Creating a Return Policy for Your Print on Demand E-Store: The Practice of Fostering Trust

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E-commerce is on the constant rise with the proliferation of internet users. Global pandemic did it no harm; on the contrary, being marooned in their apartments, people started to extensively rely on digital facilities to provide them with the comforts and amenities the modern civilization has brought forth. 

With all the bright vistas beckoning to e-commerce ventures, a major obstacle that still hinders their triumphant march down the road to bonanza is the cautious attitude of shoppers. Many of them find it risky to send their money to an unknown merchant (especially if it is their first experience with this website) and anxiously wait for what seems an eternity until they get something palpable to dissuade their misgivings. 

The waiting isn’t made any comfortable because of numerous questions that arise in the mind of uneasy shoppers. What if the product isn’t a good fit? Will I have to pay for return shipping? What if the order is lost in transit? What if it is shipped to the wrong address? To allay fears and dispel apprehensions of such fussy shoppers, stores policies for customers are of paramount importance. 

Why Are Store Policies More Important Than Ever?

Humans aren’t robots and they make mistakes. In the world of commerce, such bad calls happen both through the fault of sellers and buyers. But no matter who might have caused it, the outcome is the same – complaints and returns. According to the estimates of the National Retail Federation, in 2018 an average customer returned about 10% of their purchases. This is a summary index accounting for both e-commerce and storefront deals, and for online store trade, conventional or dropshipping returns amount to the astounding 30%! And it is no wonder since online shoppers can neither smell, feel, taste, nor try on the product beforehand to make an irrevocable buying decision. 

In view of such numbers, it is natural that more than two-thirds of customers check the terms and conditions of the company’s return policy before moving in to buy. They want to be sure that they will lose not a penny if something goes wrong. 

Businesses that are aware of this universal tendency take steps to create a sense of security clients crave for. Companies realize that returns are the less fun part of their trade – both financially and emotionally. They lose profits on orders and suffer moral setbacks when they come to know that they failed to deliver. However, if they disregard the import of this aspect of customer service, the consequences may be gruesome. 

Disgruntled customers will start voicing their dissatisfaction through various media, including social networks and comments on your site. Eventually, Google may show negative feedback in searches about your store. Thus, by neglecting to address the returns challenge, you may turn out to be penny-wise but pound-foolish, since reputational damage is hardest to redress. As a result, your conversion rates will plummet as well as repeat purchase rate.

Conversely, bending every effort to please consumers who file return requests will promote long-term revenue increase and customer retention. As online shoppers confess, they are likely to make at least one more purchase at an e-store that provided them with a comfortable return experience. Thus, they tend to disregard the fact that their purchase was a turkey, appreciating rather the ability of the vendor to correct the faux pas. 

Reasons Why the Product Can Be Returned By the Customers

The best safeguard against returns is the high quality of products your e-store sells and the commitment of its personnel in serving customers. Yet, even if these conditions are met, returns do crop up. How come?

  • The wrong product or size was ordered. At first sight, vendors seem to have no control over this since it happens totally through the fault of buyers. Yet, you can drastically lower the number of returns of this type by providing a detailed description of your merchandise including sizing schemes with pictures and instructions to correlate them to actual dimensions. You must also encourage customers to leave product reviews. There is nothing like the opinion of consumers themselves to forestall the mistakes of future buyers.
  • The wrong size or product was shipped. More than half of the orders get returned because of this. So make sure your personnel double-check each order before packing and sending them to customers.
  • The product and its description don't match. It is the reason for almost a quarter of all returns and it is exclusively your responsibility. The only way to minimize such returns is to check the verbal and visual components (preferably 3D) of product description making them as revealing as possible.
  • The product fell short of a customer’s expectations. It happens when you exaggerate the virtues of the merchandise. To avoid such discomfitures, be honest in the product description. Alternately, such returns can also result from customers reading its description carelessly or hastily and realizing their bad call only when the merchandise is delivered. Consider this not a buyer's oversight but your failure to be explicit and clear in the product description and make amends improving the text and images.
  • The customer changed their mind about the product. Typically, phone accessories and chargers are returned because the gadget itself is out of use being broken or replaced by a new upgraded one. Or, major shifts in the customer’s personal life (relocation, job changing, financial problems) render the order made some time before irrelevant. You can’t do much about this kind of return reasons unless you try to persuade the client to keep the product stressing its fortes. And try to showcase your cancellation policy, since it is better to have the order canceled than go through the trouble of returning an item.
  • The customers misused your interface. Even in the 21st century, there are IT-challenged people. But mostly, it is the fault of yours (and your technical team) if someone fails to make a proper order at your e-store which isn’t foolproof enough.
  • The purchase was meant to be a holiday or birthday gift. Gift-giving is a hard task, especially when you don't know the preferences of those who you are buying for, or there are too many gifts to be bought for your numerous friends and family members. Consequently, people who are dissatisfied with what they got return the useless items en mass a couple of weeks after the holidays. The only treatment for this is encouraging your customers to participate in surveys aimed at increasing their awareness of the tastes their close ones have.
  • Deliberate frauds and abuse. Such cases account for about 6% of all returns. The most widely used abusive practice is known as wardrobing, when a person buys an item (typically, apparel) to wear it once for an occasion and then returns it claiming the money spent on it. To combat such claims is easy, as a rule, since the item typically has telltale signs (wrinkles, stains, etc.) that it has been used. If it is the case, there is no refund forthcoming. More serious are malpractices consisting in using stolen cards or counterfeit money to pay for the item and trying to get a cash refund. 

