How to Handle Shopify Returns & Exchanges (2024)

A guide to helping you set up your returns on Shopify
Mar 20
How to Handle Shopify Returns & Exchanges (2024)

According to a recent study, the average return rate for e-commerce businesses is between 20% and 30%. While there are many reasons for this, such as damaged/faulty items or a customer ordering the wrong size, having a proper return or exchange policy in place is crucial to your overall success.

After all, this ensures that your best interests are protected while also helping you to maintain a strong relationship with your valued customers, whether you are operating independently, or through a platform such as Shopify.

How you can handle Shopify Returns & Exchanges in Your Store

The first step toward handling your store’s Shopify returns and exchanges is by curating a returns policy. For example, you should start by defining your return window (the period of time customers have to return an item they are unhappy with). While this can vary from business to business, most people cap their returns window at thirty days.

You should also specify which products are eligible for returns and which are not. For example, many brands do not offer returns on items that have been customised/personalised, as they would be unable to resell these products. Finally, you should outline valid reasons for returning items.

Once you’ve curated your returns policy, it is time to focus on putting it into action. Shopify has various guides on its website that are designed to help you set up and process returns on-site. This allows you to:

  1. Create a return
  2. Restock a return item
  3. Issue refunds
  4. Open/close a return
  5. Cancel returns

However, as this manual process can be rather time-consuming, business owners can also benefit from using return platforms, such as ZigZag. This allows you to provide your customers with personalised return solutions. Not only does this help you to maintain customer satisfaction, but it can also reduce the costs of returns, helping your business grow from strength to strength.

Why you should make Shopify returns easy for your customers

There are many reasons why you should work to simplify the returns process for your customers. With “84% of shoppers admitting to turning their back on a retailer after a bad returns experience,” a straightforward and stress-free experience can minimise stress and frustration. As a result, it plays a pivotal role in maintaining a strong relationship with your customers.

Furthermore, as “79% of UK consumers check the return's policy before buying an item,” having a simplified system in place improves consumer confidence, meaning that they are much more likely to buy something. After all, it means they know that they are protected should something go wrong or they are unhappy with the products they receive.

Keeping your customers happy is also a great way to grow and scale your business.

How you can make Shopify returns smooth

There are various steps you can take to make your Shopify returns “smooth.”

  1. Ensure that your returns policy is easily accessible. For example, it could be attached to any email receipts or available on your website.
  2. Provide your customers with multiple different return options, such as exchanges, refunds, or vouchers.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for customers to return items, whether this be providing them with access to pre-printed return labels or local drop-off sites. You should also give them the option to return in-store if applicable.
  4. Respond to any customer messages promptly and politely, providing them with access to the information they need.
  5. Use returns platforms, such as ZigZag, to master the post-purchase experience keeping your customers happy and informed.
  6. Keep the returns process as simple as possible.

How to craft a returns policy

While it may seem complex initially, crafting a returns policy is relatively straightforward.

Clearly outline your return window.

As mentioned above, most businesses require customers to submit a return within thirty days. This can change from company to company, however, and location-specific regulations also apply. For example, per UK law, “you must offer a refund to customers if they have told you within 14 days of receiving their goods that they want to cancel.” Our own research shows that 98.5% of shoppers return their items within those two weeks anyway, so a longer returns window is little more than a customer-centric marketing promotional tool with little to no negative business impact.

Clearly outline your eligibility criteria.

Outlining your return eligibility criteria is also essential. For example, many companies require customers to present “proof of purchase” when returning their item, such as a receipt or order number. This can help to protect against scammers. You may also request that the products are returned in the same packaging that they were delivered in, and that any labels must still be attached in order for the customer to receive a free refund. Either way, this information must be clearly outlined in your policy, without leaving room for interpretation.

Specify reasons why products can be returned.

Your returns policy should also specify specific reasons why products can be returned, making any exclusions clear. For example, if customers have damaged the items or goods, you do not need to accept a return request. Customised items also tend to be non-refundable, due to the fact that the product has been altered/tailored for a specific customer, meaning it cannot be restocked and resold.

Discuss shipping or return costs.

Your returns policy should also outline who is responsible for shipping/returns costs. While some businesses require customers to cover these fees, “74% of online shoppers state that return fees would make them less likely to shop with a retailer.”

Keep it as simple as possible.

Simplifying the process as much as possible is also essential - as a 20-step returns process is unlikely to bring a smile to your customer's face. You should also ensure that all information is outlined clearly, using accessible language to avoid any confusion.

Ensure your policy is readily available.

Customers should be able to access your returns policy before and after buying a product from your ecommerce store. For example, you may want to attach this to your website FAQ section, your sales page, and any receipts.

How to automate your Shopify return flow

As mentioned previously, manually processing returns or exchanges can quickly become a time-consuming task. Not only does this take up time in your day, but it also slows the process down for customers too. This can lead to a lot of frustration among customers, many of whom expect refunds to be processed quickly.

Using a returns portal is a clear way to eliminate these issues, as it means that you can automate your Shopify returns. For example, with ZizZag’s solution, you can:

  1. Allow customers to complete returns within as little as 60 seconds
  2. Ensure returns move efficiently through the supply chain, allowing you to restock products and keep customers happy.
  3. Connect with local carriers or set up drop-off points to simplify the returns process.
  4. Gain access to reporting that provides you with valuable insight into your returns process, policies, and overall customer satisfaction levels
  5. Reduce the costs of returns by up to 60%, helping to ensure that your business remains as profitable as possible.
  6. Reduce the environmental impact that your returns process (and your business in general) has on the planet, through initiating paperless returns.

How you can convert returns to exchanges

Sometimes, you can reduce the cost of returns within your ecommerce business by converting them to exchanges instead. For example, a customer who ordered an item in the wrong size or colour can simply swap their current order for one that better meets their needs or expectations.

There are many ways in which you can subtly encourage customers to request an exchange instead of a refund. Firstly, you can make it as easy as possible for them to submit this request and offer incentives. For example, you may offer a discount on exchanged items or additional store credit.

If a customer receives an exchange item and loves it, this also goes a long way toward repairing any damage caused by their initial disappointment/dislike with the product, therefore strengthening the relationship that you share.

Final Thoughts.

Simply put, businesses looking to maintain customer satisfaction rates, comply with government regulations, and find ways to grow or scale should always look to improve their returns and exchange process - whether they are selling their products independently or through platforms such as Shopify.

Either way, using automation tools and software, such as those provided by ZigZag, can make this entire process a breeze. This is because it reduces the amount of manual labour taken on by your team while still ensuring that your refunds/returns are processed quickly and efficiently.

Our paperless return options can also help businesses take a step in the right direction when it comes to sustainability, something which many consumers are considering a priority in 2024.

If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch today. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have or to provide you with a free consultation and demo of the platform itself.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!