Using the Return Policy to Convert Shoppers into Customers

May 19, 2011 · by Pamela Hazelton

It’s common practice to focus on trends, design and shopability to (hopefully) increase and maintain sales. For the most part, these topics play a major role in a site’s sell-through rate. Let’s not, however, overlook the less obvious reasons shoppers may be abandoning your online store.

Your return policy can make or break a sale all on its own. Consumers want to feel comfortable about their purchases, and part of that comfort is knowing they can reach out to you if there’s a problem.

Fact: Returns and Exchanges Are Part of Doing Business

It’s true — just ask any brick-and-mortar store owner. Should you be factoring returns, exchanges, damages and such into the cost of doing business? Definitely. You should also be incorporating return policies into your on-site marketing strategy.

Is Your Return Policy Squashing Sales?

Many online shoppers don’t take time to read the fine print, and others simply don’t care because merchant account rules favor the cardholder. Still, there are plenty of seasoned shoppers who won’t hesitate to bail on a purchase if the policies are too strict.

I recently analyzed a store for a company eager to increase conversions. The owners touted their products as superior, priced best and of higher quality. The return policy, however, was riddled with threats, using terms like “We will refuse any package without an RMA.” and “If it’s your fault, we will deduct a 50% restock fee.” In short, they wanted to make people feel all warm and fuzzy via navigational graphics, but wanted to stick it to the consumer should there be any problem with an order.

It’s not so much about what’s not mentioned up front as what’s actually advertised. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” is a selling point. Of course, in order to hype this throughout the site the written policy itself must follow suit.

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