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Cross Border Returns

With more and more ecommerce retailers expanding into global markets, largely due to the development of cross-border technologies, it’s never been more important that the customer delivery ecosystem and the management of returns is in place. According to figures at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned, that’s compared to 8.89% in brick-and-mortar stores.

Any business which sells online is inevitably going to get returns. Yes, selling internationally is a way to fuel growth and sales, but international returns should be taken into consideration and is often a challenge for many ecommerce retailers.

However thanks to better cross-border technologies the process is becoming that bit easier, with governments and postal operators working together to make cross-border ecommerce delivery and returns better.


Tips for Handling Cross-Border Returns

In order to provide a positive experience for your costumes it’s important you plan to make sure that your returns process is up to scratch. Below are our tips for cross-border returns: 

Review your processes

In order to  handle international returns more seamlessly it’s important you improve your processes. Challenges such as language barriers, cultural differences and varying attitudes can all vary depending on a country. 

So make sure your pick, pack and check processes are reviewed. In order to achieve 0% picking errors you should be looking to improve your procedures, and also consider labelling, warehousing issues, barcode scanning and staff training. It might also be worthwhile implementing an inventory management software which allows you to bulk print shipping labels, invoices, picking lists and packing slips.

Make sure your returns policy is accessible and clear 

Stats show that 67% of customers check out the returns policy first, before deciding who to buy from. Therefore make sure you check your returns policy and instructions thoroughly. It’s more likely that customers will follow through with an international purchase if you make it a more positive and clear experience should they want to return an item before they buy. Remember to list imperative information, such as:

  • What can be returned and in what condition

  • How long they have to return an item

  • Who pays for return shipping

  • How quickly returns are processed

  • How money is refunded — card, store credit

Being completely up-front and transparent about your policies can help prevent confusion and frustration for your international customers and will help your case if you have to contest a chargeback.

Streamline your returns processes

This could be simply be down to:

  • Improving how quickly you respond to returns requests

  • Redefining the way in which you deal with potential problem emails and resolve issues before they result in a return

If you include a return form on your invoice to record important information, such as the reason for return it will help to speed up the handling of the return once the item is received. Ideally you should deal with returns as a priority - as  though they are a new order. As mentioned above the better the experience for a customer, even through the returns process, the more likely they are to purchase from you again. 

There are various ways to streamline your returns process: 

  • Provide a pre-paid label to your customers

If you can, this is a great way to build trust with your customer  and enhance their overall experience with you. It also means you can track a return, therefore avoiding any in-transit losses. However it can be costly and usually involves a contract with a courier or postal service in each country.

  • Write them off and let the customer keep them

You do always have a choice of writing the return off and allowing your unhappy customer to keep the item. However this may not be a viable option for high value goods and is definitely not good for your bottom line. 

  • Let the customer post the items back and wait for their postage refund

International returns can take several days or more to arrive back to your business and it isn’t particularly  popular with customers. You also don’t have any control over the return postage costs. 

  • Engage the services of a returns solution provider

Using the services of a returns solution provider can be invaluable when selling internationally, as it can halve the cost of letting customers post the item back themselves via their own means. When the items are received vital information is sent to the retailer on the same day, who can then process the refund or exchange as normal. The items are then stored until ready for a  cost-effective shipment back to the seller. 

International selling makes returns challenging. The preferred option is for customers to be able to return products locally. If customers are required to return the products to the merchant, establish rules for whom will pay the international shipping. Lastly, since it can take two weeks or more to deliver products to international customers, the return policy should provide time for delivery and for customers to evaluate their products.


When it comes to expanding your business internationally, dealing with international product returns can be difficult to work out. However, by improving and reviewing your returns process, you can enjoy the same international growth as thousands of other online retail businesses. 

More Information

Read Next Chapter: International Duties And Taxes

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Read Next Chapter: International Duties And Taxes

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