Reverse logistics can sometimes feel unwieldy. Sure, we know what consumers want (read: free, free, free). But, what’s a good return policy template that offers the ultimate in customer convenience without giving in to the status quo, one-size-fits-all return policies we’ve grown accustomed to? Rather, we believe the future is a more customized and personalized return solution, giving special perks to loyal customers and deterring fraudsters.
That’s why our team at Narvar created a brand-new Returns Benchmarks Report. The report studies the published return policies of nearly 200 retailers, setting a baseline against which to benchmark standout approaches.
This data helped us cultivate the ultimate VIP return policy template—everything your business needs to include in order to provide the best-possible returns experience. Want the full text template? Scroll to the bottom to get there ASAP.
Forward-thinking retailers surpass standard return policies, often in unique and creative ways. Here are elements to consider for an exceptional offering.
The return window is the amount of time a customer has to return an item from the date of receiving. A 30-day return window is standard—39% of retailers currently offer this. Plus, 53% of consumers believe this is fair and, in fact, 95% of the consumers surveyed said they did return items within that time frame.
While 30 days is standard, you can consider longer return windows or more flexible options for your VIPs.
What’s more, you can get creative with how you extend your return window so that you’re not taking on more risk of receiving unsellable inventory. For example:
For above standard service, allow customers to return by mail, in store, as well as via one or more other convenient options. This can include additional return locations, printerless/boxless returns, and so forth—and we’ve discovered that 33% of retailers studied use these modern, convenient return methods.
If your company doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar presence or is otherwise limited, consider using a returns location network. With Narvar, you have the choice of 200,000+ carrier and retail locations for returns, including The UPS Store, Fedex, Nordstrom, Simon Malls, and Walgreens.
This refers to how the customer starts the returns process. When your business is just starting, you might accept in-store returns, provide a return address on your website, or list contact info for your support team. However, these options alone are not scalable for growing businesses. Retailers will eventually want an automated process to initiate returns and get greater visibility into return trends.
Savvy retailers will allow a return to be initiated via an online or members portal that offers order lookup. This will help ensure accepted returns follow policy guidelines and streamline the process for both the retailer and consumer. Bed Bath & Beyond is a good example of a retailer that uses an online returns portal to manage returns.
In fact, certain retail categories have almost universally adopted an online portal, app, or order lookup process for returns: department stores (100% of those studied); outdoor (100% of those studied); and footwear (90% of those studied).
Most retailers refund money either via the original payment method or giving store credit. Companies that go beyond standard service do both of these things AND approve the refund within seven days of receiving the item.
A great way for retailers to set themselves apart when it comes to their return policy is to set clear expectations around their refund timing. Many retailers confusingly blur the lines between when the refund is processed and when the refund will be posted by the bank. List both of these date ranges within your policy to set proper expectations and decrease customer queries as a result.
Free return shipping is far from industry standard. In our research, in fact, we discovered that only Fortune 50 retailers cover return shipping costs across the board. On the contrary, 45% of omnichannel retailers charge return shipping fees and 22% of D2C retailers, making this another area where retailers can stand out from the competition, perhaps as part of a VIP structure.
Retailers can use free shipping on returns, straight across the board, or they can strategically use this benefit as a way to entice faster returns or to build customer loyalty. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, charges no return shipping fees within the first 14 days to accelerate returns (to get the item back on the floor quickly) while also benefiting the consumer.
The wave of the future, we predict, will focus on the VIP benefits that savvy retailers use to reward loyal customers and to encourage new ones in building lifetime relationships. DSW has demonstrated ways to accomplish this through extended return windows and free shipping on returns.
What’s especially notable and desirable for retailers: VIP benefits can transform returns policies from ordinary and acceptable into ones that serve as company assets, attracting and retaining loyal customers.
Note: here is a drafted return policy template. Be sure to customize the content to fit the needs of your business and customers. Disclaimer: Legal information is not legal advice.
Purchases made on <store name>.com are eligible for a refund back to the original form of payment within 30 days of receiving the item. Items are eligible for a store credit refund within 90 days of receiving the item.
Any items marked final sale, including intimates and gift cards, are not eligible for returns. You may be instructed to submit a photo of the item as part of your request for a return.
Free return shipping
We offer free return shipping within 30 days of receiving the item for all <store name> members. To become a member or check your membership status, visit <website URL>.
How to initiate a return
To initiate a return, enter your order number in our returns portal (link here) or bring it to any <store name> location.
(Clearly list all the ways to initiate a return. Some examples are as follows.)
Once we receive the item in our warehouse, it will take our team 3-5 days to process the return. Once processed, we’ll approve the refund and submit it to your payment provider. Your payment provider may take up to 2 weeks to post the refund. If you are still not seeing the refund after three weeks have passed, please contact customer service to assist you.
As a senior content manager at Narvar, Michelle has a finger on the pulse of the ecommerce industry. She's spent close to a decade helping online retailers make sense of their post-purchase processes.