Examine Return Policies When Shopping Online

Understanding the return policy will make your online shopping a more joyful experience. Click to read more!

by Anne Middleton, on June 23rd, 2016

There’s a reason why people gravitate toward online shopping: it’s unquestionably convenient! Plus there are great deals to be had. There is one essential caveat to remember when buying online.  It is a savvy shopper who always reviews the online merchant’s return policy when buying over the internet.  No matter if the company  is an leader like Amazon or a retail giant like Target or a small neighborhood boutique, understanding the return policy will make your online shopping a more joyful experience.

Shopping online means no crowded malls or long lines. Convenience and value are primary motivators for shopping online.  In today's digital environment, you can pretty much purchase anything your heart desires without ever leaving home, especially from  Target and Amazon offer an unending range of items.

Today, with the growth of internet buying, consumers expect and demand the same concept of convenience when returning an unwanted item.

Retailers' return policies are now facing greater scrutiny. Customers have become exasperated with many online returns procedures. About 90% of retailers made customers pay for return shipping either upfront or on the back end in 2014.   No wonder two-thirds of online shoppers check a retailer's returns policy before making a purchase and 49% say shipping costs are the most "exasperating" part of the returns process.

A recent prestigious survey found that 89% of individuals will become repeat purchasers at retail sites but only when they have a positive return experience.  In fact, when free return shipping was offered, the merchant experienced significantly greater purchase activity.  Every website from Amazon and Target to the smallest new store would certainly welcome an increase in revenue.

A long, 4-year study of the issue found that customers who received free return shipping increased their purchases at those retailers by at least 58%.  Customers who had to pay to ship items back, on the other hand, reduced their purchases by 74% - 100%.  Wow.  We consumers are certainly picky.

Consumers Expectations

The evolution of return policies for online vendors has created high expectations by consumers.  For example:

• We love online retailers that include a return label with the purchase.

• It also helps when the online merchant includes a phone number in case there is a question about the return.

• The clarity of the instructions on how to return the item necessary, even if it appears to be common sense.  It is one thing to return a pair of pants to Target and quite another to return baby furniture or a large item through Amazon.

• Most importantly, providing “free returns” is a major consideration for shoppers when choosing a retailer.

Compare When Shopping

Leading retailer Amazon knows that happy customers are more likely to make repeat purchases.  Amazon has instituted a standard return policy for their website and states: “You may return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon.com within 30 days of delivery for a full refund and the return shipping costs will be paid for you if the return is a result of Amazon’s error.”

Amazon.com and most sellers on Amazon.com appear to do their best to make return shipping easy and flexible. You can return your package using a label from Amazon’s Online Returns Center. On most items, the consumer can make a choice of a refund, replacement or exchange. One of the most unique components of Amazon's return policy is the ability to sell or trade in an item that is unable to be returned.

Target has a more liberal time frame for returns.  Most unopened items that are purchased from Target (either in store or online) and are in new condition and returned within 90 days, receive a refund or exchange. Target has a computer system that provides the ability to look up your purchase, making an original receipt totally optional.

At Target, some items can be returned even up to 120 days if purchased with a Target REDcard.  Even more astonishing is Target brand items such as Mossimo and Nate Berkus can be returned within one year for a refund or exchange.

The Bottom Line

The obvious truth is that shoppers buy more stuff when they know returns are easy. By offering online support for returns, Amazon supports customer requests for items that need to be sent back.  It is quite clear that people simply are more likely to purchase impulsively with the assurance of a liberal return policy.  Target’s generous return policy shows they understand that a happy customer who does not have to worry about returns will come back to shop…and shop some more.





1. http://www.marketingprofs.com/opinions/2015/27661/the-real-cost-of-an-exasperating-online-returns-process#ixzz4BmoSlv00

2. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234921

3. http://news.blogs.wlu.edu/2012/10/04/study-by-wls-bower-validates-free-return-shipping-policy/

4. https://www.amazon.com/gp/orc/returns/homepage.html/ref=orc_surl_ret_hp?fg=1