eCommerce returns are fast becoming a plague with the average return rate reaching 16.6% in 2021.
From our time of working with businesses, there’s one thing they often struggle with — Creating an effective return policy.
Here're 14 eCommerce return policy examples for you take inspiration from and get started.
1. Everlast: Make the returns process as easy as pie
Everlast gets straight to the point on its return page. It states that all returns will be accepted within 30 days of purchase with a caveat that the products must be unused and retain their original packing.
It quickly mentions the steps for easy returns and quick exchanges which makes for a hassle-free return and exchange process.
A return experience determines if or not a customer is going to buy from you. In fact, 84% of customers will not buy from a retailer again after a bad return experience.
- Convenience: Your customers will only make a second purchase unless the return process is easy. Everlast provides links for both returns and exchange forms ensuring the return process is as smooth as the purchase
- Transparency: As you scroll down, the returns and exchange policy is detailed below, where the customer has to compulsorily fill in the RMA form failing which the returns and exchange process won’t be initiated
Pro Tip — Mention the customer support number above the fold so customers can quickly reach out in case of any queries
Don't forget to check out 9 Proven Ways to "Prevent" eCommerce Returns (+ Smart Handling ideas)
2. Squatty Potty: Keep it simple
All your jargons or fancy phrases mean nothing if your eCommerce return policy is not for mere mortals.
Squatty Potty keeps its return policy simple.
If your eCommerce return policy isn’t easy to understand, customers will simply abandon carts and head to your competitor’s website. Squatty Potty keeps it simple which drives home the point.
- Customer centricity: By listing the guidelines for what is eligible for returns and the return process, Squatty Potty cares about its customers. Amazingly, 61% of customers are willing to pay 5% more if they are aware of receiving a good customer experience.
- Assertion: A return policy should also be in the best interest of the eCommerce brands and not customers alone. By stating the return shipping fees to be paid by the customer and returning products bought from other retailers to their original seller, it is stopping eCommerce fraud returns in its tracks.
Pro Tip — Adding a link to print labels can retain customers as 47% of customers prefer easy-to-print return labels.
3. Built Athletics: Protect yourself from cons with a fraud policy
Return fraud is a menace that’s been growing year after year with $24 billion lost every year due to fraudulent returns.
But, what can you do to fraud-proof yourself?
Here’s an eCommerce return policy that you should note. Built Athletics includes a fraud clause in its return policy which is not practiced widely.
This works as a scare tactic to reconsider their decision to commit return frauds.
- United States Laws: Quoting United State Laws like 18 USC 1001 and 31 USC 3802 is a great way to scare con artists. The punishment and fine serve as a deterrent to committing returns fraud.
- Claim filing: The customer has to file a claim to process lost or stolen package requests is only applicable if insurance is purchased by the customer. This advises customers to buy insurance at all times.
Pro Tip — Include post offices as an option to make returns as 73% of customers prefer doing so
4. Fairway & Greene: Making return labels easy to print
A smooth return experience is critical when it comes to customer satisfaction. Precisely why 47% of customers expect printing return labels to be easy.
Fairway & Greene includes a link to their order returns page to print the return shipping label.
As much as you’d like to believe a slight hiccup in the return process wouldn’t hurt much, you’re wrong. 92% of online shoppers will make a second purchase if making returns are easy.
- Returns processing time: The return policy mentions it takes two weeks to process returns and exchanges. This assures customers of the time and doesn’t leave them hanging or anticipating.
- Price Adjustment: Fairway & Greene is offering a full refund for products purchased within the 7-day window from the day of purchase. This is a big commitment since customers stay loyal to brands that honor their commitments.
Pro Tip — Adding a video demo of filing the returns claim can help customers
5. MyProtein: Make a dedicated FAQ section for your return policy
FAQs are known to amplify user experience on websites but it's seldom used specifically for eCommerce return policies.
Here’s an eCommerce return policy template from MyProtein listing FAQs on its return policy page.
This helps in increasing conversions as answering queries might turn users into paying customers.
- Dropdowns: Providing information in the form of dropdowns helps in easy access to information without too much scrolling. This helps improve user experience.
- One-stop guide: The FAQs answer key questions such as how to make a return, wrong item received, damaged or faulty items, cost of returning items, etc. which reduces the customer support costs making a one-stop guide for all your questions.
