8 Tips for Creating a Solid Returns Policy

Jul 22, 2013 4:08 PM  By

Return & RefundWhile most merchants would prefer to not think about their returns policy, it’s imperative for every ecommerce company to have one. Not only is it good business, but it will also help customers trust your brand and the products that you sell.

In fact, in a recent article on Shopify, author Mike Hayes said “A comprehensive ecommerce return policy will reduce the time and money you spend on returns, minimize the number of returns, and keep your customers coming back.”

Here are 8 tips from Hayes’ article on building a quality ecommerce returns policy:

Returns are Preventable

Online merchants can prevent most returns by offering accurate product descriptions, photos and videos in an attempt to give the customer a 360-degree view of the items you sell. “If the products you’re selling have informative descriptions and proper pictures (or even product videos), you’ll greatly reduce the number of returns,” Hayes said.

Leave the Legal Jargon Behind

legal_jargon_300One of the best customer service moves you can make is to keep your returns policies simple and easy to understand. Hayes recommends leaving the legal jargon behind and spelling out exactly what your policy is. This should not only decrease customer questions but it might result in less refunds taking place in-store or online.

Keep the Returns Policy Front and Center

You never want to hide your returns policy on your website, according Hayes. The returns policy should be posted on everything from your website, to your receipts, to emails, and even on packaging. This way the customer can always view your policy and avoid getting hit by hidden costs. “Don’t hide anything, if it’s up to the customer to pay for return shipping – make that very clear,” Hayes said.

There is No Such Thing as a Final Sale

The most successful traditional brick-and-mortar stores accept returns, so why should online merchants be any different? According to Hayes, you should always stand behind your product but if a customer is not happy and wants to make a return – let them.

30, 60, or 90 Day Returns


The ability to return an item should not be indefinite, according to Hayes. Merchants must have a specific time frame for accepting returns. The best practice for returns should be anywhere between 30, 60, or 90 days from purchase. There might be a shorter window for damaged or malfunctioning products.

Offer Exchange Options

When a customer wants to return an item give them options such as an exchange, store credit, or a cash return.  Hayes said that merchants should make up their own policy and not feel pressure to offer full refunds. However, “in the event of a malfunctioning or damaged item, it shouldn’t be the customer’s responsibility to pay extra for anything. Make every effort to replace the item, or give a full refund without incurring any costs to the customer,” Hayes said.

Your Staff is Key


For merchants with a brick-and-mortar store or contact center, the best customer service you can have is a smart, educated staff that is not only friendly but up-to-date on all policies including refunds.

Inspect the Product

Anytime a customer has an issue with a recent purchase, such as broken or defective product, Hayes recommends that retailers inspect every return to make sure it has been assemble correctly. “Make sure that the product is correctly installed and turned on before deeming it damaged,” Hayes said.

  • Barb Wood

    I agree with 7 of your 8 tips. I don’t agree that you have to have a 30/60/90 day time limit on returns. LLBean will accept a return for the life of the product if the customer is not satisfied. That’s the way to create trust with your customers!