Managing Returns and Exchanges:
Expert Strategies to Enhance Customer Satisfaction

Image of Managing Returns and Exchanges: Expert Strategies to Enhance Customer Satisfaction
For almost every market, the ability to sell online has transformed business. Even the smallest company can reach a global audience if they want, and consumers have more choice than ever. But while online retail has become the norm, and helped businesses of all sizes thrive, there are some downsides.

Ecommerce returns management is an essential part of the online shopping experience for customers, but many businesses begin their ecommerce journey without really thinking about it. No matter how careful you are with shipping, product descriptions and more, eventually you will have customers who need to return a product. How that works, and what the experience is like for a customer, can be just as important for your brand image as the order process itself.
Image of customer who need to return a product
Given that returns and exchanges are inevitable, it is crucial that the process is as streamlined and efficient as possible, so customers have a good experience that builds trust in the brand. Here is how you can achieve that and ensure that your returns and exchanges are a hassle-free process for your customers.

What should a return management process include?

Before we look at ways to make the return and exchange solution in ecommerce as good as it can be, we begin with the basics. The return or exchange process should make it easy for a customer to let you know there is an issue, arrange a return or exchange, ship the product and receive their refund or replacement goods.

To accomplish that, product returns management should cover:
  • An easy to navigate customer portal to organize returns
  • Integration into your shipping systems for simple freight options
  • Detailed data collection
The first two are essential for creating an easy process for your customers, the last one, data collection, is essential for your business. Without comprehensive and accurate data on returns, you will always be reactive to product return and exchange challenges. However, with good data, you can see issues with products, specific shipping solutions and more, helping to refine your business processes and in turn give customers an improved experience, reducing return rates at the same time.

Take steps to minimize returns

The best way to deal with returns is to minimize their occurrence. They can never be eliminated, of course, however there are things you can do. Make sure product descriptions are clear with good images. For clothing and footwear, studies show around 50% of all returns are due to sizing errors when the customer receives their order. Ensuring accurate size charts for all garments can reduce these issues. By ensuring customers are well informed in this way, you can mitigate the cost and inconvenience of returns and exchanges, so this should be the first step in any strategy to refine the return and exchange process.
Image of clear product descriptions with good images

Choose a suitable return period

How long should you give customers to return goods? There is no one answer to this, it depends on your business. Think about the products you sell, and the people who buy them. For instance, if you are selling dresses for special occasions, you may want a relatively short period to avoid abuse of the system, however for art that is very often bought as a gift, a longer period to ensure the final recipient is happy may work better.

You may think that the shortest return period is the best option, but this is not always the case. In fact, a study from the University of Texas showed that for some businesses, a 90-day return policy actually resulted in lower return rates than a 30-day policy.

For effective return management in ecommerce, your return period should be a balance between the practical needs of the products and customers you have, and the strategic analysis that shows longer periods can help reduce returns.
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Organizing returns

Probably the most crucial aspect of the return or exchange process. Make this complicated, and customers will be put off returning items, but that itself can lead to significant reputational damage. For ecommerce returns management, the ability to arrange shipping quickly, easily and reliably is essential. Get this right, and the entire return process becomes something customers will find a positive for their experience.

There are several ways to accomplish this, however integrating a return option into the customer service system, allowing customers to take ownership of the process from informing you of the return to confirming shipping is a proven approach.

By helping customers to feel like they are in control of this process, that they know what is happening, it avoids the uncertainty and confusion that often leads to frustration and negative experiences.
Image of return or exchange process

Be clear about returns

With the right system in place, your customers will more readily accept the return process if it is required, however it is important to be clear about your return policy upfront. Transparency allows consumers to make informed choices, so have a prominent link to your returns policy on every product page to ensure customers understand what is involved and expected of them.


With ecommerce returns management, the key is transparency. Having processes in place that customers understand, with simple solutions for notifying the need to return a product and everything that follows minimizes the hassle and makes it as painless a process as possible. The result is something that reduces the negative impact on the customer experience and resolves issues quickly and to their satisfaction.

But dealing with return management in ecommerce is not a one-time thing. From ensuring shipping options are reviewed and updated as necessary to tracking return data to identify problem shipping or products, every business should place significance on their ecommerce return management and always seek improvements when identified.

In this way, businesses can maintain brand reputations while providing a return solution that works for all parties. You can never eliminate returns completely, and so refining the process to be the best it can be is the most effective way of managing the impact on the brand. Product returns management should be at the heart of the ecommerce strategy for any online store, creating a complete solution for customers to use.
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