Many Happy Returns Mean Many Happy Returning Customers
Let’s say two holiday sweaters arrive at your doorstep, just in time for party season.
The first sweater, with the eight tiny reindeer, fits perfectly. But the second, with a snowman, makes you look … abominable.
Here’s the good news: Returning an ugly sweater takes as little time as printing a return label from an email provided by an e-tailer and placing that return label on the original package. Better yet, your reimbursement hits your credit card in no time.
Happy customer! Happy merchant! Happy holidays! And remember, any path to online customer loyalty today includes how good your returns experience.
Customized Options Matter
With the blinding rush of holiday shipping just ahead, online merchants have a golden opportunity to set themselves apart with a smooth and simple returns policy.
Unfortunately, returns are a fact of the online merchant’s world. And those merchants that provide a "friction-free" returns experience can be rewarded by a customer’s positive word-of-mouth, repeat purchases and escalated sense of engagement.
In the return process, flexible return options, transparency and proactive communications are important to customers. These factors dramatically shape their experiences and their opinions. Return options that are as rich and customized as possible open a path to loyalty.
Fact vs. Friction
What, exactly, is a friction-free returns policy?
Let’s say an e-tailer requires a customer to call in and get an authorization before a return. That’s friction. Or a merchant makes the customer pay for their own return. More friction. Or the merchant delays refunds until returns reach a collection point … and then charges stocking fees. That’s friction too.
By contrast, standout online merchants take away the hurdles for returns. Their attitude? If you’re not satisfied, I’m not satisfied.
Who’s going to stay with you? Who’s going to shop with you again?
Of course, it’s the customer who has the really great returns experience.
Must-Have Returns Options
Returns will surge again this holiday season, especially in peak shipping days just before and just after Christmas.
Retailers that want to shine will do one of two things: write a hopeful letter to Santa, or get their returns process in top shape using a trusted logistics provider to smooth out any kinks.
The most successful online retailers will offer options to enhance their customers’ returns experiences. Here are ways how:
- An electronic return label: The merchant emails a return label to the customer. Then the customer simply opens the email, clicks the link, prints an image of the return label, sticks it on a package, and drops it off at a UPS Access Point location. Fast and simple.
- A robust returns platform: Registering for UPS Returns Manager allows e-tailers to put 100 percent of outbound shipments on an account number pre-authorized — in advance — for returns (less friction). Their customer can print a return label, email a return label to another location to be printed, or use a mobile code to print a label using a cell phone … a label-less return!
- Sustainability features: Today, sustainability is key for most organizations. Those in the C-suite are seeking fast, dependable ways to move returns back through the logistics chain for dismantling, disposal, repair or repurposing. This circular economy is rapidly becoming a fundamental aspect of shipping philosophy for merchants in Europe, and visionary online retailers worldwide are frequently partnering with carriers able to bring goods home to a second life. The UPS Returns portfolio is a key component for retailers that execute sustainability programs (again, less friction).
The Bottom Line?
For online customers today, the first actual look at their purchase comes when they open the delivered package. And at that moment of truth, if what’s inside isn’t perfect, the customer feels justified in returning it — and doesn’t want to jump through hoops to do so.
The more e-commerce grows, the more returns policy and customer process matters. Customers will make many happy returns to retailers that offer a simple, friction-free return experience.
Jim Brill is corporate marketing manager of the UPS Ground and Return Services portfolios.
Jim Brill is Corporate Marketing Manager of Ground and Return Services portfolios at UPS, a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight, facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business.