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3 common return policy mistakes retailers are making everyday

July 30, 2018

We’ve said time and time again that 2018 will be the year that returns come under the spotlight. And it's about time too, because the number of typos we see in return policies is astonishing, even 7 months into the year. It doesn't fill you with confidence when you come across a 'returb' policy (true story). So, you don't need to look far to realise that returns have been left behind in the eCommerce race. It's about time we shook that up.

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Earlier this year Forbes released their provocative Retail Predictions for 2018 (their claim, not mine!). Unsurprising to us, Returns featured front and centre, or in their words “The returns problem is ready for its close up.” Forbes called out the growing customer expectation for free returns, in a world where many retailers operate a 30% or even 40% return rate, this can be an expensive affair. 

There’s no shame in admitting that this crucial area of the customer journey has been traditionally under-invested. Join us as we uncover the most common mistakes retailers make with their returns policy - and how you can fix them! 

#1 Show me the Policy

Did you know that 68% of consumers will check your returns policy before completing a purchase? But what happens when they can’t find it? Reducing the number of clicks it takes for them to easily see what options they have if they choose to return the product is a crucial starting point in providing a better customer experience. This doesn't just apply to desktop websites, mobile navigation is incredibly important too! In The Great Returns Race, we saw that on average, it takes more than five clicks to see a retailer’s returns policy when shopping on mobile. Talk about a blocker! If you need inspiration, we suggest you take a look at Cath Kidston, Next or French Connection who all make sure mobile shoppers can see their returns policy in two clicks.

It's essential that you reassure your shoppers every step of the way. Your policy needs to be easily accessible from all the key pages of the buyers journey. This includes: product pages, basket, checkout and post-order confirmation. Being upfront with shoppers will benefit you in the long run as you remove the barriers to purchase and reduce inbound enquiries across social media, emails, and your call centre. 

#2 Lost in Translation

Picture this, you’ve spent a small fortune localising your website for international selling, not only investing in local SEO, personalisation software, and a range of delivery options - it looks amazing! And guess what, you can now tell customers how to return in 20 languages…. how to return in the UK that is! Not quite the helpful shopping experience your international customers expect. Failing to put in place a truly cross-border returns process is one of the most common barriers to international growth across the retail industry. However, it’s not just about making your policy clearly visible, consider the content too. Shoppers expect to be able to return unwanted goods from anywhere within the EU at low or (in many cases) no cost at all.

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Pureplay pioneers ASOS truly sit at the forefront of international returns, not only with dedicated sections of the website clearly displaying consumers’ rights to return, but they now have more than 20 international returns methods. Before December 2017 they reported international sales of more than £1.2bn, with CEO Nick Beighton crediting ASOS' sales growth "to the "massive" investment the business has made over the last two years in improving its website and deliveries across Europe, the introduction of its visual search tool for customers and spending on its distribution centres.”

#3 Keep me Hanging on

Patience used to be considered a virtue…as a society we are increasingly becoming fixed on the idea of on-demand services and instant gratification. We tap to pay because it takes too long to type in a pin, respond with emojis because god forbid we take the time to write out a full word and we cancel Ubers because we can’t bear to wait an extra 5 minutes. 

When it comes to speed in the returns race, there are two parts to consider:

  • How long do you offer shoppers to return unwanted goods?
  • How quickly do you process the return and refund? 

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Firstly, putting shoppers under pressure to return goods quickly might seem like a sensible solution to reducing your returns rate, but what impact does this have on customer lifetime value and their propensity to shop with you again? Boden and Charles Tyrwhitt have both offered more than 60 days for customers to make their final decision for a while - valuing the customer’s satisfaction above a quick turnaround of stock and more retailers should follow suit. We put return windows to the test by measuring the average number of days it took shoppers to send items back against the allocated time frame across a range of policies. Our results were surprising; across policy lengths ranging from 180 to just 14 days, the majority of consumers still returned their items within the first two weeks after purchase.

Whilst there isn’t an industry standard on how quickly you should process a refund, keeping shoppers in the dark about when they should expect to receive their refund is never a good idea in this age of on-demand. By communicating each stage of the journey clearly, you are ensuring you don’t erode the customer relationship and are reducing “where is my refund” requests. Shifting to an online return experience allows you to achieve this. A ReBOUND client witnessed their first-time ticket resolution increase by 50% and reduced queries from international shoppers by 20%.


How many of these mistakes are you guilty of? Fixing your returns policy doesn't have to be the daunting task you imagine it to be.

Talk to us

We would love to understand your returns challenges and how we can help make this the year you fix your returns.