email Shipping Labels


For more tech savvy companies, producing a return shipping label on demand is a convenient option. For example, a customer may be sent to a specific page to print out their return label or request that the label be sent to directly their email address for ease of convenience. Furthermore, if you are using a good back office system, the label will serve as the RMA identifier for the distribution center’s return interface, allowing the employee to easily process the return without any keystrokes and simply scan the label and items.


Pay Attention to Return Reasons and Return History


Keep track of the reasons why a customer returns a product for refund or exchange. A good back office system can alert merchandising of any flaws or damages to the item before they get out of hand. This information can be used also for periodic vendor report cards on the overall product integrity.


Use Transactional Email Correspondences


The back office system should send automated emails to the customer throughout the returns process. For each transactional procedure performed, the customer should be informed. For example, the customer should receive:


● An acknowledgement email detailing the items they have returned and confirming that the RMA number has been generated;
● An email with the tracking number for the return shipment;
● An email stating the returned items have arrived at the loading dock;
● And an email stating the items were processed and the exchange was performed or the refund issued.


This information should also be available in the customer’s order history for customer service inquiries on the back office system and in the customer’s My Account area on the website.


Aged Returns


Consider offering an alternative form of refund for items returned beyond the policy period but by loyal customers, for items in good condition, and for good reason. For example, offer an electronic gift card or credit memo towards the customer’s next purchase rather than a monetary refund. Back office systems can generate these and their appropriate dollar amounts on the fly. Furthermore, promote with an additional incentive by adding an extra dollar amount to the card or credit memo.


Contact Your Freight Carrier Representative


Some major freight carriers now offer integrated software solutions for ecommerce sites that can help with some of the challenges listed here. It’s wise to communicate with your account representative to see what solutions are available for your site for processing your returns.


While every ecommerce business is different, the MOST® important thing to remember when developing a returns process is to make it easy for the customer. It may not seem important when viewed as just a single transaction, but when considering the long-term, positive impact of a good returns policy on repeat business–it makes sense to have one.