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If you are like most online shoppers, before you buy a product, you check the return policy, and data shows that 66% of shoppers do the same thing. Most shoppers, 81%, will only complete the transaction if the vendor offers free returns and over 90% say that if the product return process is simple, they will buy again. Return policies are important to online consumers because returns affect nearly 30% of products ordered online, compared to less than 9% in traditional stores.

It’s no secret that most retailers view returns as a headache, but it’s part doing business. Enacting practices to make the process smoother and easier, will ensure that customers return to your store.

Your return policy should feature reasonable terms. Fraudulent returns do happen, but according to the National Federation of Retail, they account for just 10% of returns. When establishing your return policy, keep in mind that 90% of your customers are honest and reasonable therefore place a high priority on return policies when buying a product. Offering a 30 to 90-day return policy on non-perishable goods will encourage customers to buy from you. Also, while it is necessary for you to ensure that returned merchandise is in good condition, customers expect reimbursement for returned goods quickly. Refunds take longer with mailed returns but being prompt with refunds will create customer loyalty.

While chronic and fraudulent returns are uncommon, quality ordering management systems will identify patterns of abuse of your policy. It is a good practice to monitor customer history and take steps to discourage the behavior of chronic returns, such as carefully examining products before processing a refund. Delaying reimbursement until after inspection of merchandise is a good standard practice.

Permissive policies are not the only reasons for high return rates. Returns will vary based on products and customers. Size, product quality, customer expectations, and product images that differ from the actual merchandise can also increase returns. While we can’t control what size a customer orders, accurately representing merchandise, in descriptions and images, will reduce returns.

Offering free shipping and returns creates a potent combination to entice customers to order. Recent studies show that consumers today are more interested in free shipping than fast delivery. Making returns processes and policies easier than your competitors will give you a competitive feature that you can capitalize on. Your online presence is a strategic advantage and a convenient return policy can leverage it to the fullest extent.


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