According to a survey from eConsultancy, 27% of customers put off ordering something online in the first place because they do not want the hassle of returning it if it’s not right. Due to various incidences of online fraud, customers are trained to be more careful when it comes to making online purchases. Not only are they incurring additional costs of shipping, they also are not able to interact with the items in person as they would in a physical store.
This underlies the need for helpful, flexible and clear returns policies to showcase good customer service, encourage continued patronage of the products and improve customer retention rates.
Below is an infographic showing the summary of the results of our review of the returns policies of nine online retailers from the fashion, bookseller and consumer electronics industries. In the succeeding section, we’ll take a closer look at each site and see how these online retailers are building confidence and providing good customer service through their returns policies.
Let’s take a closer look at each…
The fashion industry is the biggest ecommerce sector worldwide and is growing rapidly. That goes without saying that fashion ecommerce retailers traditionally deal with a higher volume of returns than other online retailers. Out of the three industries we looked at, the fashion online retailers offered the best arrangements for handling returns. The three sites evaluated made their returns policies easy to see on the pages and easy to understand.
The Iconic’s return policy is clearly visible to the shopper. Apart from being found in the footer of the site, it’s also located at the top of the site’s page where it states in a link ‘Free Returns for 100 Days’, with more details provided when the user clicks through.
As the link suggests, The Iconic gives customers 100 days from the date of purchase to return the item and best of all, the company pays for the return delivery.
Its returns policy has three simple rules:
- Item(s) has to be returned within 100 days from the purchase date
- Item(s) must be unworn and unused with the original tags still attached and seals intact.
- Item(s) must be in the original packaging which must be in original condition.
To return items, customers have to log in to their Iconic account, choose the order they want to return and select the Return an item to create the prepaid return label. If returning from New Zealand, customers can select the preferred option and schedule a courier pickup or drop the return item off at any NZ Post Shop. If returning from Australia, customers can just drop off the items at any Australia Post Office.
Additionally, The Iconic offers exchanges where they will hold the item for 14 days until they receive the returned item. They also offer customers the option of 110% store credit as a refund rather than cash back. If selected, the customer will receive a voucher code for the total purchase price plus 10%.
Boohoo.com’s return policy can be found in the footer of the site. There is a small text at the very top of the pages indicating that returns are free (although only applicable to UK and Ireland). More information is provided when the user clicks through. Boohoo.com only offers refunds on returned items. They will refund customers within 21 days of the day that they email to confirm if customers are entitled for a refund.
A quick rundown of other details in their return policy are as follows:
- To get a replacement, customers will need to place a new order.
- Customers must ensure the item is re-packed in the original packaging and delivered securely.
- A return label is always enclosed in each package found on the delivery note over the customer’s address to make the process of returning items easier for both the customer and Boohoo.com
- Faulty products returned will be refunded in full, including a refund for the delivery charges for sending the item.
- Customers will receive a confirmation email once Boohoo.com has received the returned items, and again when they have processed the refund.
Boohoo.com offers Free Collect + Returns service where customers can return items at over 5,500 local stores but only offers this service in UK mainland and Northern Ireland.
Similar to the Boohoo.com, EziBuy has its returns policy in the footer of the site, where it states ‘ 30 Day Return Policy’. EziBuy customers can return items in original condition within 30 days of receipt and EziBuy will replace the items or refund the purchase price using the original payment method.
A quick rundown of other details in their returns policy are as follows:
- For returned items, EziBuy will deduct a postage fee of $3.00 from the refund or charge to the next order.
- Postage charges on returns are not refundable.
- If customers wish to return items for exchange, EziBuy will not charge for delivery on the replacement item.
- Customers are highly encouraged to call in to reserve the styles they require.
- Returned items will be processed within 5-7 working days.
- Returned items are insured by EziBuy against damage or loss.
- EziBuy’s returns policy does not apply to personalised products.
The three online bookseller sites we evaluated do the bare minimum when it comes to their returns policy. Providing a good customer experience entails having convenient return policies that answer the customers’ common questions regarding what the process is if they don’t like what they purchased.
Unfortunately for the three bookseller sites we evaluated, the process is far too onerous for customers. One of the sites evaluated buried its return policy deep in its website and loaded it with technical jargon. Their simplistic approach to their returns policy fails to provide the key information that customers look for when wanting to know more about the process for returning items. Additionally, they require customers to send them emails prior to processing their returns which is an added inconvenient step for customers.
