Ecommerce Returns Management Best Practices


You pull slowly into your driveway and catch a glimpse of of the most wonderful sight…

Boxes. Boxes upon boxes stacked at your door. You throw yourself from the car and run as if you were chasing an oasis in the dessert. You bring your precious packages inside and as you peel away the packaging you discover it’s not what you expected. The disappointment sets in and that glorious feeling you had upon their arrival disappears.

We’ve all been there.

We all want the same thing when ordering merchandise online – for what we ordered to be right. In the absence of the right product we want the next best thing – the ability to return the product quickly and without a hassle. Whether the product is damaged, the color is wrong or the size is off, how a business handles your returns can easily affect whether or not you do business with them again.

As a business owner, the handling of online returns can showcase your customer service experience and may help create repeat customers (even if they did return a product). Here are our five best practices for handling online returns.

Have a clear return policy

Customers need to be able to refer to your online return policy quickly and easily. The return policy should be spelled out clearly, with easily understandable language for everyone. This will help people understand the terms and conditions upfront, even before making a purchase. The information should also be easy to find and your website should provide a direct link to the particulars. Also consider including information about your return policy within the packaging of the purchased product.

Make it easy

The way companies handle online orders speaks volumes about their customer service. Even if customers are returning a product, a positive, hassle free experience can lead to repeat sales. Even better, customers who have had a pleasant experience may be more apt to share this information with friends. Companies should consider automating the return process- giving customers the ability to print the return shipping label immediately if they are unsatisfied with their purchase. This will not only be convenient for the customer, but it may also help reduce return costs to the company. In addition, multichannel companies should allow customers to return products bought online to retail stores- another added convenience for the consumer.

Offer free shipping and returns

To remain competitive, many companies have moved to make shipping and returns free to the customer. While this may mean additional costs to the company, it may also lead to more positive feedback, favorable reviews, and repeat customers. Charging for returns may deter customers from shopping from your website again. If your company is allowing for free shipping and returns, it should be advertised for all to see!

Provide clear product descriptions and representation

Consumers should be able to view products as accurately as possible. Pictures from different angles and short videos give customers a clearer image of the product. In addition, consider including size charts, color swatches, and details about measurements so that customers have as much knowledge about the product as possible before they make their purchase. Including reviews and ratings from previous buyers also gives insight to your future customer. Allowing your products to be seen clearly may reduce the amount of returns coming back to the company.


Customers going through the return process should be kept informed. Indicating when the return order was received and processed will keep customers satisfied with their experience. Doing so in a timely manner may also increase satisfaction and decrease the volume of calls and emails coming into your customer service department.

When handling online returns is done correctly it can have a positive effect on your company. Providing stress-free returns may help increase customer satisfaction and sales. In addition to providing hassle free returns, proactive approaches can be made to decrease the amount of returns to your company in the first place.