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Creating a Shipping and Returns Policy

Clearly displaying your shipping and returns policy can make or break a sale. Shoppers want to know they're purchasing from a legitimate business that stands by its products. According to ComScore's most recent survey, 67% of shoppers review a retailer's return policy before making a purchase, 66% want free return shipping, and 58% want a “no questions asked” return policy.

A solid shipping and returns policy can not only help you increase your revenue and boost your conversion, but can also reduce the resources you spend on returns by properly setting expectations and answering questions upfront. Handling returns professionally can also encourage return shopping, even when a customer wasn't completely satisfied with an order.

On BigCommerce, you will create a web page to display your Shipping and Return policy. See Web Pages for instructions on how to create a webpage. 


General guidelines

It can feel intimidating to write an in-depth return and exchange policy, especially if you're new to running a business. In general, you'll want to keep things clear, concise and competitive. Here are some key points for creating or revamping your store's return policy:

  • Never (ever, ever) copy and paste: This goes for nearly everything on your store, but a return and exchange policy is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Personalize it to your specific business.
  • Use plain English: Avoid words that send people running for a dictionary; you don't want to confuse your customers.
  • Avoid the scary stuff: Don't use phrases like “you must” and “you are required” or, one of the worst, “we are not responsible for.” Long story short, make returns a snap. It should be just as easy to return or exchange something as it is to buy it in the first place.

Items to address

Here are some topics and questions to tackle in your policy:

  • Lay out your shipping timelines: It's important to clearly state your shipping timelines — especially during the holidays when customers may be on tight deadlines. Include what shipping options you offer, what time and day of the week you send shipments, and how customers can check on order statuses.
  • Specify if the product takes time to create: On top of shipping timelines, options and general questions, you should also set expectations if it will take time to build or create a product.
  • Include warranty information: Shoppers should know that you stand by your product, and that you have a plan in place in case something goes wrong. If you've got it, flaunt it — let them know up front.
  • Answer frequently asked questions: Potential buyers may have a lot of questions before they make a purchase. Now is the time to help ease their fears. For example, since Veppo sells a product that needs to be maintained, they share detailed instructions on how the product works and how to properly care for it.
  • Outline your returns and exchanges procedure: Shoppers want to know you're going to be there for them if they aren't satisfied. Include details around what qualifies for a return or exchange and what the process looks like.
  • Discuss any possible delays or fees: If you're shipping internationally, you should inform your customers that the package may get held up in customs or possibly incur extra fees.

How to roll out your policy

You can spend all the time in the world writing the perfect policy, but if it's not rolled out to your customers, it won't do them any good.

  • Don't hide your policy: Your customers should never have to go on a scavenger hunt to find shipping information on your store. Keep it in broad daylight on your main menu. Or, if you have a particularly customer-centric policy, shout it from the rooftops by featuring it in places like your carousel and banners throughout your store.
  • Play fair: If you make a change to your policy, be sure to honor the old policy if an order was placed before the change took place.
  • Educate your staff: Keep all employees up to date on your return policy and procedures so they can assist customers quickly and effectively.
  • Be prepared to eat the cost of your mistakes: If you shipped the wrong item or packaged it poorly, you should be willing to make it right no matter what your official policy is. We all make mistakes, but it's how you handle those mistakes that matters.

How to remain competitive as a small business

As a small business, it can be hard to go big on your shipping and exchanges policy right out of the gate. Ideally you'll work your way up to a very competitive offering, like the lifetime guarantee our client Lupine has for their dog collars. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to create value for your customers while keeping your business profitable:

  • Crunch the numbers: Calculate how to offer free return shipping with a minimum order value. For instance, you could have free returns on any order over $50. This will help you cover some or all of the cost of the return or exchange.
  • Encourage in-person exchanges: If you have a physical store, let your customers return or exchange products in person for free.
  • Take advantage of high-volume periods: You could offer free return shipping as a promotional offer during busy times like Christmas and other holidays. The high volume of sales could offset the costs.

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