Business TipsEcommerce

The Ultimate Guide to an Effective Ecommerce Return Policy

We’ve all fallen prey to that need for an impulse purchase, even for the products that are nowhere near our list of necessities, and we’ve all been in the position to return that extra pair of shoes we didn’t really need. It’s human nature to make snap decisions and then regret them five minutes after we’ve actually completed the purchase. Then there are those products that really don’t impress the customers as much as the description or the idea of them initially did – so they choose to send them back.

If you’re in the shoes of an ecommerce business owner, you need to accommodate for the possibility of product returns. The less complicated it is, the better your customers will feel when given the opportunity to buy something else from your store down the line, even if they weren’t so thrilled by the product they decided to send back. Here’s a guide to make that return policy effective and true to your brand, and to help you make your customers happy even when they want to return a product – or sometimes even inspire them not to!

Make it easy to find

Did you know that 66% of customers have a tendency to check out your return policy before they decide to make a purchase? Such a high number should be more than enough of a motivation to ensure you place the return policy where they can find it with ease. This is a clear indicator that your policy is a pivotal part of the customer experience and their decision-making process.

Now, make sure that they can access the policy no matter which step they’re on within their journey. It should be clearly visible on every product’s page, as well as the checkout page, but also offer a link to the policy in your header and footer of the site.

Customize to your brand

When it comes to using customizable business document templates for various legal agreements and policies, you should make sure that the return policy template works well within your industry. But even more importantly, give it your personal touch, so to speak, so that it reflects your brand image and helps your customers feel it as another helpful aspect of their experience.

Of course, the key points of such a policy are often very similar among companies, but they should be industry-specific and leave room for you to customize it to your brand voice.

Think simple thoughts

While this document does have a legal purpose, make sure that the language you use to outline your rules and offers doesn’t make the policy sound intimidating, complex, or vague. Keep in mind that you’re writing this for your customers and your audience, not your legal representation. By using overly formal language, you may scare your customers off, and the search engines are not going to be any friendlier for it.

Wording such as “we are not responsible for” or “you are required to” may sound too aggressive for your customers, especially if your brand tone of voice isn’t nearly as formal as that. Keep it simple to keep your customers happy.

Always be genuine

If your product didn’t meet your customers’ expectations, at least your policy should. If different return policies apply for each product or product category, make it painfully obvious every step of the way, and always outline the basics in the confirmation email your customers receive upon making a purchase.

If you’ve determined that sometimes, for certain items, you can only offer store credit or exchanges for a different product, make it known. Then again, if you offer free returns and fully refund their products, make sure to let them know as well. No refund at all? Explain why in plain language, and they still might come back to your store.

Consider free returns

This is where we reach the pain point for many ecommerce businesses: the free returns policy. If you have an unhappy customer on your hands, imagine the dissatisfaction they’ll feel if they discover they need to pay for the shipping fee and other costs of the return in addition to being unhappy with the product?

This experience doesn’t have to be so painful if you can at least offer a free return and certain perks with that, too. For example, clearly outline how soon they can return the product free of charge, so that they have time to actually try the product out and change their mind – provided that they don’t cause any damage to the product before returning it to your store.

Provide clear guidelines

So, while we’re on the subject of returning used products, make sure that in addition to outlining a clear timeframe for accepting returns, let your customers know what they can or cannot do with the product before deciding they can return it. Some products allow for a trial period without affecting the product, but other items cannot be used and then sent back.

Make sure to give your customers clear product care guidelines and define what they can do with the product before sending it back to you for whatever reason.


This is a very sensitive portion of running an ecommerce business, but an essential one for establishing a strong brand presence in the market. Use these guidelines to make your return policy as clear and customer-friendly as possible, and they’ll gladly come back to your store for more.


Elaine Bennett

Elaine Bennett is a marketing specialist and a blogger, currently based in Sydney, Australia. Topics that she covers include marketing, branding, entrepreneurship, and SMBs. She’s especially interested in social media and technology. Loves coffee, music and video games. Follow her on Twitter @ElaineCBennet

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