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Posted by Sureswipe on 3 May 2019

Whether a customer has changed their mind, bought the incorrect size or item, or they found it cheaper elsewhere, you can take the pain out of returns by offering meaningful exchanges instead.

Returns are a big part of retail, so it’s important that you and your staff are able to handle them – from store policies, right through to staff training. Leverage each return request as an opportunity to create the best experience for customers and they’ll never leave your shop empty-handed again.


Consumer product returns account for nearly 8% of all retail sales and can even hit 10% during the winter holiday season, says Shopify. “Customers return items for a whole myriad of reasons – plenty of which have nothing to do with product quality.” This is why it’s important to take every opportunity to turn a return into an exchange.

5 Ways you can encourage exchanges instead of returns

When customers come to your store to return items, you’ve lost a sale, reversing the time, effort and money that went into closing the initial sale. But, savvy retailers strive to convert returns into new chances and loyal customers. Here’s how you can too:


  1. Ask them why they are returning the item

    Before processing a return, it’s important to ensure you have the best chance of creating a positive experience for the customer. Empathy is important when dealing with a customer who just wants their money back because they’re dissatisfied with their purchase, whatever the reason.

    To understand their needs, ask why they are returning the item instead of simply asking what’s wrong with the product. These details enable your staff to make the best recommendations for an exchange, so it’s important to really understand the motivation behind the return.

  2. Make alternative suggestions

    Once you understand the reason behind the return, suggest alternative products or solutions for the customer. Perhaps they would like a different style, colour or size of the same item, or there might be a better product on offer.

    “If so, make those suggestions,” says Matthew Hudson, Chief Experience Officer for Work Wear Safety Shoes and former president of Rick Segel & Associates. “Be sure to mention the benefits to the customer. This isn’t just a return; it’s another opportunity to sell.”

  3. Create an experience that customers want to return for

    Sometimes a return cannot be exchanged, and that’s okay. Just because the customer wants their money back, it doesn’t mean they won’t buy from you again. To guarantee they remain loyal to your store, even after you’ve tried to make sure they don’t leave your store empty-handed, ensure the return experience is as pleasant as possible.  

    “So, if all else fails, give them a refund with a genuine smile – and thank them for their time,” advises Hudson. “In my stores, we made the return as much fun as the sale. We wanted the last thought the customer had of us to be ‘I want to come back again’- which is the same thought we want them to think when they buy.”

  4. Review your returns policy

    Inflexible return policies could cost you sales. A convenient return policy is important to customers, according to small business expert and co-founder of Cypress Technologies, Susan Ward. “A store's return policy is part of customers’ buying decisions and customers may decide to shop elsewhere if yours doesn’t measure up,” she says.

    88% of customers review return policies, and 66% do so before purchasing,” reports UPS.
    Having a clear return policy that’s easy to understand helps customers know beforehand which items can or cannot be returned and also the time-frame in which you will accept returns.

    “It’s perfectly fine to not accept returns for all the items you sell — you just need to be upfront and clear about the limits,” Mikhail Ledvich, Head of Marketing at Shippo.

  5. Foster loyalty with seamless service

    About 95% of customers will likely buy again after experiencing a ‘positive return’. Zappos is a great example — they focus on providing customers with a seamless returns process, and that translates into a 75% repeat customer rate.

    Returns are inevitable, can be costly and are a challenge for both you as the store owner as well as your customers, who must come back to your store because they aren’t satisfied with their purchase. Turn a negative experience into a positive one by training staff to process returns as efficiently as possible – and with a smile. It will be worth the effort.

    According to recent research from Medallia, a great product return experience encourages customers to spend more money at your store.
    A great experience can even lead to fewer item returns down the line.

    Customer returns and exchanges handled correctly can be a great opportunity for your business to create a meaningful and simple exchange experience with customers.

    “Take a second look at how you’re handling returns right now,” advises Ledvich. “Making these operational adjustments can drastically help you improve sales and increase margins.”


Talk to Sureswipe about a cost-effective Loyalty programme. We can assist in customer retention through a platform that helps you communicate directly with customers through email and SMS. Call 0860 200 111 or fill in your details here and we’ll call you.


Topics: retail, strategy, tips, Growing Your Retail Business