With its Winter 2023 update, Shopify has released new functionality that enables native customer self service returns. This new functionality allows Shopify store owners to give their customers the option of requesting a return directly from the new Shopify account page.
Shopify merchants previously had to handle returns manually via email or chat, or use a third party returns management app like ReturnZap. There are still many benefits to using a third party returns app, but Shopify's built in functionality may be enough for merchants with basic returns needs.
This article will walk through how to enable this new returns functionality, and the pros and cons of doing so.
Requirements to use Shopify self serve returns
In order to use Shopify's new self service returns functionality, merchants need to do the following:
Use the new customer accounts functionality that Shopify released as part of its Winter '23 edition
Activate customer self-serve returns within Shopify settings
Add a log in link to the new customer account section somewhere in their store or add a link to the new customer account page to your store's navigation bar in the header or footer
Merchants will also need to monitor for incoming return requests via the Shopify admin. All action will be done manually to review and process these returns.
Benefits of Shopify self serve returns
For merchants accustomed to managing all returns manually through email or customer service contacts, the new self serve returns functionality brings several benefits.
Embedded self-service returns portals are more professional and have quickly become the norm in e-commerce
Customers can initiate returns without reaching out to your customer service team directly
Return reasons are standardized and pre-populated, which helps with reporting
Return requests can be reviewed and approved directly within Shopify
Merchants can keep customers updated by using three new Shopify email templates for when returns are requested, approved, or declined
Shopify gives several options to generate and send a return shipping label
Drawbacks and limitations of Shopify self serve returns
However, Shopify's new self-serve returns functionality may not be the right for all merchants. While it does allow customers to initiate return requests directly from their account page, the new returns service leaves almost every other step of the process up to the merchant to handle manually.
There are several downsides to this approach. Merchants may find themselves spending even more time managing returns than before. Many merchants may find that using a dedicated Shopify returns app is easier and offers more flexibility and customization.
Self serve returns require Shopify's new customer accounts page
Self serve returns are only available on Shopify's new customer account page
Customers must log in and authenticate in order to use Shopify's new self serve returns portal. This requires either a direct log in via an existing account or a click through an emailed link, which adds a step
Shopify's new account page does not support liquid customization and cannot currently be styled to match your theme
Third party apps do not currently work with the new account functionality
Return reasons are defined by Shopify and cannot be changed
Shopify has standardized the return reasons available to customers. These are:
Size was too small
Size was too large
Changed my mind
Item not as described
Received the wrong item
Damaged or defective
These reasons cannot currently be customized, and they cannot be removed.
All return requests require manual review and approval
All return requests enter a queue to be manually reviewed and approved.
Customers can submit returns for all orders, with no limitations around time frame
No broad global policies can be set to prevent certain items, like final sale, from being returned
Return shipping labels must be issued manually
There is no way to automate return label generation and allow customers to immediately download a return label
Shop admins must manually issue a return label or allow the customer to arrange their own shipping
Creating custom policies and exceptions is difficult
Customers can submit return requests for all orders by default
Shop admins must implement return policies manually by reviewing and approving/denying each request
This adds work and negatively impacts the customer experience when returns are not approved
How to configure Shopify self serve returns
Despite some limitations, Shopify self-serve returns can be a great option for merchants with generous return policies who do not mind handling each step manually. For example, for merchants transitioning from an entirely email-based returns process the new returns functionality can help streamline operations.
Getting started with Shopify self serve returns is easy, but requires a few changes. The biggest change is that you must be using the new customer account feature.
Here's how to get everything set up:
1) Make sure you have the new customer accounts page enabled by going to Shopify Settings > Checkout and Accounts > Customer Accounts.
Here, you can customize your log in process and make sure you have the new account feature enabled
2) Once the new account experience is enabled, scroll down further on the page to enable customer self-serve returns. This can be done by checking the box labeled "Allow customer self-serve returns" and by saving the page.
3) Now you need to link to this new self-serve returns experience from your shop. This can be done in one of two ways:
Give customers the option to log in and initiate returns directly from their My Account page. This is accomplished by checking the box to "Show login link in the header of online store and at checkout" within the account experience settings page.
Embed the customer account URL somewhere in your shop. This link can be added to your returns policy page, in your shop footer, or anywhere else you'd like to link to it.
4) Finally, edit the return request email notifications within Shopify. Shopify has three templates you can modify:
Return request confirmation - The email sent when a customer first submits a return request through the new account page
Return request approved - The email sent once you approve a return request
Return request declined - The email sent if you choose to deny a return request
Note that if you are in the US and you generate a return label through Shopify, your customer will receive a second email with this return label, which cannot be customized.
That's it - self-serve returns should now be set up via Shopify.
Alternative and advanced returns functionality
Many Shopify merchants will find that they need a little more customization and automation when it comes to managing customer returns.
This is where third party apps like ReturnZap come in. ReturnZap is packed with features that take Shopify self serve returns to the next level.
With ReturnZap, you can:
Allow customers to choose whether to return for a refund, exchange, or store credit
Set custom return windows based on days since order delivery
Require manual review and approval or automatically approve all return requests. Or a combination via custom rules and logic.
Fully customize your returns experience with a brandable returns portal that does not require users to log in
Automatically issue prepaid return labels with support for dozens of return shipping providers worldwide
Require that customers purchase a return label, passing along the cost of return shipping
Require customers to upload photos as part of the return request process
Define custom workflow stages and set custom email notifications with full HTML template control
Create powerful, custom return policies to prevent returns on sale items, offer extended return windows to VIP customers, route returns to different warehouses, and more
Many more features!
ReturnZap offers all this and more at a reasonable cost, with three plan tiers to best fit your needs. ReturnZap offers a 14 day free trial on all plans.