Photo of online shopper returning a package.

How To Simplify The Returns Process And Level Up Customer Experience

In today's eCommerce world, providing a seamless returns experience is paramount. With competition lurking just a click away, customers have high expectations—especially for your returns process—and the brands that fail to deliver risk losing out on valuable sales and customer loyalty. 

However, streamlining returns is challenging, particularly for emerging brands without the resources to invest in sophisticated technology or dedicated staff. In this article, we'll explore innovative ways to simplify the returns process, boost customer satisfaction, and stay ahead of the game.

1) Keep your return policy clear, transparent, and updated

The first and most important thing you can do to prevent negative customer experiences is to be transparent and clear in your return and refund policy. You can do so by ensuring your return policy is:

  • Visible and highlighted
  • Transparent, clear, and specific in terms of deadlines and conditions
  • Updated as soon as there’s any change to your brand’s terms and conditions

Combined with clear product descriptions and real product images, a transparent return policy will help you lower eCommerce returns, which will lead to higher profits and smoother inventory management. 

2) Offer store credit if returns aren’t possible

If you’re selling products that lose their value when opened (for instance, packaged foods or supplements), product returns will often not be possible. When this occurs, letting the customer keep the item is the best course of action. Rather than refunding the customer to their original form of payment, consider offering store credit to make the customer whole, as doing so enables you to keep some of that earned revenue on the books.  

3) Provide multiple return options

The terms and conditions in your return policy will largely depend on the nature of your business. For instance, dropshipping returns and refunds will differ from that of a brick-and-mortar retailer or a DTC brand. 

Regardless of your business model, customers always appreciate having multiple return options, so consider providing…

  • Pre-paid label returns
  • Ship with any carrier
  • Return to store options (for companies that have a brick-and-mortar site);
  • No return refunds (“keep the item”)
  • Additional drop-off locations

4) Use technology to automate the return process

When the product returns to the warehouse, your team has to determine if it's suitable for resale—receiving, inspecting, refurbishing, re-boxing, palletizing, relisting, and shipping are all a part of this process. Performed manually, all of these processes will slow you down and impact your customer service levels. 

Plus, these steps always come at additional costs, added to the already incurred expenses of refunding the customer and paying for return shipping, resulting in profit loss.

At scale, for retailers to efficiently manage their returns process and minimize costs, they need flexibility and scalability. 

E-commerce returns are a process that should be automated and streamlined as much as possible, allowing for maximum accuracy and speed with minimum manual labor. To put this into practice, we use tools, data, machine learning, and AI. Here are some return processes you could automate:

  • Generating return shipping labels
  • Sending return tracking updates
  • Designing a self-service return and refund platform
  • Chatbots to answer FAQs
  • Enabling fast product sorting of the returned goods
  • Optimizing storage and inventory

As the volume of sales goes up, so will the volume of returns you'll have to face. Automate your reverse logistics processes in the back end to keep the same level of customer experience and support in the front end. 

5) Keep customers updated during the return process

A hassle-free returns process is key to attracting repeat business. That’s why it’s crucial to up your customer service game, particularly in the post-purchase and return stages. Some things worth implementing:

  • Allow your customers to track their return shipping the same way you would a regular shipment
  • Send regular email updates informing about the return status
  • Be available and accessible to answer any questions or concerns
  • Assess the situation and see if it’s appropriate to up-sell or cross-sell
  • Offer store credit and/or discounts when appropriate

6) Use returns as a competitive advantage

In an ideal world, returns wouldn’t exist. However, in reality, they’re a significant part of the reverse logistics of any eCommerce store, regardless of the niche. While we can do a lot to decrease returns, we definitely can’t avoid them altogether. 

So, why not own up to them and use them in your favor? Use them as a competitive advantage—be so transparent and so confident in your product that you’re able to use the simplified returns process as a benefit for your customers. 

A perfect example of a great returns policy is the British brand ASOS—they’re known for their 28-day no-questions-asked policy, which includes free return shipping! Plus, they have a dedicated FAQ section on returns and provide labels for printing. All of these factors make customers feel safe when purchasing. 

7) Simplify return label printing

Try to make your customers do as little as possible to have the product returned. That means simplifying the return label printing. A great way to do this is to provide pre-paid return shipping labels. Besides a better customer experience, pre-paid return shipping labels are also great for reducing errors in shipping addresses and similar problems. 

Wrapping Up

Simplifying the returns process is a crucial step toward improving customer experience and staying competitive—but the work doesn't stop there. 

To truly level up the customer experience, you must go beyond simply making returns hassle-free. Focus on building strong relationships by delivering personalized and memorable experiences at every touchpoint.

One way to achieve this is to leverage data to understand customer needs and preferences, and use this information for a tailor-made shopping and returns experience. Additionally, you can invest in training your customer service team to provide exceptional support and personalized assistance.

By taking a customer-centric approach and continuously striving to improve the returns process, businesses can differentiate themselves from the competition and build long-lasting customer loyalty, which is the ultimate goal.

Alex Selwitz

Alex Selwitz is the Director of SEO for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and digital marketing. In his free time, Alex enjoys playing guitar and learning about new trends in the digital world.

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