The return process is time consuming and expensive for both the business and the customer. Unfortunately, the truth is that eCommerce returns are growing and have increased over 90% in the past five years.

Resolving faulty orders can have drastic consequences for your eCommerce business. So, having an ineffective returns process is not only losing you money, but it can also leads to customer frustration and eventual turnover.

If you want to increase customer retention, handling return requests effectively and efficiently is crucial.

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Table of contents

Craft a Customer-Friendly Policy

The two hardest decisions for a company to make when it comes to writing a return policy is (1) how wide to make the return window and (2) how much it will cost the customer. These are decisions that can have a deep impact on how you’re perceived by your customer.

Time: Offer enough time to make a decision about the product. It has been shown that the more time customers have decreases returns.

Cost: Regarding cost, consider free returns. Many consumers will not purchase online without the guarantee of free returns. Providing free returns reassures that you believe in the product and that they should as well.

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Make the Policy Visible and Clear

Over 60% of shoppers will check your return policy before buying from you

This means it is very important for your policy to be visible on your website and easy to understand. Be concise by bolding important words and use clear and simple language. Making a tab or link on your website for the return policy is a good idea so that the customers can find it with a click.

Make sure you include EVERYTHING in your return policy. Think about the conditions you will accept returns in (unworn, still in package, etc.) and anything else that might be important for you to address with regards to what you will and won’t accept as a return. Be as specific and clear as you can. Use short and simple sentences.

Keeping this in mind, remember to maintain your brand voice. Avoid complicated and legal jargon. The last thing you want is for your return policy to look like you just copy-and-pasted it from a legal website.

See the graphic below to better understand the link between customer loyalty and a good return policy:

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Use Customer Feedback to Your Advantage

Include in your package or in an email to the consumer questions about the returned product and the reasons for the return This will allow you to track not only the customer, but also the item. If you notice that every shirt is returned for being “too small” then you know that you should probably add it to the product’s description.

Make sure to be specific on your site’s products by using high quality pictures and expanding your descriptions. Update your products with every return that you get. Even though returns can cost you a lot, they can also help you gain valuable information that could prevent future returns.

The more the customer knows before they get the product, the less likely they will be to return.

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Track the Returns

If you use a CMS software (eg. Shopify, Magento), there are many applications that can be used to manage the shipping and return process. These sites will provide you with tracking information for yourself, as well as to your customer, ensuring that everyone involved has access to the package’s location.

In addition to this, it is also a good idea to send an email to the customer letting them know that their return was received.They will also appreciate a breakdown of how and when they will receive their refund.

As you can see, transparency is an important topic with regards to returns and is a determining factor in customer retention.

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Be Flexible

Even if you have the most specific return policy pertaining to any situation or problem that you think can arise, unique situations can occur that force you to adapt. It is important to have empathy for your customers and make sure they know that you are on their side.

You must have some flexibility in the policy and take things on a case by case basis. How sternly you want to follow the policy is completely up to you, but no one wants to deal with a company that has unfriendly customer service.

Customers that have had a negative experience handled well will end up being more loyal than customers that have never had a bad experience. This is known as the service recovery paradox and is an important effect that you should keep in mind when dealing with returns.

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Analyze and Update your Policy

Return policies shouldn’t be set in stone! Feel free to edit and modify your policy as needed. Listen to your customers. See what works for you and your consumers and apply it to your policy. Make sure you keep your customers updated with new return policies as people don’t want surprises when it comes to their money.

Ecommerce 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns

Wrapping Up

Although we may think of returns to be an expensive and inefficient process, it is also important to note the potential benefits that can help your company shine.

With a user friendly policy and friendly customer service, you can drastically improve customer experience and keep your customers coming back even if they’re not satisfied with the product. Hopefully we have provided you with a better understanding of how a return process could be managed.

Ecommerce Returns 101: Complete Guide to Ecommerce Returns


  • Create a customer friendly policy with emphasis on longer return times and minimal return costs
  • Make your policy clear and easy to find on your website
  • Give as much information on your products as possible
  • Track your returns with an online service
  • Be understanding with customers and provide exceptional customer service
  • Update your policy to fit your customer and your company’s needs

If this seems like a lot of time and work to manage, luckily there are shipping tools like ShippyPro that will provide management for your returns.

With our solution you can:

  • Import your orders, synchronizing your online store and your website to automatically receive the unshipped orders.
  • Add your couriers account, simlpy using your existing couriers’ login credentials.
  • Print your labels, selecting the unshipped orders in one click (even selecting multiple orders).
  • Update your marketplaces and send transactional branded emails.
  • Keep your Stock up to date focusing on your top sales item.

Check Here to find how to help your business grow!