According to a survey by CollectPlus, 27% of consumers are put off ordering something online in the first place because they do not want the hassle of returning it if it isn’t right.

Therefore the need for online retailers to provide clear and easy to find information on its returns policy as well as making it as hassle-free as possible is integral to customer experience.

Graham Charlton wrote a comprehensive list of ways retailers can improve their ecommerce returns policies last December, which I’ll briefly reiterate here (click the above link for more in-depth detail)…

  • Make your policy easy to understand with clear, jargon-free language and a legible typeface.
  • Make you policy easy to find. Provide a link direct from the homepage as well as every product page next to delivery information.
  • Provide multichannel returns. Allow customers to return goods to a high street store even if they bought them online.
  • Don't charge customers for returns, and if you offer free returns then let your customers know.

These are the four criteria we’ll look at now in seeing which retailers offer a great returns policy.

Argos

Easy to find? Not really. There isn’t a direct link on the homepage. You have to click through on the help link at the top of the page. The returns and refunds link is then located in the final menu.

Easy to read? It’s not presented very clearly, the phone numbers in bold gives you the first impression that some calls will need to be made, but that’s not actually the case.

Multichannel returns? Yes, but that fact is hidden within the above text.

Free returns? Yes, and it also offers a free home collection service for bulkier items.

ASOS 

Easy to find? There’s no direct link on the homepage, returns info is hidden behind the help button.

You then have to click on the returns link on the right hand side, which presents a series of FAQs, the first being “what is your returns policy?”

This information could easily be presented on the page, instead of having to click further links to find it. 

Returns information is accessible on the product pages, but it is then hidden behind a further clickable link.

Easy to read? Once you’ve found it, yes the information is presented clearly.

Multichannel returns? ASOS are a purely online retailer, but you can return goods via Collect+ at your local partnered shop.

Free returns? Yes, although it presents this information quite far down the page. The offer of free returns should be trumpeted on the homepage and the product page along with delivery information.

B&Q

Easy to find? Yes, B&Q’s generous returns policy is featured at the top of the homepage and at the bottom of every product page.

Easy to read? Yes, a well laid-out page with large text and plenty of links to FAQs and other resources.

Multichannel returns? Yes, goods can be returned to any branch.

Free returns? It doesn’t actually state whether returns are free or not.

Boots

Easy to find? A link to information is hidden at the bottom of the page, which then opens a pop-out window. The window contains all the relevant information you need, which is great, although an unfamiliar way to present it. The link to this info should be much easier to find, also there’s no returns information available on the product pages.

Easy to read? Yes, everything is explained very simply and clearly.

Multichannel returns? Yes.

Free returns? Yes, the paperwork with you order contains prepaid postage. Again this should be advertised better elsewhere on the site. 

Debenhams 

Easy to find? Debenhams presents its delivery options beautifully on the homepage, but mentions nothing about returns till you scroll to the bottom of the screen to find a link. You’re then taken to an FAQ page.

There’s no returns information on the product pages.

Easy to read? Not particularly, see above.

Multichannel returns? Yes, you can return goods in-store. 

Free returns? Yes, there is a prepaid label provided with your order. 

Halfords

Easy to find? Yes, right at the top of the homepage, and this remains all the way through the journey.

Easy to read? Yes, all the information is clearly laid-out with headings and bullet points.

 

Multichannel returns? Yes indeed.

Free returns? Yes, there’s a prepaid label provided. This is the best of the bunch so far.

John Lewis

Easy to find? The returns policy is buried at the bottom of the homepage. However once clicked-through you're presented with a very bright and easy to navigate tool.

On the product page the free returns policy is presented boldly.

Easy to read? Once you click on ‘returns procedure’ you’re presented with this fantastic display of detailed yet clearly laid out information.

Multichannel returns? Absolutely. See above.

Free returns? Returns are free with prepaid address labels provided, and you can arrange for a free courier service if the item is too large.

New Look

Easy to find? There’s a direct link at the top of the homepage, which remains throughout the journey.

Easy to read? It’s a fairly cluttered screen, with lots of distraction and random bold text. This could definitely do with an overhaul.

Multichannel returns? Yes you can return to any store or via Collect+

Free returns? Here’s where things get a little confusing, returns are free for in-store (as they should be), and Collect+ is free too. However it doesn’t actually say that sending an item back through traditional post is free, despite claiming ‘free delivery’ at the top of the page. There’s also no mention of prepaid labels being provided.

River Island

Easy to find? There’s no mention of its free returns policy on the homepage, which is a shame. If you click on the ‘delivery and returns’ link at the bottom of the screen though you will find clearly laid out information on all of its customer services.

Returns information is also included on the product page.

Easy to read? Information is clear and separated by relevant subject headers and links.

Multichannel returns? Yes. If you paid by PayPal you will only be able to exchange goods in-store though.

Free returns? Yes, a prepaid label is included in your order.

Screwfix

Easy to find? Yes, free returns is mentioned at the top of the homepage and throughout.

Easy to read? Although the text is laid out fine, it’s far too tiny for reasonable accessibility.

Multichannel returns? Yes, although you will have to ring them if your item is more than 2kg in weight.

Free returns? Absolutely, there’s a returns form you will have to print off yourself though. 

Further reading…

For more investigate articles on ecommerce from the blog, check out:

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 5 March, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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