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Shipping Returns Policy & Capabilities

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Customers are going to make returns

With more than 60 percent of online shoppers making at least one online exchange or return each year,* returns are part of selling online. Unlike the physical returns process, where the shopper returns to the store and initiates the return or exchange, shipping is central to the online returns process. As with the popularity of free shipping on the front end, the majority of shoppers like free returns–or at least easy returns.

shipping return statistics

Source: UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper

Return capabilities you’ll want to consider:

Degree of customer self-service: Your selling platform probably allows customers to initiate the return process; you need to decide the level of involvement in the process you prefer in the context of what your selling platform allows. You may, for example, want to manually approve every return and manually issue a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) before the customer can send the product back; or, you may allow automatic approval/RMA issuance.

Pay on use labels/scan based returns vs. post shipping: Your shipping platform will most likely offer you a variety of options for return labels. All major carriers offer the     option to print return labels for inclusion in your outbound shipment. These are not charged to your account (UPS, FedEx) or account balance (USPS) until or unless   your customer uses the label and it is scanned by the carrier. Hence the name “Pay on Use”.   Alternatively, you can generate a shipping label on request from your   customer post-shipping and email it to them.


How returns can affect your business environments

Returns on your customer facing store environment

  • Enable the customer to initiate a return in some way
  • Issue an RMA
  • Deliver a return label for print
  • Track and report on returns and exchanges

Returns on your shipping environment

  • Generate a return label and RMA on demand
  • Provide a “pay on use” return label for selected orders to include in the outbound shipment
  • Decide on whether you or the customer pays for a return label

Returns on your physical environment

  • Update inventory
  • Restock item if possible
  • Update necessary systems

Related Articles & Resources:


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This article is from The Definitive Guide to eCommerce Shipping

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