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Establishing Online Return Policies Before the Holidays and How to Handle Them

What is the one thing, besides bad PR, that all businesses, retail and eCommerce alike fear? Returns. Back in 2015, the National Retail Federation (yeah, it’s real) conducted a study and provided a report that explained how in 2015 alone, more than $260 billion was lost due to customer returns. Now, factor in the additional costs that the NRF didn’t take into consideration, like operating costs, shipping, packaging and the like, and you’re knocking on the door of $500 billion lost due to returns. Talk about scary. So, how can you reduce your eCommerce business losses due to return?

Make Return Guidelines and Policies Easy to Understand and Locate

When it comes to your return policy, you want to be 100% transparent. Make sure customers know what is covered and what is not. If clearance or specific sale items are not eligible for return, make it well-known prior to purchase. As far as things that are eligible to be returned, make sure customers know exactly how long they have (from the date of purchase OR delivery) to return the item.

It’s okay to place rules on returns. It helps to protect your business. You just have to make sure that the customer knows about the return policy prior to making any purchases. Ideally, you will want to add a checkbox to your website’s shopping cart for customers to make sure that they have read and understand your return policy. This further helps to protect you and your business.

Represent Your Brand and Your Products Accurately

When you post a product, be as descriptive and as accurate as you can. It’s a good idea to upload additional images of your products whenever possible, from different angles. The more it feels as if they are holding the product in their hand, the less likely they are going to be to return it. It also means they are more likely to be happy with their purchase and be more prone to recommend it to friends and family, which is always a major plus.

Expedite Your eCommerce Shipping

Unfortunately for eCommerce business owners, Amazon has changed the world of online shopping and shipping. The shopper is now used to getting items in 2 days with their Prime membership. So, if you cannot get items out quickly, you are going to lose customers. You can eliminate returns or cancelled orders due to shipping delays by clearly posting what your holiday shipping schedule and fees are.

Consider Implementing an Exchange Program and Restocking Fees

Restocking fees tend to deter people from doing returns on items just because they want some extra money back because they overspent. You can offer to exchange an item rather than issue a complete return. This gives the customer the choice between the full value of the purchase price, or they can select the cash return, less the restocking fee. This fee can be used to help recover some of your eCommerce operating costs that are lost due to returns. Keep in mind, however, you do want to try and work with your customers whenever you can to help increase their shopping experience.


Good customer service, such as waiving said restocking fees, can turn an upset customer into one who is more respectful of your business and will share that experience of how you went out of your way for them, with others. It’s a two-way benefit that is literally worth its weight in gold.

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