The Future of Return Shipping and How You Should Approach It

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You've seen it through Amazon Prime, but it is worthwhile for your online store?

We're talking about free return shipping.

So many other methods for standing out from competition are coming out. For example, you could provide free shipping after a certain amount of money is spent. Or you could put a strong focus on your support team to gain a reputation like that of Zappos.

From discounted packages to rewards benefits, the pool for techniques to impress your customers is filled with opportunities. However, one area has been somewhat untapped, and it has lots to do with the fact that these particular customers are not buying anything from you.

Return shipping is always going to be a pain, but as with all trends, you may find out that your profits will increase once you embrace the idea of providing free returns for your customers.

To start, let's take a look at the future of return shipping, and understand how it works for some of the companies that have implemented the system.

The Future of Return Shipping

As with many ecommerce changes, the first place to look towards is Amazon. Although the most successful niche stores spend most effort through their own websites, Amazon is a fine-tuned machine that you can take quite a few tips from.

As some of your may know, return shipping is completely free through Amazon (and Zappos,) and you don't have to worry about going out to get your own shipping label. It's all provided right from the comfort of your own computer, as long as you have a printer to print the return label.


That's about as convenient as you can get for your customers. In fact, many consumers are beginning to expect, or seek out, the companies that are putting a focus on free return shipping.

How Customers Are Banding Together to Seek Out Companies With Return Shipping

If you've ever been on Reddit, you know that just about everything is talked about on the site. It's a great place to find deals, fun content and even information that can help you with your online shop.

A great example of how customers are working together to locate return shipping companies is from this Reddit thread.

This is a highly popular conversation in the Female Fashion Advice subreddit, and if you scroll down through the conversation you'll notice lots of people contributing with the companies they buy from who have free return shipping.


In addition, the original poster states that you get huge bonus points if the company provides the shipping label for the order.

What Can We Learn From a Thread Like This?

This is simply one conversation on the internet, and it focuses on a huge market. One could expect that each of the companies listed on the subreddit are going to see an increase in their sales because of the publicity. But think about the hundreds of other blogs, forums and communities online that talk about products and companies in your niche.

Not only that, but consumers talk about this topic offline as well.

What are the elements that really matter to people in this topic?

According to the Reddit page, the main goal is to identify clothing companies that offer free return shipping. It's pretty cut and dry. However, as stated before, the businesses with shipping labels are highlighted, and for good reason.

In addition, several shops only offer free return shipping after a customer buys a certain amount of clothing. Also, some of the comments suggest that it depends on the country you're in.

Therefore, you have a lot to consider when trying to figure out whether or not a free return policy is suitable for you company.

However, it's clear that the world is eventually going to find itself in a situation where free return shipping is a guarantee. So, it's not a bad idea to start considering how to make it feasible for your business.

Developing Your Free Return Shipping Strategy

Think about how much it would cost you to give out free shipping for each of the people who return items. It's most likely going to cut into your margins quite a bit.

Now think of the amount of loyal customers you're going to create because people are more confident when buying from you. In fact, you may start to notice that your customers are less likely to be hesitant towards the end of the checkout area, considering they could always return an item if they don't like it, without the penalties of shipping costs.

That said, it's still wise to go into this strategy slowly. Otherwise, you may end up breaking the bank too soon. Three areas were discussed in the section above, so we recommend taking an incremental approach when rolling out your free return shipping system:

  1. Offer free return shipping to people who spend a certain amount of money.
  2. Only open this up to people who are in your country.
  3. Give out free return labels to make it a quick process for everyone involved.

Every company is going to be different, but a $50 minimum for free return shipping may not stray much from your actual shipping strategy. Not only that, but it generates a little more urgency since people are willing to pull the trigger with so many benefits.

Some online shops may only feel comfortable with free return shipping for in-country customers. This is a wonderful way to test out if it's even plausible for an international roll-out.

The printable shipping labels are one of the most convenient parts of the process, and once you've tested the whole system out, you can consider opening up free return shipping for all customers, regardless of how much has been spent.


The future is coming, and one of the easiest ways to grab customer attention is to have free return shipping, at least for some customers. Conversation will start up with people who are loyal customers, and you can even highlight the wonderful benefits on the homepage of your website.

If you've already started providing free return shipping, drop a line in the comments section below to tell us how it's gone.

Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on eCommerce tools, WordPress, and social media. When not fishing or practicing yoga, he's collecting stamps at national parks (even though that's mainly for children). Check out Joe's portfolio to contact him and view past work.

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