For small to medium size retailers and direct-to-consumer brands, managing returns and exchanges can get unwieldly if not properly systemised. This can get especially chaotic for fashion businesses that have a high number of returns and exchanges.
To better manage your returns and exchanges on Shopify, you will need to:
- Write your policy
- Post it on your site
- Promote it across the site
- Use a dedicated plugin
- Create your management workflow
- Monitor the number of returns
Write the policy
You’ll need to have your policy written out first. You can write this yourself or may even consider getting legal advice for drafting one to properly cover yourself, which may include clarifying your obligations under the Australian Consumer Law for protecting consumer’s rights.
For writing your own, you may want to consider:
- Common bottlenecks or misunderstandings reported by customer service
- Competitor’s policies, the number of days and what’s covered
- Competitiveness compared to competitors
For fashion retailers, it is likely that free returns and exchanges will really help your conversion rate. However, this can be costly in time to manage the returns and damage to items. So you will need to consider this with your team and what you can afford.
Points you can include in your returns and exchange policy are:
- The return period and when that starts (e.g. from order or delivery)
- Items that can’t be returned
- How returns and exchanges can be requested
- Refund method, credits and exchanges
- Time period for processing
- Who pays shipping and when (e.g. exchange vs refunds)
- Reasons shoppers can return an item
- Condition of items for returns and exchanges
Create a returns policy page and returns processing page
You will need a page for the long-form returns policy and another page for collecting returns or exchange requests. For example:
I suggest putting your long-form on another page and linking it from a page that collects the request because you will likely want to make your requests page as easy to use as possible.
Reference the policy across the site
With the page set up you can now promote that you have some level of returns or exchange policy, such as free returns, across your site. You may want to add these into key pages including:
- A link in the footer
- Product pages
- Check out page/s process
- On the card page
Use a returns management plugin
For Shopify, using a solid management plugin will make your life much, much easier. It is incredibly difficult to keep track of how many returns you have processing, how much value these made up, what was the last email to each person and so on with just an excel spreadsheet.
There are plenty of returns apps to choose from but a quick recommendation for Australia is Return Magic.
Don’t let the slightly cheesy sense of humour put you off, it is generally an easy to use platform that charges from $1 USD to around $0.85 USD per return. The app provides a simple short-code script to implement into a returns page that acts as a portal for shoppers to look up a previous order or item and request a return or exchange.
Adjust your workflow
With the plugin in place, you will now want to edit your workflow to make sure that you are keeping on top of all your returns.
Key parts to include in your workflow are:
- Who is responsible for managing all returns
- Standard replies or messages to be sending at each point of the return process
- When will returns be checked (ideally daily)
- Who will prepare reports on number of total returns, and by product, and how
- When will certain returns be escalated and to whom
This is relatively easy to mark down and share with a team member/s who will be responsible for the above processes.
With your returns and exchange process in place, plugin installed, you can now begin monitoring your returns. This will likely be monitored by both product and marketing teams to understand which items are being returned often and why.
At some points, trends might appear that are not inherent to a product fault but are more as a result of marketing or the policy itself. You can then make adjustments to this policy and marketing to reduce the number of returns.