The fallacy of the 30 day return window.

Why is every return window 30 days? The answer might surprise you.

30 day return window hero

Look up five return policies, and we can almost guarantee that more than one of them offers a 30-day return window. You may assume it’s because 30 days is the best return window known to man… it's not.

What is the ideal return window length?

Here’s the truth about 30-day return windows: they happen because brands are copying one another. Many brands when they are getting started know that they need to publish a return policy, but don’t know what to include. Since returns are so few and far between for early-stage brands, the policy ends up being a copy of someone else in the space. The next brand up copies this copy and the cycle continues.

While 30 day return windows can work, it may not be the best fit for your brand. That’s why we encourage you to actually go through the process of strategizing the best fit for you, rather than assuming it should be 30 days.

Two alternatives to the 30 day return window

Here at Loop, we see 80% of the returns we process (more than 3,000,000) happen in the first 14 days. You might be saying “great, so I can set it at 14 days instead of 30.” You could based on this information, but it actually presents you with two potential paths.

80% of returns we process at Loop happen in the first 14 days.

Those options are:

1. Offer a 14-day return window and know that 80% of your customers would have returned that quickly anyway.

2. Offer a much more generous window like 3 months, or a year +, the majority of customers will be returning in 14 days anyway.

Since we’re all about putting the customer first when it comes to return policies, we advocate taking the more generous approach. It allows you to use your returns policy in marketing to boost conversions, and research at the University of Texas has actually found that a longer return window makes returns less likely.

However, you can actually take advantage of both options above by offering different return windows for different types of returns.

Take a tiered approach to return windows

When it comes to return windows, taking a tiered approach is key. Our recommendation is to offer a longer return window for exchanges and store credit and a shorter window for refunds.

The idea behind this is simple. If there’s a chance to strengthen the customer relationship, such as when an exchange or store credit is requested, take advantage of it. Offering a more generous window is a way to show your customers that you value their loyalty and want them to have as much time as they need to pick the right product. 

On the other hand, a refund can signal the customer is no longer interested in maintaining a relationship. In that case, it’s ok to offer a shorter return window. It won’t affect your business, and they are likely to request that refund quickly anyway.

With Loop you are able to set your return window for refunds, exchanges, and store credit independently. You can even have each process at different times.

Setting independent return windows

Factors to take into consideration

Regardless of the return window length you end up deciding on, there are a few other important factors to take into consideration: 

  • Industry/products. Take a look at what competitors in your industry are doing. Again, you don’t want to copy their approach. It’s more to get a sense of what the “standard” is so that you can anticipate your customer’s response. For instance, you’ll notice that most footwear brands offer pretty long return windows because it’s a product that’s challenging to fit. So if everyone else is offering a 30-day return policy and you decide to offer 15 days, be prepared for potential customer backlash. 

  • The total returns experience. Your return window needs to be consistent with the rest of your returns experience. If you offer a super flexible return window but charge $18 for shipping on all returns, that’s not a cohesive experience. To create a truly customer-focused return experience, make sure all the moving parts are aligned. 

  • Conversion rate. Finally, if you’re about to update your return window, consider the impact on conversion rates. This is especially true if you are looking to shorten your return window. Make sure you have a conversion benchmark that you can compare the change to. Even if a change reduces your refund rate it could worsen your conversion to the point where you net out worse.

Pick the best return window for your business

Don’t just copy and paste a competitor’s policy when it comes to return windows. Instead, follow our recommendations to figure out the ideal time frame for your brand. It’ll benefit your business and your customers. 

Want to optimize your total returns experience? We would love to show you how. Just get in touch with our team.