Merchandise returns: How to turn a pain into gain

Let’s face it, no business owner can expect to make a lot of money. These can be costly, time-consuming and frustrating. Are returns always so horrible? Are return policies able to boost your business? Yes.

There are seven reasons that can return:

  1. The customer bought the wrong product
  2. They don’t need the item anymore
  3. The product did not match the description.
  4. An incorrect gift purchase
  5. The product arrived damaged
  6. The wrong item was shipped by the store
  7. The customer purchased, tried to return, and then used the product.

Your business plan should include return policies and returns. 66% of customers read return policies before they buy, and 80% will not shop with you again if it is difficult to return an item.

Poor or ineffective policies can quickly damage your reputation via social media posts, negative word-of mouth, and reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google My Business and Foursquare. It’s important to consider this serious, as 72% of consumers have written at least one review about a business online.

A good return policy can help your business build customer loyalty, strengthen engagement, and generate positive buzz. This will result in repeat purchases and better sales.

How to make your return policy a success

These are some suggestions to make returns more rewarding and less painful.

1. A clear and written policy is essential

Let’s get down to the basics: creating a clear written policy that is easy to understand. A clear, detailed and well-thought-out statement will reduce miscommunications, confusion, hassles, and headaches for both your customers and employees. Remember that third-party channels may have their own return policies and must be honored.

Learn more:

A return policy that is effective should include:

  • Which items are returnable?
  • You can exchange, credit, or refund the items you have purchased.
  • After purchase, the deadline for returns is
  • The return condition must be met.
  • A receipt or identification is required.
  • How to get a return/exchange
Photo © https://dryftfishing.com/

DRYFT Fishing offers options for returns and exchanges. They provide detailed instructions on how to pack items and details about what to put in each box. They also suggest a shipping carrier.

TermsFeed offers more examples of refund policies and templates you can download free.

What happens if your store refuses to accept returns?

Potential customers will still look for information about your return policy. So create and link to a page that contains this information. It should be obvious that you won’t accept returns and don’t issue refunds.

2. Your return policy should be easy to understand and find

Add it to your website in the footer navigation. It should be included in any confirmation emails or follow-up receipts.

One page should contain all information. If you have many special conditions that apply to different products in your policy, make sure you start with the main page and then link to the details on other pages. The page should have an introduction text that highlights your commitment to quality.

3. Be more flexible and lenient

A University of Texas study found that less restrictive return policies resulted in higher purchases. Researchers also discovered that extending the return window resulted in fewer returns.

Photo © https://www.ikea.com/us/en/

IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, offers a relaxed return policy. It allows you to return unopened items within one year and opens items within six months. Another great example is their helpful returns page. They are known for their generosity and provide a pleasant shopping experience.

4. It’s quick and simple.

The process of handling returns should be simple and easy to understand. WooCommerce already offers easy refunds and returns.

5. Be friendly

The returns process is not always a pleasant experience for either party and customers may not be thrilled. Do not be rude or angry during transactions. Accept responsibility for the customer’s actions and don’t take any blame. Take a look at IKEA’s headline on their returns page. It says, “It’s okay to change your mind!”

6. Profit from sales opportunities

Some stores offer extended returns periods for members. Some stores make it easier for subscribers by offering discounts and sales in the future.

A customer service representative may be able to suggest alternative options (e.g., a different size or feature) for items being returned. You might be able to get a discount on the new product. This could turn a return into a exchange and give your store another chance to provide a product that meets customer needs.

7. Fraud alert

Fraudulent returns are a growing problem. Fraudulent returns are a growing problem. Common schemes include buying items to be used and returning stolen merchandise.

According to the National Retail Federation, Return fraud cost businesses $25.3 million in 2020. It is important to make your return policy stricter in order to combat fraud. You might need to provide ID or receipts. The product packaging should be intact. Or, you could have to keep it in a shorter timeframe. Also, store credit or exchanges are not allowed.

Each business owner needs to take a hard look at their situation and weigh the risks of fraud security against the advantages of a more relaxed policy. Consider the following: What is my risk of fraud? Adjust your return policy with an eye to balance.

The tools of the return

WooCommerce has manual and automatic refunds options. Automatic refunds reverse the charge and change the order status. Manual refunds alter the order status, but you will need to manually return the money to the customer.

With the WooCommerce Smart Refunder extension, things are made even simpler with an automated, quick and simple process. Customers can request a refund from their Account page. You can also offer immediate refunds. With the Smart Coupons extension you can either issue store credit or cash refunds.

Online store owners will have to deal with returns. Don’t let it turn into a problem. Instead, use it as an opportunity to stand out from your competitors. With a delightful, human-centric approach, you can make less-than-thrilled customers your greatest advocates.

WooCommerce can simplify the return process. It’s up to your brand to decide your policies and position towards this important part of customer service.