Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA)

RMA essentials: a guide to hassle-free product returns and exchanges for businesses and customers alike.

When was the last time when one of your customers raised a request for a return?

Really sure that it could be as early as 10 minutes back because returns are a common part of the daily life of an e-commerce brand.

But every time you see a return request raised, it becomes an extra effort for your team, both in terms of operational overhead and an extra associated cost point of view leading to a process known as Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA).

While brands make every effort to ensure customer satisfaction via various things such as timely delivery, and providing high-quality products, there are instances when customers may desire to return a product.

But how do you as a brand make sure the return process for the customer is seamless, and also make the tracking for this return easy at your end?

Well, the answer is a Return Merchandise Authorisation and a Return Management Software.

In this blog, we’ll understand more about Return Management Authorisation (RMA).
Let’s get into the very basics of an RMA first.

Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA)

What is Return Merchandise Authorisation?

A Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) is a system that helps brands enable product returns

An RMA is an authorisation number issued by a mail-order or e-commerce vendor, enabling customers to return a product.

Various companies implement return policies that vary. Some businesses exclusively accept returns for defective items, while others, particularly in the case of software, only permit returns for unopened products.

The customer may receive either a refund or store credit, based on the vendor's return guidelines. 

In cases where a product falls outside the specified return period or warranty coverage, the return request may be declined.

return merchandise authorisation
What is a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA)?

Why is an RMA system important?

An RMA system has advantages across e-commerce businesses and their customers. 

For D2C brands, it helps them understand the areas for product improvements

For instance, it can update the QA team with some of the issues that arise with certain tech devices like defective components or a software malfunction, helping the team do a search for alternative suppliers. 

Similarly, if a specific clothing item is generally returned by customers, the team can work on rectifying the product issues - fitting issues, shrinking, not according to the sizing chart, or something else.

By identifying areas in need of improvement, and taking appropriate action, these brands can then reduce their return rates and boost revenue

Furthermore, an RMA system streamlines the return process, reducing inefficiencies that can otherwise consume significant time and money.

From the customer's perspective, an RMA system provides peace of mind and enhances the overall shopping experience. Knowing they can return an item if it doesn't meet their expectations increases their likelihood of making purchases from your store. 

In contrast, the absence of an RMA system may make them think twice before buying the product and might lead them to competitors offering this convenience.

With all these capabilities, it’s not wrong for us to say that an RMA system, 

  1. Enables businesses to build strong customer relationships
  2. Helps them foster loyalty
  3. Better word-of-mouth marketing
  4. Positive product reviews

And ultimately a better sales pipeline.

return merchandise authorisation
What can a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) do?

How does a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) work?

While each company has its own unique returning system, let’s understand the most basic and common steps that build up the base of an RMA below.

Step 1: Customer initiates an RMA request on the brand’s platform

The RMA process is started whenever a customer expresses dissatisfaction with a product. 

The first step is for the customer to provide a reason for their return request. Brands ideally, have predefined reasons such as:

  1. Received a broken item
  2. Wrong colour
  3. Poor fit
  4. Wrong item delivered

Or something else. It’s important to understand here that a return request doesn’t always mean a refund. It also means an exchange.

In this case, if a wrong item is delivered or a wrong size is delivered, the brand might set the system to show only ‘exchange the product’ as the return option to customers.

Unfortunately, some online stores unintentionally make it difficult for customers to initiate the return by reaching out to them via phone or email, resulting in inefficiencies — These drawbacks can be eliminated with an automated process that allows customers to complete an RMA form online.

Regardless of the method used to initiate a return, this simplifies the selection process for the customer, but they should also have the option to provide additional text to offer a more detailed explanation of their return request. 

It's essential for customers to specify their preferred course of action, whether it's a refund, repair, or replacement.

Step 2: The brand approves the RMA request

Not all requests for a return are approved.

While some e-commerce businesses accept all return requests, many of them also have a predefined set of rules that must be met before approving the return request.

This approval of return requests can be done manually or automatically with the help of a Return Management Software offered by Pragma that can help E-commerce businesses in India achieve a 15-20% increase in sales by offering a hassle-free returns process.

Return management system Pragma

Once approved, the store lets the customer know the instructions on how to return the product.

D2C brands generally include a free shipping label with a unique RMA number. 

This is the step where the brand informs the customer about their RMA number and instructs them to include the label on the packing slip, even if it's already printed on the provided shipping label. 

By doing this step, easy matching of the returned item with the customer's account is then tracked properly.

Step 3: Customer’s product is received in the Store Receives 

Upon the delivery of the customer's package, it becomes the store's responsibility to confirm that the item has been received. 

A robust RMA system should be capable of linking the received item with the provided RMA number. 

In the case of the customer mistakenly sending the wrong item, the store can then inform the customer and close the RMA.

Step 4: The store inspects the customer’s returned item

Finally, the store can now begin its investigation to examine the returned product. Brands usually have a checklist of items to be examined like:

  1. Is the product used or not
  2. Does it match the reason stated by the customer for the return
  3. Some identification patterns associated with specific items 
  4. Identifying items with serial numbers for electronics/software, etc.

These checks help the QA team to pass the feedback internally and work on the product to make sure returns for similar reasons don’t happen next time.

Step 5: Store resolves the Matter with the customer

The process is now completed.

It’s the time that the store issues a refund or replacement for the defective product.

The most important aspect here is to make sure that the customer is informed about the timeliness of the return to avoid them following up or registering complaints from them again on similar matters.

