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Guide to Crafting a Exchange/Return Policy (+Free Template)

Here’s everything you need to know to write your e-commerce exchange policy.

Retailers are feeling the strain from "bracketing," where customers are opting for at-home try-on instead of using fitting rooms and buying multiple sizes online with the intention of returning a bulk of them.

The lack of a proper system for handling returns, including an unambiguous return policy, can consume substantial amounts of time, energy, and money. This includes prolonged periods of customer service emails and a significant increase in the cost of shipping replacement products, particularly following holiday periods.

Having a concise and clear exchange policy is vital for any e-commerce business. After all, a well-written exchange policy can help you reduce the number of returns you encounter and boost customer satisfaction. To learn more about why an e-commerce exchange policy is essential and how you can write one yourself, continue reading below.

Why Exchanges are often better than returns?

  • Retaining customer loyalty: When customers are allowed to exchange a product, the brand values their satisfaction and is willing to work with them to resolve any issues. This can help retain customer loyalty and increase brand credibility.

  • Minimizes financial loss: Returns often result in a complete loss of revenue for the brand, as the customer is entitled to a full refund of the original purchase price. With an exchange, the brand can still retain some of the customer's business, as they may choose to purchase a different product.

  • Reduces waste: Returns often result in surplus stock that the brand must dispose of or sell at a discount, leading to financial loss and increased waste. Exchanges can help reduce this waste as the product being returned may still be able to be sold to another customer.

  • Improves product life cycle management: By tracking the exchange patterns, brands can gather valuable data on customer preferences, product issues, and market trends. This information can be used to improve the design and quality of future products, leading to improved product life cycle management.

  • Reduced Customer Support Requests. An exchange policy can also cut the number of customer support requests you receive. This is because a good exchange policy already provides clear answers to common questions and concerns.

  • Increased Sales. By building trust and improving the customer experience, your exchange policy can help boost sales and increase revenue for your business. Customers are more likely to buy from stores when they feel confident they'll go through a smooth exchange process if they need to return or exchange.

What Should You Include in Your Policy?

1. Scope

One of the first things to mention when you write your exchange policy is the scope of the policy. In other words, you will want to define which products are eligible for exchange. Conversely, you may find it more convenient to list which products are excluded from exchanges. For example, if you’re a clothing brand, for hygienic purposes, items for innerwear (underwear, swimwear), socks, baby products, shoes, and other accessories are usually not allowed to return or exchange.

2. Exchange Process

The next thing you should include in your exchange policy is the exchange process itself. Specify the steps customers need to take in order to start the exchange process.

Free People Return and Exchange Process

3. Timeframe

Another critical element of a good e-commerce exchange policy is the timeframe for exchanges. This may involve you stating a specific number of days after receipt of the product, within which customers can initiate an exchange.

The North Face offers 60 days return/exchange period

4. Return Shipping Policy

Another section you'll want to include in your exchange policy is the return shipping policy. This section will outline the cost and responsibility of return shipping. Specifically, it should consist of who pays for return shipping and who's responsible for the safe return of the product.

For example, you may specify that you offer free return shipping for exchanges or provide a prepaid shipping label to make the process easier for your customers.

5. Information About Refunds

The last component of any excellent e-commerce exchange policy is information about refunds. You’ll want to describe the process for obtaining a refund if an exchange isn’t possible. You’ll also want to lay out the timeframe within which refunds will be issued.

For example, you may urge customers to email customer service or use a specific online form to initiate a refund.

By including some or all – you can mix and match sections as needed – of these components in your e-commerce exchange policy, you can develop a clear and comprehensive policy that benefits your business and your customers.

What Do Exchange Policies Look Like?

If you're still having difficulty writing your exchange policy, consider starting with the templates below. Note that these templates are meant to serve as guides and may not have all the exchange policy components we listed above.

It’s up to you to customize these templates and remove or add information as you see fit.

Template 1

Welcome to [Your Company Name]'s Exchange Policy!

We want to ensure you're completely satisfied with your purchase, so we offer an exchange on [list products eligible for exchange]. Here's how it works:

1. Ensure you purchased the product no longer than [time frame, e.g., seven days] ago.

2. Please fill out the exchange sheet on our website or email us at [customer support email] to start the process.

3. Ship the product back to our warehouse at [address]. Return shipping is the responsibility of the customer.

Once we receive the product, we'll process your exchange, send you a brand-new product, or issue you a refund if you prefer.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at [customer support email].

Template 2

At [Your Company Name], we believe in happy customers. That's why we offer an exchange on all [list products that are eligible]. Here's how it works:

1. Contact us via [list down your preferred communication channels] within [time frame, e.g., 14 days of purchase] to start the exchange.

2. We'll provide you with a prepaid shipping label to ship the product back to us.

3. Once we receive the product, we'll process your exchange and send you a new product or issue store credit if that option works better for you.

Please note that [list products that are not eligible for exchange] are not eligible for exchange.

For international and cross-border returns, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at [customer support email] for more information.

Examples of Brands With Effective Policies


Zappos is a brand that's known for its exceptional customer support. In terms of exchanges, Zappos has a straightforward policy that enables customers to return items within one year of purchase.


Patagonia's exchange policy allows buyers to return or exchange products for any reason within a reasonable timeframe. Patagonia also offers its Worn Wear program. This program allows customers to trade in their old Patagonia products for discounts on new items.

Patagonia provides easy exchanges

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is another company with a good exchange policy. Their policy is straightforward and simple and allows customers to exchange their glasses within one month of receipt for any reason. They even go as far as to provide a prepaid shipping label for returns.

Final Thoughts

To recap, having a concise and clear exchange policy is vital for building trust with your customers and reducing the number of returns you must process.

When crafting your policy, don’t forget to define the scope, specify the exchange process, outline the timeframe, explain your return shipping policy, and include information about refunds. Use the templates we’ve provided as a guide and tailor them to fit your needs.

Now that you better understand how to write effective e-commerce exchange policies, consider streamlining and optimizing your returns process with the help of Return Helper. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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