Now we’re all back in the swing of things, Thursday 5th January might seem like any other day. 

In the world of retail, however, it’s apparently known as ‘National Returns Day’ – AKA, the day we all send back the stuff we didn’t want to receive this Christmas.

According to research from UPS, 66% of online shoppers want to be able to return items for free, 58% want a hassle-free return policy and 47% want an easy-to-print returns label.

So how do brands measure up? Here’s a look at how 10 ecommerce sites present returns policies online.

ASOS

Users can access information about ASOS returns in two places.

Either by clicking on the 'Help' tab at the top right of the homepage, or via the 'Free Delivery Worldwide' banner in the centre.

The latter page nicely lists the various options for returns, pointing customers to links for creating free labels.

Meanwhile, the Help section is set out more like an FAQ page, which is also useful for general enquiries and info on overseas returns.

While there is a decent amount of information overall, it seems odd that the two sections are not combined or better linked.

Amazon

Amazon's returns policy is easily located within the 'Help' section of its website, as well as in the bottom footer.

There's lots of detail on Amazon's policy, with particularly helpful videos explaining how to send back unwanted items.

The below 'Returns are Easy' section is also worth highlighting. By breaking down the process into four steps, with simple imagery to highlight each one, users are reassured that it will be hassle-free.

Schuh

Schuh sets out its returns policy from the get-go, including it on product pages to inform customers before they've even bought anything.

This is incredibly reassuring, and could even help to encourage spontaneous purchases thanks to the knowledge that sending it back won't be an issue. 

This approach is continued throughout the site.

The detailed returns policy highlights the inclusion of sale items, using copy that is geared around customer-satisfaction.

Not On The High Street

Returns policies can be tricky for marketplaces, as it is usually up to individual sellers and buyers to negotiate the logistics.

Despite its best efforts, Not On The High Street doesn't do much to clear up the confusion, explaining how to return items in a frustratingly convoluted way.

It could definitely be made clearer - and the fact that customers are left to 'bear the direct cost of returning the product' is a bit of a sting in the tail too.

AO

AO.com is well-known for offering an excellent ecommerce experience.

Sadly, despite very clear and concise information about delivery, its stance on returns is less easy to locate.

It's not impossible to find, however it does take two clicks (on the 'Help and Advice' tab on the homepage and then the 'Help with my Order' section) until any info about returns is displayed.

From there, users still need to click through to find the policy itself.

Luckily, AO reminds us how good it is at customer service with its convenient and free collection service, including additional information about its call centres should you need any more help.

Firebox

Firebox takes a no-fuss approach to returns.

While its inclusion in the homepage footer isn't as visible as it could be, the decision to plainly label it 'returns' rather than hide it behind a 'help' or 'further info' section is appreciated.

The returns policy is succinctly and plainly explained, too.

I particularly like how Firebox's fun and friendly tone of voice is extended here, which makes the free and easy process sound all the sweeter.

Zappos

Zappos is a US retailer that's known for its superb dedication to customer service.

This is immediately apparent to consumers, with the brand even including its free returns policy in its H1 tag.

Onto the site itself, and although the returns page is slightly hidden in the bottom footer, the clear and concise explanation is one of the best I've seen.

By breaking it down into a three-step process, it is super quick and easy for consumers to understand.

John Lewis

Just one click on the 'Customer Services' tab is all it takes to find John Lewis's returns policy.

Clicking through from the comprehensive main menu, users are met with a thorough and easy-to-understand explanation.

Happily, John Lewis lets customers return to various outlets including Royal Mail and Waitrose for free, highlighting various links and easy-to-print labels.

Nike

Nike is another brand that succinctly explains its policy, breaking everything down into easy-to-digest paragraphs.

A surprising amount of retailers pack far too much copy into a single page, which can automatically put consumers off, but that's not the case here.

Alongside links to further help on the right-hand side of the page, I also like how Nike includes information about returns it does not accept.

Many brands are reluctant to talk about non-refundable items, however Nike's stance comes off as confident and honest.

Threadless

Lastly, an interesting approach from Threadless.

Its help section is easy to find, coming in the form of a separate pop-out site dedicated to customer support.

Interestingly, Threadless does not offer returns on any of its products.

However, it does offer a 'happiness guarantee' - which essentially means it'll replace any unwanted items with a new or different product.

This is certainly frustrating for consumers who want their money back, however, I think the slightly self-deprecating tone and quirky approach works.

It also helps that the 'return policy' is included in each product page, giving consumers a heads-up about what to expect.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 5 January, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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