Have you ever wished you could read your customers’ thoughts to find out what they want from a returns experience? You’re in luck. We recently surveyed over 300 online consumers to gather insights directly from the source.

Not only did the respondents share which brands they love, but they also told us exactly what it was about the returns experience that made it exceptional. Here are the brands they chose and why:

5 brands with the most loved online return experiences

1. Amazon

Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world. Given this, the brand inevitably draws a lot of fans and naysayers (which you can read about in our next post). But when it comes to the former, there are several reasons why shoppers love the customer experience that Amazon provides with returns.

What customers love about Amazon’s return experience: 

  • Free return shipping. This was the most frequently cited reason for customers who had a positive return experience with Amazon. Not only was the return shipping free, but the processing time was also fast. According to one respondent: “They paid for the shipping, and I got a credit on my VISA one day after mailing back my return.” 
  • Low-friction process. When customers initiate a return, the last thing they want to do is email back and forth with a support person. Instead, they want the freedom to manage the return process on their own time. This was one of the highlights of Amazon’s return experience, according to respondents. “It was extremely easy. I didn’t have to talk to anyone, and the policy was very generous. The button to start the process was right on the order record.”
  • Flexible return options. Customers also love the flexibility that Amazon offers when it comes to returns. The brand gives people the ability to choose the return option that’s most convenient for them. “They offer options to pick up the package from your house or to drop it off at an Amazon location. The easier the process, the more likely I am to buy from them,”said one respondent.

2. Zappos

Zappos is an online footwear retailer with a focus on customer experience and support. At this point, their name has become synonymous with online support, so it comes as no surprise that they are on this list.  

Why customers love Zappos’ return experience:

  • Minimal steps and restrictions. When a customer has the wrong sized product they feel vulnerable, and that vulnerability will quickly turn to frustration if they are not able to resolve it quickly. Zappos knows this and allows customers to start and complete a return very quickly. One respondent said “They make the process extremely smooth and easy. No hoops to jump through.”
  • They make it easy to ship it back in the same packaging. It’s a HASSLE to find packaging to ship a return back in. The way that Zappos ships their shoes makes it easy to try them on package them up and send them back if they weren’t right. That ease of repackaging was quoted numerous times, like in this response: “The item is shipped in a way so that you can put it back in the same box to return it and they include a free return shipping label.”

Footwear has the highest return rate of any vertical in commerce. Zappos knows that items are going to come back and that making returns easy and enjoyable increases the likelihood of a repeat purchase and a future referral.

3. Lululemon

Lululemon is an international athletic apparel company. The brand is known for its comfortable and long-lasting clothing, as well as its top-notch customer service. When it comes specifically to returns, our respondents had many positive things to say about the experience.

Why customers love Lululemon’s return experience:

  • Easy exchanges and store credit. Not all customers want a refund. In fact, one of the things that stood out to respondents about Lululemon’s return experience is how simple it is to exchange items or receive store credit. “It’s so easy to bring items back and exchange them for a different color or style,” said one customer.
  • Lifetime warranty. Customers also said that they love Lululemon’s lifetime warranty on its products. This demonstrates that the brand is confident in the quality of its products and reduces any perceived risk for shoppers who purchase their apparel. 
  • No questions asked. People shouldn’t feel guilty about returning items they don’t want. That’s why our respondents were appreciative of Lululemon’s hassle-free return experience. “They handled the return with very little questions. They didn’t charge me anything to send back, and they replaced the items easily.”

4. Allbirds

Allbirds is a footwear brand that uses only natural materials like merino wool and eucalyptus. The business has a huge following of loyal customers who love its extremely comfortable shoes, eco-friendly practices, and easy end-to-end shopping experience. 

Why customers love Allbird’s return experience:

  • Seamless process. Just like the shopping experience itself, the return experience should be seamless. Allbirds return process accomplishes this, which is one of many reasons why respondents chose this brand as one of their favorites. “It’s easy to process the return online through the app,” one customer explained. Even exchanging the shoes for a different style and size is easy, according to another respondent. “Finding the right size shoe was simple and painless.”
  • No-frills return policy. When a customer turns to a brand’s return policy, they’re expecting answers – not confusion. That’s why people are huge fans of Allbirds return policy, which is concise, straightforward, and simple. “It was very easy to understand return policy without much of a lift on my end.”

5. Nordstrom

Nordstrom is a department store chain that sells everything from clothing to footwear to cosmetics. The retailer is known for its customer-friendly policies, especially when it comes to returns. 

Why customers love Nordstrom’s return experience:

  • Generous return window. One of the most notable parts of Nordstrom’s return policy is its return window. Why? They don’t have one. Yes, customers can return or exchange items literally any time after purchase. This was a huge plus for our survey respondents. “Nordstrom’s policy is very flexible in terms of the return window, and they also pay for all return shipping.” 
  • Hassle-free. Customers also love how hassle-free Nordstrom’s return policy is. Some examples of its flexible policy is not needing a receipt for returns, very few return restrictions, and a process that’s easy to initiate.

Top learnings from our survey

After analyzing all the responses, we pulled out the most important takeaways for brands when it comes to creating a top-notch returns experience. 

Offer free return shipping

As you can tell from the responses we shared, free return shipping is a huge plus for customers. But this offering doesn’t just lead to happy customers. It also positively impacts your conversion rates. Our survey found that 74% of customers would be hesitant to shop from a brand that charges them for return shipping.

Also, keep in mind that 27.8% of customers kept a product they didn’t want because it would have cost more to return it than to keep it. This is bad news for your brand and will likely end your customer relationship, which can lead to huge losses in revenue. 

Flexible = customer friendly

Customers value a hassle-free experience. The best way to create this is with a flexible return policy and experience. But what does this look like in practice? Here are a few strategies you can use, based on the responses from our survey: 

  • Offer multiple options for returns. Give customers the option to return via printing a label at home, scanning a code at a drop off, or in store. Optionality is key.
  • Demonstrate that you trust your customers. When you trust your customers to do the right thing, you create a better experience for them – whether that’s by enforcing a no-questions-asked return policy or providing a lifetime warranty on your products. 
  • Provide a seamless return process. Don’t force customers to interact with your customer support team or print out their own shipping labels. Instead, consider using an on-demand return portal and offer a printerless return option

Offer easy, fast exchanges

A common theme we noticed in responses is that customers want the option to exchange their return items – not just request a refund. And they’re appreciative of brands that offer them this option in a friction-free way. 

The most stand-out brands don’t just offer exchanges but also make them fast and easy. For instance, consider offering sizing consultations to help customers find the right size when they request an exchange. Or find a way to automatically send out the new item before the old one arrives at the warehouse so that the customer gets the product in their hands faster. 

We loved hearing directly from online consumers about what creates an awesome return experience for them. We hope you can take these learnings from their responses and apply them to your own process and policy. Want to create a return experience that your customers love? Get in touch with our team, and we’d love to help.