Pro Tip — Update your return policies after a festive season so information is relevant
6. Gymshark: Provide country-specific return information
If you’re an eCommerce brand that ships to different countries, return policies can vary, especially shipping costs and other procedures.
Gymshark does a brilliant job in its return policy mentioning its country-specific return policies.
Adding it explicitly can help you justify the economics of costs such as labor, damaged goods, defective products, and reselling the product.
- Organized information: All the FAQs are neatly organized on the side making information easily accessible to customers.
- Recent update: Updating information sends greater trust signals since recency in information plays a crucial role in return policies.
Pro Tip — Ensure the product images and description match what is delivered to the customer since 64.2% of customers return products because they found them not matching the product description.
Learn to write persuasive product descriptions: How to write product descriptions for mobile: 22 proven ideas (with examples)
7. Under Armour: Mention exceptions, leave no room for doubt
Under Armour believes in fair play and the same is reflected in its return policy.
One of its exceptions to its 60-day return policy is the manufacture date on the tag should be less than 2 years old; if the customer doesn’t have the proof of purchase, the value of the return will be based on the last known selling price and the refund will be a UA eGift card.
This is an effective measure to curb return frauds because cash is thrown out of the window.
- Eliminates buyer’s remorse: Genuine customers who want to make returns will still have a chance if the product meets their exception criteria. This will make them more likely to return for recurring purchases.
- Prevents returns fraud: Another statement clearly outlines that products sent as returns but not accepted will be discarded or donated. This prevents scammers from committing returns fraud.
Pro Tip — Stricter return processing must be done in case of product categories having higher return rates such as shoes, consumer electronics, bags & accessories, and cosmetic/beauty products.
8. Overstock: Have a dedicated policy for international returns
International returns are a tricky affair and unless you create a specific return policy for the same, you will be seeing a dip in retention rates.
Overstock has a separate page for international returns which makes it easy for overseas customers to make returns.
As per this return policy, new and unopened items are eligible for refunds within 30 days of delivery and all returns consisting of new and unused items will be accepted if the returns are received within 45 days of delivery.
This is a fair policy for returns and refunds given the time international shipping takes due to stringent processes and scrutiny required to clear customs.
The order returns process for Canada is simple and easy to follow. It doesn’t require the customer to run from pillar to post requiring authorization.
- Customer-friendly: The return duration of 45 days is fair and allows customers to make returns. 62.58% of online shoppers expect eCommerce brands to allow returns up to 30 days. In contrast, 45 days seems like a divine blessing.
- Accountability: Overstock states that if the product is damaged because of its fault, the customer won’t have to pay a penalty. Further, the shipping fee will be waived and a refund will be issued.
Pro Tip — Listing more reasons for returns can help you receive feedback and use it to make improvements. Case in point, Amazon lists 72 reasons on its returns page.
9. Rock Flower Paper: Prioritize convenience over aesthetics
Convenience plays an undisputed role in eCommerce customer experience. Here’s an eCommerce return policy template from Rock Flower Paper demonstrating convenience over aesthetics.
It has centrally aligned the text to make it convenient for customers to read. Readability is a key factor when it comes to processing information. It makes it scannable making it easy to read for short text paragraphs.
- Covid accountability: Face Masks are not allowed as returns ensuring everyone is safe and responsible. This ensures a firm stand so there’s no scope of fraud returns involving covid masks.
- Personalized return instructions: A return policy is only good if customers can make returns without experiencing problems. 58% of customers prefer a hassle-free “no questions asked” return policy. Rock Flower Paper provides personal return instructions on entering the PO number and email.
Pro Tip — Adding a 3D visualization option on your product pages can decrease your returns. According to Shopify, there has been a 40% decrease in return rates thanks to the use of 3D visualization
10. American Eagle: Accept returns without an invoice
A paper invoice is the sole proof of purchase when making a return but if one loses it, the return isn’t processed.
American Eagle accepts returns without the invoice and the order confirmation email or order history details count as an invoice.
This practice is pro-customer which ensures customer satisfaction which is the first influencing factor for customer loyalty. Brands that offer exceptional customer experience earn 5.7x more revenue compared to their competitors.
