Returns, refunds, and exchanges are just a part of doing business online. It can be tempting to try to avoid it altogether. But opening an online boutique and not having a online boutique return policy will do more harm than good in the long run.
Your job as an online boutique owner is to deliver great customer service and part of that is knowing how to deal with situations where customers are unhappy.
According to a consumer report by Narvar, 96% of people would shop with a retailer again if returns was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’.
And since repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, it’s important to create an experience that makes your boutique the first choice.
Customers might be dissatisfied with their purchase for any number of reasons—damage, incorrect size, or maybe even the color didn’t look the same as it did online.
Having a refund policy is a great way to build trust with complete strangers who find your boutique online. It gives them the confidence to make their first purchase and incentive to come back because they know they’ll be taken care of.
So what should you consider when creating a refund policy your online boutique?
First let’s tackle exactly what a refund policy is and why it matters.
What Is A Return Policy And Why Do You Need One For Your Online Boutique?
An online boutique return policy establishes the parameters for how customers return or exchange items that they purchased but no longer desire. And it has some key components. You want to address what can be returned and why, and in what time frame a return will be accepted.
So why should you have a return policy for your online boutique? Because it’s just part of a complete shopping experience.
Just think about what you would do if you purchased an item that arrived damaged, doesn’t fit, or didn’t match your expectations. Or how you would feel if you wanted to shop but saw a banner at the top of a website that said “NO RETURNS”.
You’d probably think twice before making a purchase.
The first thing that you should understand is that a return or refund request is not personal.
It can feel really harsh, especially as a new boutique owner. But you should embrace it as an opportunity to deliver an even better customer experience.
Here’s are some examples:
If a customer requests a refund for an item that doesn’t fit, it might mean that you need to update your size guide with more detail.
Or if they return something because the color isn’t what they expected, you may need to change who you use as a product photographer or editor. Or may need to change where you take photos to get the best light.
Either way, the goal is to establish a solution for returns and exchanges that benefits your business and your customers.
What To Consider When Creating Your Return Policy For An Online Boutique
When you’re creating your refund policy, you should consider two main factors: customer happiness and business profit.
Returns are necessary but you can minimize the negative impact on your business.
One way is to subtract the shipping cost when processing a refund. You had to pay USPS or FedEx to get the item to them so that money is not part of the return.
And you can implement a restocking fee for the money that you’d lose by processing the refund.
Or you can choose to offer store credit only. The customer can exchange an item for one of equal value. Or credit the value of their purchase toward a more expensive item.
You should choose what can create a happy medium for you and the customer. But because it can easily get complicated, you need a written policy.
The Benefits of a Written Return Policy for Your Online Boutique
The first step in any system is writing things down!
So the same goes for a online boutique return policy. You need to be able to clearly communicate the terms and conditions with your customers, especially when they’re unhappy. Confusion always makes things worse!
Having a formal policy keeps things clear and simple for you and your customers (barring any extreme circumstances).
And you avoid having to address returns on a case-by-case basis. That saves you time as a new boutique owner, which is always your most valuable resource.
Having a system in place also helps when you eventually hire help. That can be someone local or a virtual assistant overseas. But it helps to have some system in place that they can even improve.
What To Include In Your Return Policy
You’ll determine the details of your return policy based on what works for you. For example, as a new boutique you may not be able to afford free returns like larger companies offer.
Whatever you decide, every return policy should cover the basics. That includes:
- What items are eligible for returns and exchanges
- What products are not eligible for returns or exchanges (ex: “final sale” items)
- The time frame to initiate returns or exchanges (ex: 30 days from the original purchase date)
- What condition is acceptable (ex: tags must be on, must be in the original packaging, etc.)
- What the customer will receive when they return a product (ex: store credit, a full refund, refund minus the shipping costs, a product of equal value, etc.)
- How to process a return or exchange (i.e., an email address or phone number to contact or a particular page or form on your website)
Be sure to include any potential restocking fees and an estimate of how soon the refund/exchange/store credit will be processed after they send back the item.
Every step should be laid out clearly with links to any relevant pages or resources.
Your Return Policy Should Be Easy to Find
It’s not enough to have a return policy. Customers should have the opportunity to see it before they make a purchase.
Link your online boutique return policy in as many places as possible.
It should be accessible via:
- your main navigation menu and/or website
- on your FAQ page
- on each product page
- in the cart
- in the checkout area
This protects your boutique if a return issue escalates.
A refund policy is not a cure all, though it can certainly help.
No matter how much effort you put into your products, website and customer service, you will still encounter a few unhappy customers along the way.
But it is too important to leave out.
Having a clear return policy is good for your business and your customers (especially if you want more customers).