Online shopping has provided businesses with a unique opportunity to reach millions of customers all over the country or even around the world. It has also provided consumers with the chance to purchase things that were previously unavailable in their local area, which is a huge benefit for many people. However, the dynamics of shopping have also changed because when you purchase online you cannot see, touch, or try on the thing you are going to buy.

That has led to a significant increase in the number of products returned to a seller after someone buys. While that can be frustrating as a merchant, it also presents an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition by creating a seamless and painless return and exchange process.

In fact, data shows that people prefer to shop at an online retailer who offers an easy return policy (free returns are even better if you can do it). That is especially true in categories like clothing, accessories, jewelry, electronics, and luxury items. Since you can’t avoid returns, the next best thing is to improve the process for your customers from start to finish, which can turn one-time buyers into loyal, repeat customers and could actually boost your profits instead of hurting them. Here are some best practices for achieving that.

1: Have a Process in Place for Returns

One of the first things you need to do is examine what your returns and exchange process is, and if you don’t have one, create a policy and a process in your organization. Reverse logistics—the flow of goods back into your business—should be something that gets as much attention and resources as forward logistics—getting products out to customers who purchase them from your store. Streamlining your reverse logistics helps you track and manage things that are returned, which means you can get them back out on the shelf for resale, sell on a secondary market, or dispose of them quickly so they’re not wasting space in your inventory stock.

2: Make Your Policy Clear and Easy to Find

When consumers visit your website and get ready to make a purchase, one of the first things they are looking for is the return policy. Not having a written policy with clear guidelines can turn what is already a difficult process into a complete mess. Even return policies that have restrictions, such as a requirement that people return items within 30 or 60 days from the date of purchase, are better than vague or no information.

Failing to clearly outline the requirements for when a return can be made leaves you open to accepting returns months after a purchase, and the longer it’s been since someone bought an item, the less likely you will be able to sell it again. Or if you won’t accept returns after such a long time, that makes customers angry and less likely to shop with you in the future.

In part 2 we’ll talk about some additional best practices for turning your customers into repeat buyers with a streamlined and simple returns and exchange policy. If you need a platform to help you manage online returns and reverse logistics, schedule a demo to see how ReverseLogix can get you up to speed.