- Subsidiary brands: American Eagle accepts returns from Aerie and Tailgate, both its subsidiary brands. This makes the return process easy and convenient. Remember, a problem-free return experience is what your customers desire.
- Equal responsibility: As per the return policy, returns without the original tag will be accepted however, they will be void if the hygienic remover is removed. This defines equal responsibility on the part of the customer to uphold before making a return.
Pro Tip — Provide an option for customers to upload the images of the item so you can determine if its eligible for returns or needs troubleshooting
11. Staples: Extend holiday season return policy
If there’s one thing that is common among eCommerce return policies it's the iron-cast rule of not accepting holiday season sale items as returns.
Staples, however, makes an exception and extends its 14-day return policy for its holiday sale items.
It’s extending its return day policy by 17 days which is a great move to build customer retention and loyalty. This shapes a positive perception of Staples ensuring the first-time buyers return to make a second purchase.
As a matter of fact, 73% of customers opine that good customer experience is vital in determining their brand loyalties.
- Customer-friendly: By extending the return period, it demonstrates that Staples cares about its customers. This is a competitive advantage since customer-centric companies make 60% more profits than companies that don’t prioritize customers.
- Returns reduction measures: With effect from October 4, 2020, Staples stopped accepting open earphones, headsets, and earbuds. This successfully reduces the return rates as consumer electronics constitute (8%) while cosmetic and body care (5%) are two of the most returned products.
Remember, not everything has been accepted as returns. Economical feasibility needs to be weighed before accepting returns.
Pro Tip — Late deliveries are the reason for 7% of the returns, so make sure you ship on time
12. Everlane: Make your returns policy a person
The majority of the content, let alone return policies are written for dystopian robots. Unless you make it conversational, potential customers will just drop off without any second thoughts.
Everlane makes it humane by making the return policy conversational.
When you write as you speak, you enable cognitive ease. Cognitive ease refers to the ability of the brain to easily process information. It also makes it memorable and persuasive.
Keep in mind, whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, you can stand out if you keep the tone H2H (Human to human).
- First-try underwear policy: Everlane accepts underwear as returns if it qualifies for the 30-day return policy. Normally, even underwear worn once is not accepted as returns. This is a competitive edge for Everlane.
- Social proof: At the end of the page, 594 of 664 people who read this article found it helpful. That’s an 89% success rate that helps persuade first-time visitors to make a purchase.
Pro Tip — Make printing return labels easier for your customers using the Shopify Free Shipping Label Template
13. Ulta Beauty: Accept online returns in stores
Ease and convenience play a pivotal role for customers in shopping or otherwise. Ulta Beauty offers the convenience to return items bought online to its brick-and-mortar stores.
It's an excellent way to promote returns since customers can —
- Avoid paying shipping fees: 58% of customers prefer to return online items because they don’t want to pay
- Speed up the return process: Online returns comparatively take time to process; the reason why 53% of customers prefer to do so
- Walk-in to a nearby store: It’s easier to walk into a nearby store and make the returns as 41% of shoppers choose to do so
- Benefits of Omnichannel: While online shopping sure has made things easy, the ‘touch-and-feel’ element can’t be replaced. By allowing customers to make store returns, you’re paving the way to retain customers by lowering customer acquisition costs.
- Ground-only shipping: Ulta Beauty mandates ground-only due to the hazardous nature of some products containing alcohol like deodorants, hairspray, and nail polish. This advocates responsibility for the safety of the shipping personnel.
Pro Tip — If your products are sustainably sourced, including it in your return policy can shape a positive brand perception
You might be interested in reading: 12 (really specific) ways to reduce customer acquisition cost in ecommerce
14. ASOS: Provide returns on Buy Now Pay Later payments
Buy Now Pay Later payments have transformed the eCommerce space. 50% of Americans use a buy now pay later service.
Here’s an eCommerce return policy template that can be your inspiration to adapt to changing times.
ASOS includes a return policy FAQ providing returns made using Klarna, an interest-free payment option service.
ASOS provides a full refund if a payment is made through Klarna if the item is returned within 28 days of delivery to the customer. This conveys customer centricity and will encourage more customers to use Buy Now Pay Later services.
- Statutory rights: The return policy restrictions don’t mean customers are deprived of their statutory rights. Sensible customers will understand the return policy and will comply.