An automated system in place can help perform these things without human intervention. This way your team can focus on more important tasks while the customer is also in the loop every time with timely updates.

return merchandise authorisation
Store resolves the Matter with the customer

Why is it important to establish a solid RMA system?

Determining whether you need a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) system depends on the nature and scale of your business. But there are some of the benefits that can help a D2C brand in purchasing an RMA in their return cycle:

1. Helps D2C brands in streamlining the return process

An RMA system simplifies and enhances the return process. While it automates RMA requests, it even makes it convenient for customers to initiate returns and for brands to approve or decline them based on predefined criteria.

2. Efficiently handles item routing and item disposition

It determines the most appropriate routing and disposition of returned items. An RMA can automatically direct items to specific destinations, such as restocking inventory, routing them to quality control departments, or managing the disposal of damaged goods. 

This ensures that returned items are quickly and effectively managed.

3. Automate refund procedures without manual intervention

In the above section, we talked about how it’s important for D2C businesses to quickly process refunds and how it impacts customer satisfaction. 

Hence RMA solutions often incorporate features for automating the refund process, guaranteeing that customers receive their refunds promptly.

4. Informs Data-Driven Decision-Making

RMA systems offer valuable insights into the reasons behind returns and overall return patterns. 

This helps the team work on the product internally and provide a better product that is built on customer feedback. This empowers businesses to build strategies that can be fed into their marketing and sales funnel.

return merchandise authorisation
Why do you need a Return Merchandise Authorisation?

Seven main types of Return Merchandise Authorisations

Return Merchandise Authorisations (RMAs) typically vary depending on the company and industry, but here are seven common types:

  • Refund: A refund RMA is issued when a customer returns a product and requests reimbursement of the purchase price. This could be due to various reasons such as dissatisfaction with the product, receiving a defective item, or simply changing their mind. The company typically refunds the customer's payment through the original payment method used for the purchase.
  • Store Credit: Instead of a refund, some companies offer store credit as an alternative option for returned merchandise. With a store credit RMA, the customer receives a credit or voucher that can be used towards future purchases from the same retailer. This allows the company to retain the value of the returned item while providing flexibility to the customer.
  • Exchange: An exchange RMA is initiated when a customer wishes to return a product in exchange for a different item of equal or lesser value. This could be due to reasons such as receiving the wrong size or color, or simply preferring a different product. The customer typically returns the original item and receives the replacement product without additional charges, provided the exchange meets the company's exchange policy criteria.
  • Warranty: Warranty RMAs are specifically for products that are within the warranty period and have developed defects or malfunctions. Customers can request an RMA to return the faulty product for repair, replacement, or refund, depending on the terms of the warranty. The company typically covers the cost of repair or replacement for warranty-related issues.
  • Third-Party Warranty: Some products come with warranties provided by third-party companies or manufacturers. In such cases, customers may need to initiate an RMA with the third-party warranty provider rather than the retailer or original manufacturer. The process and terms of the third-party warranty RMA may differ from those of the retailer's own warranty.
  • No-Shipping: A no-shipping RMA may be issued in situations where the return process does not involve shipping the product back to the company. For example, if the customer purchased a digital product or service, or if the return is being handled through a physical store location, there may be no need to ship the item. Instead, the return is processed locally or electronically.
  • Reject: A reject RMA is issued when the company rejects the customer's request for a return or refund, usually due to non-compliance with the company's return policy or other specific reasons. This could include returning an item beyond the allowed return window, returning a non-returnable item, or attempting to return a product that does not meet the company's return criteria.

Pragma streamlines the RMA process

With this, we’re at the end of this comprehensive guide that will help you with everything you’ll ever need to build the best Return Merchandise Authorisation for your brand.

An RMA is helpful for D2C brands, it becomes important for you to uphold your customer’s expectations, minimise return orders, and even flag inappropriate users or return queries that might be fraudulent in nature. 

But trust us, managing this procedure manually becomes challenging as your platform grows and you start receiving hundreds of return requests daily.

Which is why you need a platform that can take care of the analysis of user behaviour and automatically customise the return process as well - Enters Pragma, analysing millions of return orders, right from cosmetic brands to apparel across 450+ D2C brands in India.

It’s time for you to try out Pragma’s Fully Automated Return Management System first hand!

get started with pragma's RMS today


  1. What is Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA), and why do I need it for my D2C brand?

Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) is essential for our D2C brand as it ensures streamlined and efficient handling of returns. It allows us to maintain control over the return process, verify the condition of returned items, and provide excellent customer service.

  1. How can customers request a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA) for returns?

Customers can easily request an RMA through our website's dedicated returns portal or by contacting our customer support team directly. They'll need to provide order details, reasons for return, and any relevant information to initiate the process.

  1. What information should customers provide when requesting an RMA for returns?

To ensure a smooth RMA process, customers should provide order numbers, product details, reasons for return, and any relevant images or documentation. This enables us to quickly assess the return request and provide the necessary assistance.

  1. How long does it take to process Return Merchandise Authorissation (RMA) requests for returns?

We aim to process RMA requests promptly to minimise inconvenience for our customers. Typically, customers can expect RMA approvals within 1-2 business days. Once approved, they'll receive instructions on returning the merchandise.

  1. Can customers return items without obtaining a Return Merchandise Authorisation (RMA)?

No, customers are to obtain an RMA before returning any merchandise. This ensures that returns are properly documented and processed according to our policies. Attempting to return items without an RMA may result in delays or rejection of the return.

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