As you're getting sales with your print on demand business, you've probably been notified of a customer's problem. As a result, they may want to return their order.

This can be scary, as your goal should always be to keep your customers happy!

Print on demand suppliers typically don't provide much support for sending returns to them directly; you will then have to handle them on your own.

That's why we'll look at why returns happen and how to solve them.

How to handle returns on a print on demand store in 6 ways

Returns are a hassle for any ecommerce business, especially for POD stores, considering one of the benefits is not having inventory.

So you've run into return problems and need to know how to handle them professionally? Read on!

Here are the six ways of handling returns on a print on demand store in 2024:

  1. Determine what your customer wants
  2. Request proof of the error
  3. Offer a replacement product
  4. Provide a refund
  5. Genuinely care about the issue
  6. Speak to your supplier

Let's start with the first way to deal with returns; determining what your customer wants.

1. Determine what your customer wants

Finding dropshipping stores

You must be a detective who understands the issue to know the best way to solve the matter. You may also find the source of a problem causing you to receive additional return requests!

Reasons one to three, as previously mentioned, are understandable reasons to give a refund, and based on the evidence of the results, you'll be gaining more customers in the long run.

Reasons four and five can be out of your hands and often frustrating. You may want to talk with the customer to reconsider but giving a return, in the end, is still viable.

What's the first thing you should do when you hear a complaint about a customer's order? Request proof of the error first.

2. Request proof of the error

The purpose of the proof of the error is so you know the customer is being honest about their experience. People out there would make up a story to get a free product so ask for proof immediately.

What kind of proof? A photo or video of the damage or misprint of the product would work.

Suppliers also need photo or video evidence to provide a refund so you can use what the customer gives you if necessary.

3. Offer a replacement product

The first and most crucial offer customers like to hear about a return policy is where you'll replace the product with another one if there's an error.

Liked stated before, if the supplier messed up, there's a good chance they'll send another product to your customer for free.

If it's a shipping problem, you still have to pay for the printing and shipping of the product. It's a bummer, and often you have to accept there can be a net loss from some sales.

Product replacement is also cheaper than a refund, even if your supplier doesn't cover the cost. You'll benefit significantly from this choice!

4. Provide a refund

Sometimes the customer doesn't want the product anymore after purchasing it - they want their money back.

The time you allow for a return to happen is up to you. The average time for return policies in ecommerce is about 15 to 30 days, and studices have shown customers expect it to be around that timeframe. (Source)

Your ecommerce platform usually has a way to provide an easy refund. For example, Shopify's button can be found on the orders page.

shopify return how to

Where should the customer send a returned print on demand product?

The best place to tell a customer to send a product is the address you're most comfortable with.

This can be your home address or a P.O. box address, depending on how much you value your privacy.

What should you do with a returned product?

Packages falling on the US

At first, a returned product may seem like a burden, but it has many uses!

Take photos of it for social media content or use them for a giveaway contest to get more views of your store. Maybe there's a chance someone purchases it from your store, and you can send it to them.

There are a lot of creative ways you can use the product! You don't have to put it in the corner, hoping it'll get purchased in the future.

5. Genuinely care about the issue

Now caring about the problem can sound obvious, but many store owners don't know how to show it in a way the customer would like.

Acknowledging their problem and having sympathy for their frustration or fear can help them feel more at ease.

When the customer isn't in a good state of mind, calming them down in a gentle and uplifting tone can do wonders for their satisfaction.

And if you have a customer service team helping you with this, then make sure you train them well on how to treat the customers!

6. Speak to your supplier

When in doubt about an order is always a great idea to talk with your supplier!

Since you are a customer, they will willingly go to ensure you're happy.

Even though there might be times there's nothing they can do for you, it's always worth asking anyway.

Why is correctly handling your returns so important?

The biggest reason you should have a strong return system is that about 83% of customers said they would not shop at a particular retailer after experiencing a lousy return process.

Considering many expect a return policy, you're hurting your chances of getting future sales by not having one.

There are other reasons as well; let's go over them!

Returns encourage loyalty

To build a brand, you need repeat customers. And to achieve that, you need their loyalty.

Loyalty is enormous. You get to spend less on marketing as current customers are already enjoying your designs and willing to share them with everyone they know!

Customer lifecycle stages - Infographic

Returns help to deal with competition

As you may know, trying to persuade your competitor's customers to become your customers is challenging, but one way of differentiating yourself is through your return policy.

As stated before, the statistics show the majority of ecommerce customers want a good return experience to shop there again. This means there are a lot of stores that don't do this or do it poorly; it turns people away.

This is your competitive advantage in ensuring every return is a positive experience for the customer.

