How Your Online Business Can Avoid Costly Returns and Exchanges

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

A recent report from Walker Sands on the Future of Retail indicated that 64% of consumers are more likely to purchase online when the company offered free returns and exchanges.

Now, if you are a small business, free returns and exchanges can be a tough offering as it does eat into your bottom line, especially when the Wall Street Journal reported in December 2013 that one-third of all Internet transactions are returned by shoppers.

So how can your small business avoid costly returns and exchanges?

1. Make Sure Customers Completely Understand What They Are Buying

  • Highlight key product details in bullet point form.
  • Include and encourage the use of size charts.
  • Have photos that show close up details.
  • Have photos that show perspective of size.
  • Read customer reviews to understand what they are misunderstanding.
  • Indicate what is not included if other items are shown in the photo i.e. lamp shade not included.
  • Try to answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

2. Make Your Return and Exchange Policy Clear

  • Give a limited time in which a customer can return or exchange, such as 30 days after date of purchase.
  • Deduct original shipping charges from the refund unless the return is the result of your error.
  • Offer free return shipping only if the customer is returning the item for store credit as opposed to a full refund.
  • Indicate whether items can only be returned if they are unopened or in their original condition.
  • Indicate whether gifts can be returned for refund or store credit only.
  • Indicate how long it will take to receive a refund i.e. refunds will be processed 2 to 3 business days after item is received back.

3. Indicate Items That Cannot Be Returned or Exchanged

  • Items that have had possible unhygienic body contact i.e. earrings, underwear, cosmetics, etc.
  • Items of a digital nature i.e. ebooks, printables, etc.
  • Items that have been personalized or customized.
  • Items that have been washed or worn.
  • Final sale items.

With the holiday shopping season coming up, you may also want to indicate when you will be accepting and/or processing returns of holiday purchases. Most stores are so busy they won’t even entertain the idea of processing a return or exchange until after December 26th.

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Author: Gail Oliver, Online Small Business Consultant

I'm Gail Oliver, an online marketing consultant. Welcome to my blog, chosen one of the Top 10 Small Business Blogs to Follow in 2014 by American Express Open Forum. If you need help with your e-commerce business, be sure to see MY SERVICES, above.