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What are Self-Service Returns?

As ecommerce becomes more sophisticated, convenience is king. The returns process influences a customer’s decision to buy, as well as their perception of your brand. While returns can be a hassle for customers and businesses alike, there are ways to make the process easier. Self-service returns improve the returns process by giving you and your customers more convenience and efficiency. 

Defined: Self-Service Returns

A self-service returns portal allows customers to look up and process their return without any assistance or involvement from the company. A customer will enter their order number or email, select the item(s) they wish to return, and then create a return shipping label to print at home. Customers can also select their reason for the return, which can provide useful insight into customer expectations or any concerning trends. 

Why Offer Self-Service Returns?

According to a study conducted by ShipStation, 72% of shoppers say return policies have a direct impact on their purchase decisions. They want these returns policies to be easy, convenient, and quick. In fact, 95% of consumers are less likely to shop with a business again after a poor returns experience. Offering self-service returns is an easy way for your business to improve the customer experience and increase customer retention, even after a return. 

1. Ease for you and your customers. 

A self-service returns process takes out the work for you and your customers. Your team no longer needs to manually process return requests or labels. Customers are able to process their return whenever is most convenient for them, without the hassle of trying to reach a representative over the phone or email. Make sure your window for returns is long enough for customers to make a decision, and state your returns window clearly in your returns policy, as well as your shipping confirmation email. ShipStation found customers expect an average returns window of 32 days. 

2. Better insight—better customer experience.  

A space for customers to express why they made a return is important information for your company to have. Keeping track of these reasons can help you locate any trends that may need addressing. These could include things like packing errors or inefficiencies, product malfunctions, or inconsistent product descriptions that need to be improved. Catching these issues quickly through self-service returns is a great, free source of customer research. Additionally, if a customer reports a particularly serious or negative reason for a return, this can be addressed personally by your team. Showing concern and empathy for a customer’s poor experience can help you build better brand trust and loyalty. 

3. Save on costs and resources.  

Without the need for employees to process returns themselves, your business can save significantly on support costs. Self-service returns also make pre-printed return shipping labels unnecessary to include in orders. This will eliminate unnecessary waste, as well as save on time and costs associated with printing labels. 


Customers understand that returns are unavoidable when shopping online—make sure a [clumsy returns process doesn’t deter](/articles/ecommerce/returns) them from shopping with you in the future. Whatever your returns policy is, see that it is clearly stated and easy to find on your website. Include it on any relevant landing pages, such as the checkout and FAQ pages. Clear expectations and policies for your shipping and returns processes will set your customers up for success. When your self-service returns portal is set up, make it clear and easy for customers to find by including the link in the order confirmation email and returns section of your website. 

Give optionality back to your customers and time back to your team with self-service returns. A solution like ShipStation’s branded returns portal will help you quickly get started on processing returns more efficiently.

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