Now, we know why it's a huge missed opportunity not to have a good return strategy, but why do people want to return your products in the first place? Let's find out!

The 5 most common reasons for return requests

A big reason you would want a return policy is so you can protect your time and energy in the business. It also makes sure every experience with your store is a positive experience!

Also, not every product type has the same return rate:

Shippo return stats
Shippo ecommerce benchmarks 2020

As shown, apparel is the most returned item from ecommerce stores. You're probably wondering why, and we'll go over that now.

1. Mistakenly buying the wrong version

Sizing for apparel can be frustrating because not every supplier goes by the same size guide. A shirt is a large size from one supplier and can be a size medium elsewhere.

the company store sizing guide
The Company Store sizing guide

Amazon reported that 34% of their returns were due to the wrong size, color, or fit. This is a common problem with apparel.

Suppliers often have sizing charts, but it may be best to check them out yourself and see how well they fit your size.

With your knowledge, you can help your customers ensure they get the right fit more often!

2. Damaged or defective product

Receiving a damaged product somehow is the biggest reason someone would want a return. 80.2% of product returns happen because the item is damaged or broken. (Source)

It makes a lot of sense, considering they didn't get it the way it was supposed to.

Luckily, many suppliers will refund or send a new product if it gets damaged. Not every supplier has the same refund policy, so look through it before assuming anything!

3. The product doesn't match your store's description

Two people searching on Google

Another common problem is when the product isn't what it looks like or does what it should be based on your product description.

This is a standard error when copying multiple designs with other product types. An example is an art print design but a canvas design in the description.

It's essential to constantly double-check if the description is accurate to what the product resembles in real-life.

4. Taking too long for the product to arrive

A man waiting for his order

Every print on demand store owner has a story about shipping taking too long to arrive and the customer worrying if they will ever get their order.

Often, it feels like it's out of your hands, and you're at the mercy of your shipping provider to reach on time, especially when you're shipping from another country.

A survey from Convey found that 87% expect brands to make amends when they miss a delivery date. This means that even though you didn't do anything wrong, you're still on the hook, so be aware!

5. Buyer's remorse

Buyer's remorse happens when someone starts regretting their purchase after some time.

There are multiple reasons this can happen. Maybe they found another design that looks better. Perhaps they made an expensive or impulsive purchase and now realize they don't need it.

A store owner can reduce buyer remorse through a great customer experience, return policies, and education about what they're getting.

Now that you tackled the most significant reasons why people could return your product, let's look at how you can use them if you get them regardless of taking the previously mentioned advice.

How can you be proactive with returns?

Proactive means making the necessary steps that prevent these errors happen less.

Let's look at ways you can do this:

Have a shipping and a return policy

It is a must-have to have a shipping and return policy. They're often found in the main menu, footer, and product description.

Save on crafts return policy
Saveoncraft's return policy

You do not want to hide them because they're one of the biggest reasons people decide to purchase something from you.

More than 60% of visitors read through a return policy before purchasing. So you're most likely losing sales by not having one!

Make sure that any questions your customers might have about shipping and refunds are answered. (For example, you can even explain about the shipping costs)

Use better quality products

You're probably wondering how I make sure my products have good quality.

You test products by shipping them to yourself! It's helpful to judge quality amongst other suppliers to determine if the price is worth it.

Also, think of other ways you can test in a real-world scenario. If it's a product you wouldn't use or know your target market wouldn't, then you know it will disappoint your customers and make them more likely to have return orders.

In short, sell the quality you know you can be proud of!

Use return costs in the initial product pricing

A lot of ecommerce stores factor the pricing of their product to include the potential lost costs that can happen through shipping and returns.

If you're wondering why something is much more expensive than it should be, it's usually a pricing strategy to cover these additional costs.

Therefore, if you're hurting on the return costs, check if you can add more to the product's price to help your business become more profitable.

Be clear in the product descriptions

When you're writing your descriptions, remember to be as accurate as possible and to double-check if the colors, sizing, and materials, are accurate.

When in doubt, order the product yourself and make the necessary decision based on what you find.

Depending on the photo or computer screen, things like color may not be accurate to what it is, for example.


Managing returns can be a difficult and exhausting problem all print on demand store owners go through, but with these tips, you'll now be more confident in what to do.

Remember, your customers look up to you as a guide, so be as helpful and friendly to them as possible, and they'll be more likely to purchase from you again and again!

Returns will never entirely go away, but you can minimize them a lot now!

Want to learn more about returns and shipping?

Ready to move your print on demand store to the next level? Check out the articles below:

Plus, don’t forget to check out our in-depth how to start a print on demand business guide here!

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