Fishpond does not have its return policy clearly visible on the homepage nor in the footer of the site. The customer has to actively search for the policy by going to the site’s Help Centre, then reading through the list of options in the left-hand column of the page to find the returns policy.
Fishpond makes customers go through a few steps before a return is accepted. This method may discourage customers to buy items on a whim. It also makes it quite difficult for customers to return items as they have no choice but to buy something else from online store. Of course, it the product is faulty, the customer will be getting their money back.
Customers can return items within 30 days of the items being shipped. Fishpond refunds the customers if they’ve changed their mind or if the items are faulty. In both circumstances, customers are told to contact customer service through the site’s contact page before returning the item.
Fishpond doesn’t explicitly indicate that it offers exchanges. Additionally, if customers cancel an item from their order, Fishpond will provide a refund less shipping charges and a restocking fee of $5 minimum or 17% of the value paid for the product. According to their return policy, they charge a restocking fee because when customers order an item, then cancel it for no reason, that increases the costs of doing business which could mean increasing prices for everyone.
Paper Plus’s returns policy is located in the site’s footer and can’t be missed by customers. The return policy is very simply stated. Customers must email the company before returning any item to discuss the reason for the return.
Additionally, for any enquiries as to replacing faulty items or exchanging items in-stores, customers would have to email them to provide a description of the issue. If the product is faulty, the customer doesn’t have to pay a courier fee or postage to return an item.
Whitcoulls’ return policy is located in the site’s footer. They do not refund customers if they change their mind or if they made a mistake when ordering online. Customers can exchange items within 28 days. There is no mention of how long the process takes. If customers don’t wish to exchange, Whitcoulls will then issue a gift card for the value of the item, excluding delivery costs.
Consumer Electronics Industry
Consumer electronics are often subjected to stricter rules than say, clothing. Computers, game consoles, etc. may be subject to limited return rights and other conditions. Let’s take a look at three consumer electronics online retailers and see how they are handling customer returns on online purchases.
Noel Leeming’s return policy is located both in the site’s footer and under the homepage carousel. If customers are not happy with their online purchases, they can return the items to any local Noel Leeming store for an exchange or refund within 14 days. If customers opt to send the items via post, they have to shoulder the costs. For in-store purchases, customers have to refer to Noel Leeming’s store return policy.
Due to the busy layout of the JB Hi-Fi site, it can be difficult to spot their returns policy, which is located on the left hand side of the homepage. When customers click through, they’re taken to a page that links to a document that provides information on returns, repairs and refunds based on the New Zealand Consumer Law. Customers have to read through four sections before finding information about JB Hi-Fi’s returns policy.
Customers have 30 days from receiving their electronic products to return the items if they haven’t been used, opened or if they’re faulty. If the customers are returning CDs, DVDs, games and computer software, they have 90 days from receiving the items, as long as they’re unused and unopened, or if they’re faulty.
Harvey Norman’s returns policy is located in the site’s footer and can’t be missed by customers if they’re actively looking for it. They offer a ‘No questions asked 14-day exchange policy’ wherein customers can simply take the good back in to any local store.
Harvey Norman covers the shipping costs for returning items, where Harvey Norman considers the items to have breached a consumer guarantee. Additionally, refunds are issued at the discretion of Harvey Norman and is normally processed within 7 days.
Returns will always be a part of every online retailer’s ecommerce business. Your returns policy can have either a positive or negative impact on your customer retention rate. How you handle the whole customer return process and the easier you make it for your customers, the better your retention rates. Some best practices for you to start with, include:
- Have a returns policy that is easy to find on your site
- Make your returns policy easy to understand by your customers
- Make the process easy by offering multichannel returns
- Have a flexible returns policy and don’t annoy your customers with too many steps or conditions
In addition to having a solid and clear returns policy, ways to prevent returns should also be considered. Detailed product descriptions, videos and images of the product from various angles are good starting points. Having customer reviews for the products can help reduce returns by helping customers find the products that are best suited for their intended uses. Lastly, asking feedback from your customers with regard to the returns process or the actual returned items can help you uncover issues and properly address them.