Shopify has proven to be one of the most significant advances in the story of ecommerce.
Since 2006, the ecommerce platform has empowered merchants to design and run their own online store and truly compete with the retail giants.
But there are some challenges even Shopify cannot solve, and one of them is managing returns.
This gap has encouraged several return apps to enter the Shopify App Store.
Ecommerce returns create a variety of pain points for retailers and customers alike.
The first challenge that brands typically experience is in the creation of returns themselves.
Without a returns management tool, customers have to contact your customer service team or fill out a form to request a return.
After a few rounds of back-and-forth communication and manual verification from your team, the customer is instructed to send the item back.
Customer service representatives are overloaded with emails from customers requesting returns or asking about the status of returns.
The process is inefficient and error-prone, and it certainly is not frictionless.
As a result, numerous return apps have emerged on Shopify to alleviate this first and most basic pain of returns.
The primary players include AfterShip, Return Magic, Exchange It, Bold Returns, and Rich Returns.
Most of the Shopify return apps serve primarily as a portal for customers to use to request a return without needing to contact your team. But, they do not address the core operational pains of returns.
Now, let's summarize each returns app, focusing on capabilities, pricing, and shortcomings.
AfterShip Returns Center offers a branded portal to create return labels, and has a limited dashboard to show the status and details of different returns.
The strong suit of AfterShip would be its integrations with multiple platforms such as Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce.
This returns app uses a highly tiered pricing structure. If you use 3 or less returns per month, the app offers free use.
At 20 returns per month, AfterShip charges a $9 monthly fee plus $0.50 per return. This jumps to $29 per month plus $0.50 per return at 100 returns per month, $99 per month plus $0.50 per return at 400, and $199 per month plus $0.50 per return at 1000.
Pricing is custom beyond 1000 returns per month. Several features are excluded from the free and lowest-priced plans.
The problem with this pricing structure is that it essentially penalizes your business for growing, and it is not conducive with the typical peaks and valleys of ecommerce.
In addition, a lack of customer support is evident in AfterShip's reviews on the Shopify app store.
Return Magic boasts fully branded returns portals, and automates the creation of return shipping labels.
The app also offers a basic status dashboard and allows for limited return policies.
Return Magic prices purely based on returns volume, and uses a variable fee that itself depends on your volume.
For example, if you use 10 or less returns per month, you are charged $1.00 for each return. This per return cost drops to $0.90 if you use between 10 and 20 returns per month, and further to $0.85 if you use 20 to 50 more returns per month.
After the 50 mark, you will be charged custom pricing.
The downside of this pricing model is that it doesn't quite scale linearly, so it can be a bit difficult to predict the price you will pay. For example, it would actually be cheaper to use 20 returns per month rather than 19.
While this accounts for a small difference, we can only imagine what the gap would be once you pass the threshold of 50.
And of course, a returns app that stops once the RMA is created provides little support in terms of operational efficiencies.
Exchange It is slightly different from the others.
It is a solid returns app for simplified exchanges, allowing customers to easily exchange items of equal value.
When the returned product arrives back, you can go to the original order within Shopify, and click a button to create a new order with the same credentials and to mark the original order as exchanged.
The pricing is equally simple: $9.99 per month.
While Exchange It is great for even exchanges, it is too specialized to be extensively useful. The app offers no support in terms of refund and store credit, and offers little warranty support.
And if the customer wants to exchange for an item of greater or lesser value, you as the merchant have to manually correct the difference within Shopify.
Exchange It is a reasonable returns app, but for a very limited problem.
Like most of the others, Bold Returns offers a basic returns portal.
It supports custom return rules, and also enables retailers to override their policies to make exceptions for customers.
Bold Returns starts at $19.99 per month. So far, so good. But the shortcomings add up.
Bold Returns can only integrate with UPS, so it does not allow for a lot of flexibility in terms of shipping. This often means slower shipping times and less specialized options.
The returns portal is known to have widespread technical issues, and a lack of customer support is evident in the Shopify reviews.
Similarly, Rich Returns offers branded return portals for a self-service returns experience.
It also supports more advanced return policies, and gives you the option to require uploaded images from customers.
Rich Returns offers 3 pricing plans. The most basic starts at $29 per month, plus $0.50 for each return past 100. Next is $99 per month, plus $0.50 for each return past 400. And the last is $199 per month with 1000 returns included.
At that point, the pricing model becomes custom.
Like many of the Shopify return apps, Rich Returns really only addresses the customer-facing side of returns. It does not ease the operational challenges of returns.
The typical contenders in basic Shopify return apps are AfterShip, Return Magic, Rich Returns, Exchange It, and Bold Returns.
No solution is perfect. Each returns app on Shopify has its strengths, but also its shortcomings. And of course, your business is unique. You need the tool that's best for you.
Rich Returns is among the better of the bunch, due to its wide set of capabilities and lack of functionally impairing downsides.
Exchange It is a reasonable returns app, but only within the scope of simplified exchanges. It does not solve for any of other customer-facing or operational challenges of returns.
In fact, none of the more basic return apps solves the deeper operational challenges of returns. They act as a short-term fix to a systemic problem in ecommerce.
As your business grows, these pains will only become stronger. That's where fully functional return solutions take the stage.
After all, a complex problem needs a sophisticated solution.
So, what is the difference between a returns app and a returns solution?
The return apps we have covered - such as AfterShip, Bold Returns, Return Magic, Exchange It and Rich Returns - act as reasonable fix to a small subset of the challenges created by returns.
Overall, most return apps offer a returns portal, and simply expedite the process of creating a return and issuing a shipping label. They are low cost, temporary fixes to the customer-facing side of returns.
The more robust return solutions, such as Loop, Returnly, and ReturnLogic, are more full-service solutions to returns.
Return solutions allow customers to start returns, but also ease the more deeply rooted business pains of returns that manifest in customer service, operations, accounting, and inventory management.
ReturnLogic is an ecommerce returns solution, focused on solving the many challenges of ecommerce returns. We can provide your Shopify store with a reliable Shopify returns management software, plus the support and expertise you need to compete in the market today.
To get started, schedule a time to speak with a returns specialist.