- Paperless returns: ASOS will no longer be issuing a paper returns slip. It is working on creating order returns where there is no paper used even for the returns label. This demonstrates its commitment to becoming eco-friendly.
Pro Tip — Ask customers to use a reliable and credible shipping service that is easier to track
Returns Policy 101
1. What is a standard return policy?
A standard return policy is a rule book framed by an eCommerce brand outlining the rules on returns, exchanges, and refunds. It further mentions the time and the conditions under which an item qualifies for either return, replacement, or refund.
The goal of the return policy should be to communicate the eCommerce brand’s stance on returns, its processes, shipping fees, payment credits, and fraud policy.
Not to forget, it should be easy to understand without reaching for the dictionary.
2. What should be included in a return policy?
Here’s an item checklist your eCommerce return policy must include —
a) Items that can be returned
Not all items can be returned since the cost of replacing them impacts your profits such as earbuds, clothes without tags, and customized products that are hard to resell.
b) Products eligible for exchange
Returns can hurt your profitability if not done correctly. For example, you need to mention that discounted items can not be returned or exchanged. Clothes such as swimwear and bikinis can’t be accepted for returns if they don't have a hygienic liner.
c) Returns policy concerning items sold during the clearance sale, final sale, and holiday sale
Products sold as part of final sale, clearance, and holiday sale are heavily discounted. The cost of processing returns is usually 20 to 30 dollars and when the products are priced below $20, eCommerce brands have to incur losses.
The retail industry follows a strict policy when it comes to accepting final or holiday sale items as returns.
d) Mention the return duration (14 days, 30 days, or 60 days)
The return duration must be mentioned in bold letters so customers can process the returns on time. As a rule of thumb, a 30-day policy is great, however, you can take a call on what works for you.
Nike has mentioned its return duration in bold letters in its return policy. This ensures the message is imprinted in the minds of the customer.
e) The costs to be borne by the customer such as shipping fees and other charges
Shipping fees are usually paid by the customer when processing returns or exchanges. Including this in your eCommerce return policy is important so customers aren’t kept in the dark. The cost of free shipping is only worth it if the items returned are higher than the total shipping costs.
Summing up, waive the shipping fees if the product returned is damaged or faulty. You see accountability matters.
Calvin Klein charges a shipping fee of $4.75 for returns.
f) Link to print the returns label
The order returns label is a document that is necessary to return the items. It contains the mailing and shipping information and the product details. The customer can start the return if they can find it easily.
An easy return experience is crucial in retaining customers. Bonobos provides instructions to print the FedEx order return label in its return policy FAQs.
3. Does an online store have to accept returns?
All eCommerce businesses are required to accept returns if the product is defective and damaged. This is a statutory right of the customer. While the store reserves the right to either make a refund or an exchange.
Every eCommerce brand is subject to state laws that govern returns and refunds in the USA.
4. Where do I put the return policy on my website?
A return policy is only worth it if it can be seen by your site visitors. To enable high visibility, we recommend including it in the header of your eCommerce website, on the home page specifically.
Here’s how Best Online Cabinets has displayed its FAQs on its website header is the best example for high visibility.
While the common practice is to include the return policy in the footer, you can drive users by an anchor jump to the same.
5. Do companies pay for return shipping?
For the most part, customers pay for the return shipping. The shipping fee is waived only if the product is defective or damaged. In a nutshell, eCommerce brands are liable to pay for the shipping if they are at fault and not otherwise.
That’s a fair deal.
Remember, customers love free return shipping and they are the ones who are most likely to become your loyal customers.
6. Do free returns increase sales?
We hate to break it to you but…… hell, yes!
In a study by Washington and Lee University, free return shipping was implemented at two retailers for two years.
The results were astonishing!
While retailer A saw the average customer spending increase by $620, retailer B witnessed an increase of $2500.
Surprisingly, their purchase rates fell between 74 and 100% when free return shipping was withdrawn.
Free returns increase sales because it assures customers that only good brands can allow you to overlook their mistakes. This is a win-win since word-of-mouth recommendations will increase helping you acquire new customers at 1/4th of the acquisition costs.
Ultimately, free returns are a long-term investment that will pay off big time in the future.