To mitigate such threats, you should have a “repeated offender” directory and have a carefully formulated return policy for e-commerce store of yours. Such a policy is on top of the checklist of important things to have if your online business is a print on demand store. 

Print On Demand Return Policy: Nuances That Matter

Generally, the return policy (together with shipping policy for dropshipping, customer support policy, pricing policy, and the like) is a part of customer service strategy obligatory for any serious online venture. Of course, you may deal with each complaint manually and individually, but such an approach is exhausting for your personnel and expensive for your business workflow. Having a protocol to follow will streamline the employees’ efforts and cut down on time customers will have to wait until their case is handled.

However, writing a return refund policy for a print on demand (PoD) business has its niceties (as well as print on demand privacy policy, for instance) conditioned by the specifics of the trade. This industry furnishes unique products that are custom made to a special order which means that they won’t be bought by other people in case the customer who ordered them returns the items. So, technically, print on demand products are not subject to universal return rules and regulations. If a client has changed their mind about the purchase, ordered the wrong image or size, submitted artwork of low quality (which resulted in the poor quality of the printed image) they can’t expect the company to defray their expenses. Order cancellation has its limitations as well since it is only possible any time before the printing is launched. 

However, print on demand refund policy should be extended to all issues that happen through the fault of the manufacturer. In case the printed image is different from the designed one (including the wrong design, color, placement, or printing defects), the product is damaged in delivery, or it is the wrong size the company is supposed to replace it at its own expense or return the money. If the merchandise wasn’t delivered because the vendor sent it to the wrong address, the company is supposed to correct its blunder. Yet, if the wrong address was indicated by the customer, they are to pay for the repeated delivery. 

Whatever conditions for your return policy you deem necessary, your customers must know all details of it. 

Guidelines for Developing a PoD Return Policy: The Magnificent Seven

Policies can vary depending on the location of your print on demand business and products your e-store sells, but general recommendations as to their development are pretty much universal.

Keep the Policies in a Conspicuous Place

Return and refund policies should be easily found everywhere – in the specialized FAQ sections, main menu, product page, website footer, cart, checkout, and on banners strewn all over your website. How-to videos and infographics are helpful in visualizing the process. And of course, policies must feature in your e-mails confirming the purchase to instill the sense of security into your customers.

Use Proper Language

Policies are meant for ordinary people, not lawyers or linguists, so you should make them a simple read. Being systematic in laying out your return strategy, using plain language, incorporating keywords, reiterating your promises, and highlighting exceptions are the pivotal requirements to formulating the policies. And make sure you don’t scare your customers by using “you must” or “we are not responsible if”.

Include the Must-Haves

In your policies, you are to mention which of the products you offer can be returned, which can be only exchanged, and which can be neither, the condition of the items eligible for return/exchange, the post-purchase period when the return or exchange is possible, what customers get if they return an item (refund, exchange for an equal value product, store credit), how a return is initiated (a contact e-mail or a page to visit), and who pays for shipping. Don’t leave any gap in the procedure unexplained, including the package customers use and the presence/absence of their order slip. 

Make the Return Process Easy

Words like "hassle-free" and "easy" are often used by companies to describe their return process. Trying to keep it exactly that, you will earn the trust of your clients who will never hesitate to buy at your store again.

Try to Re-Engage the Customer

If you receive a return request, it doesn’t mean the customer is lost to you. You should find out the reason why they want to return the product and offer what is preferable for you (for instance, an exchange instead of return, or a store credit instead of a direct refund). Get the client interested in alternatives to make them feel you appreciate them and want them to visit your store again.

Offer Free Returns

It is the most tempting condition for 68% of shoppers (together with free shipping) that can motivate them to buy at your store and stay loyal to your brand in the future.

Play Fair

People appreciate not the absence of mistakes (since we all make them), but your ability to handle them. Be honest in acknowledging your bad calls and correcting them. If you change your policies, honor the promises made before the new rules set in, if an order pre-dates them. 

Conclusion

Launching a print on demand e-store is a lucrative venture and Multi-Programming Solutions can help you to build it from scratch. Carefully written and fair return policy of your store is a necessary prerequisite for providing your customers with a comfortable shopping experience, which will win their trust and foster brand loyalty.

For ClientsSeptember 21, 2020
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