Is it Ever a Good Idea to Offer Free Consumer Returns?

Did you know that most consumers consider a company’s return policy an important factor in their decision to make a purchase? As consumers spend more time shopping on the internet, their expectation for free returns is growing. Consumers who see a free return policy might feel more comfortable purchasing, but bear in mind, a loose policy opens the door to more returns in the long run. However, there are a few ways to encourage consumer loyalty while providing a free return option that helps you safeguard your profit margins.  

Require Enrollment in a Consumer Loyalty Program

Keeping a customer coming back to your company is easier than gaining a new one, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Retailers must garner that loyalty before the consumer even makes their first purchase. The best way to encourage repeat business is to enroll consumers in a loyalty program.  

Offering free returns to your loyalty members helps your business over time. A good loyalty program provides a solid list of active buyers for your new product or service launches. It also increases customer interaction on social media where consumers can talk to each other about your products – leading to positive reviews and feedback.  

Offer a Free Return with an Exchange

Sometimes a consumer thought they needed one of your products only to find they actually needed something else. When you make customers pay return shipping for an item, they may think twice about buying from your company again. You would then lose the cost of the original product and the potential sale in the future.  

A company that offers free returns on an exchange for an equal or greater valued product is more likely to keep their customer happy and coming back to buy more later. Consumers who feel appreciated for their business tend to frequent the establishment and will spend more in the long term – meaning an increase in profits for you.  

Ask your Customers to Join a Paid-for Subscriber List

Newsletters are a great way to keep your customers informed of new products, recalls, company-wide sales, and other company-meets-consumer information. Your writers spend hours putting your newsletter together to provide helpful content to your customers. By asking a consumer to pay a nominal fee to get on your list, you can offer multiple benefits.  

In addition to receiving free returns on merchandise for subscribing, a newsletter can encourage a long-term relationship. They will get the inside track on advanced buying opportunities, additional discounts on certain products, or knowledge of company expansion. You will get a stronger relationship with a repeat customer.  

There are times when offering a free return is the right call, but you’ll need to use a business-building approach when writing your return policy. Consider a free return for an exchange of an equal or greater priced item. Or, offer free shipping to customers enrolled in a membership program, a paid-for newsletter subscription, or other loyalty programs. 

Image credit: Jared Cherup

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