Your return experience is an extension of your brand. Without consistency, you may find yourself losing customers and credibility. We’ll identify three common types of brands and show you how to develop a cohesive return process and policy.
Why your return policy should be consistent with your brand
Why is it so important for your return experience to be consistent with the rest of your brand? The best way to explain this is to show you an example.
Imagine there’s an eco-friendly apparel brand you love. All of their clothes are made with ethically sourced materials, and they use sustainable manufacturing practices. When you check their return policy (which is likely given that 67% of shoppers check the returns page before making a purchase), you notice they have a no-questions-asked return policy.
67% of shoppers check the returns page before making a purchase.
But there’s no indication of where the returned items go - such as to a donation center or an upcycling facility. Unfortunately, this likely means that this is one of many brands contributing to the five billion pounds of returned products and packaging that gets sent to landfills each year.
While this may be a good policy for the customer, it doesn’t make sense for an eco-friendly brand or shoppers who care about environmental issues. Ultimately, these inconsistencies between a brand’s values and its actual practices will breed distrust among customers.
3 types of brands, and how to build a return policy for each
1. Sustainability focused
Eco-friendly brands are becoming increasingly popular. A report found that 43% of shoppers plan to spend more on sustainable brands within the next five years. But the process of creating a sustainable brand doesn’t just end with the sourcing and manufacturing of your products - it needs to extend through your returns process.
43% of shoppers plan to spend more on sustainable brands within the next 5 years.
Tips for sustainability-focused brands:
Reduce returns. As an eco-friendly brand, you want to reduce the number of returns you receive to minimize the potential for waste. One of the most efficient ways to accomplish this is to address your most common return reasons. Fortunately, most brands struggle with the same issues - whether that’s challenges with sizing, gaps in their product marketing, or problems with logistics. It’s simply a matter of identifying and solving for the most significant source of returns.
Incentivize exchanges over refunds. Of course, it’s not possible to prevent 100% of returns. When returns do happen, you want to push customers towards exchanges over refunds. Why? An exchange ensures that your customers still end up with a product they can use. It also increases the chances of receiving a returned item that’s still in good condition and can be resold - which is what Patagonia does. You can incentivize exchanges by placing a strategic shipping fee on refunds (but not exchanges), offering a bonus credit, and making the exchange process a breeze for customers with Loop.
Have a plan for returned products. Every sustainability-focused brand needs to have a back-up plan for returned items so they don’t end up in the landfill. Ideas include partnering up with a donation center, reselling items that are in good condition, or upcycling and recycling items to give them a second life. Brooklinen, for example, has a partnership with a donation center. When the brand receives products that aren’t fit for resale, the unwanted bedding is sent to homeless communities all across the United States.
2. Product focused
Some brands put their stake in the ground when it comes to the quality of their products. For this approach to be successful, you have to show your shoppers that you are fully committed to the product being "perfect."
Tips for product-focused brands:
Offer warranties or replacement guarantees. One of the best ways to communicate the integrity of your products is to offer a warranty or quality guarantee. This signals to your customers that you have confidence in what you’re selling and gives them peace of mind when purchasing something from you. Take Rhone as an example. As you can see below, they have so much faith in their products that they’re willing to put their own revenue on the line if you’re not satisfied.
Invest in high-quality product pages. No matter how great your products are, your customers will never know unless you have equally high-quality photos and descriptions. Keep in mind that your shoppers rely on your product descriptions to make purchasing decisions online - so the more accurately you can represent your product, the better it is for both your business and your customers.
Collect return reasons. Finally, as a product-focused brand, one of the smartest business decisions you can make is to collect customer feedback on returns. At Loop, we enable our customers to do this with return reasons. This feature makes it easy for brands to figure out where the product is falling short and make the necessary changes. Check out how Loop gave Love Your Melon’s customers a voice and helped them improve various aspects of their product marketing and return process.
3. Customer focused
Many customer-focused brands put a lot of time and effort into creating a shopping experience that’s easy, seamless, and enjoyable. But they frequently forget to extend that thoughtfulness to returns and force customers to jump through hoops for a simple return. This can ultimately undo all the hard work you put in to acquire these customers.
Tips for customer-focused brands:
Be generous. If customers are your focus, it’ll benefit you to be as generous as possible in your return policy. This means giving your customers a return window that’s longer than the standard 30 days, offering free shipping on returns, and being flexible about what’s allowed to be returned - such as Allbirds letting customers return worn shoes.
Give customers control. The last thing a customer wants to do when requesting a simple exchange or refund is to engage in multiple back-and-forths with your support team. It’s frustrating, slow, and not a good use of anybody’s time. Instead, give the customers control with an on-demand return portal like Loop and let them manage their own returns.
Offer personalized support. Another way to win over the loyalty of your customers is to go the extra mile when it comes to providing support. Have your support team use the time that’s freed up from having an on-demand return portal to help customers with more complex issues, such as finding the right fit for a product. Knix, for instance, lets customers schedule virtual fitting sessions with their fit experts. This is a fantastic way to show customers that you’re invested in their happiness.
Once you identify the type of brand you’re aspiring to be, you can take steps to make sure your returns process and policy are consistent with the rest of the customer experience. This will help you retain more customers, build credibility, and ultimately collect more revenue. Get in touch to find out how Loop can help you create a returns experience that aligns with your brand.