Shipping Tips & Solutions

How to Handle Returns as a Small Business

By: Michelle McNamara | December 13, 2018

How do you handle returns as a small business? Is it possible to offer a customer-friendly return policy that competes with the likes of large retailers? Can you provide a seamless experience without causing undue stress to you and your team?

It’s critical for your business to get right with returns. In fact, returns play a key role in the buyer journey: 66 percent of shoppers look at a retailer’s returns policy before purchasing.

But, returns tend to be a sore point for small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses. It can be challenging to establish and manage a process that makes both you and your customer happy.

Here are our recommendations for how to handle returns as an e-commerce business.

Feature Your Returns Policy Prominently

Create a clear, detailed returns policy and give it prime real estate on your website. For inspiration, you can check out these e-commerce return policy examples from real online businesses (and Shippo customers).

In your returns policy, you’ll want to make sure your customers know how to handle returns without having to ask your support team for those details. This will help your customer success team save time by giving customers and potential customers upfront access to the information they need to make a purchase, initiate a return, etc.

Check out our e-commerce returns policy template with suggestions for what details to include in your policy.

Include the Return Label in the Box

For many online retailers without a physical storefront, the only way to accept returns is to ask the customer to mail back the item. To initiate this process, you’ll need to equip the customer with packaging and a shipping label.

Streamline the process by ensuring your packaging can be reused in the event that a return is needed, and include a return label inside the package. That way, your operations team can create the return labels during their typical fulfillment flow and avoid breaking their process to pull up an individual customer’s order to generate a return label later on.

The good news is that many carriers, like the U.S. Postal Service, offer the option to create scan-based return labels. That means you won’t be charged for the postage fee until it’s scanned into the mail stream. So, you can include return labels with your orders without paying any upfront costs.

Check out our video for more information about how to create scan-based return labels.

Have the Option to Create Standalone Return Labels

You may have a process in place for generating shipping labels for your outbound packages, but sometimes you need a solution to print one-off return shipping labels.

For example, you may ship all of your outbound packages with FedEx or UPS and rely on the USPS to accommodate returned orders. You may also use an expedited service level for all of your outbound packages, like USPS Priority Mail Express, but when it comes to returned orders, you want the cheapest rate possible, no matter how long the package takes to arrive.

Shipping software Shippo allows you to create standalone return labels. You’ll use this feature if you did not print the outbound label in the Shippo web app, but still want to access Shippo’s rates, service levels, etc. to create a return shipping label.

Check out our video explaining how to print a standalone return label.

As a small business, it’s important to know how to handle returns in a way that meets customer expectations and your bottom line. Taking the time to clearly explain your returns policy on your website will help save your team time in the long run by preemptively resolving customer issues. Streamline the process as best you can by including all necessary materials in the outbound package and having a clear returns process listed on your website.

You might also be interested in our blog post, “E-commerce Returns 101: How to Offer Free Shipping & More.”

Michelle McNamara

Content Strategist at Shippo

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