Return to Sender: 3 Ways to Get Returns Right
It’s no surprise in the age of Amazon.com that shipping plays a major factor in purchase decisions. With 66 percent of online shoppers saying they look at a brand’s return policy before pulling out their wallet, nailing the returns process is now make or break for retailers. Here are three key factors to consider to ensure the best possible return policy is in place — for both the retailer and the customer.
1. Be transparent.
Transparency is key when it comes to building trust with customers. With a majority of customers reviewing return policies before purchasing, it’s imperative that the policy itself is easy to read and clearly details what the brand offers and what it doesn't. Being transparent and fully honoring return policies not only increases conversion rates, but also increases brand loyalty and customer retention. Additionally, making it easier for customers to locate return policies by including a link in multiple places, such as on the homepage and in purchase confirmation emails, not only shows customers that they can trust the brand has their best interest in mind, but also speeds time-to-purchase. What’s more, nearly 70 percent of shoppers won’t purchase from an online merchant if they believe returning a product would be a hassle. Ensuring there are no loopholes in your return policy as well as considering things such as time frame (i.e., how long customers have to return a certain item) and eligibility (when customers are allowed to return a certain item) can set retailers apart from the competition and ultimately boost sales.
2. Offer self-service support.
Returns can be costly and time consuming, but are also the cornerstone of e-commerce. Instead of focusing on combating returns, embrace them as an opportunity to learn, improve and offer a second-to-none experience for your customers. Negative return experiences can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in lost future sales. Shifting to a self-service return portal can drastically reduce the hassle and time commitment of returns for both the customer and retailer. With self-service portals, brands can maintain full control over what can be returned and how long the item could be returned. Not only are branded, self-service return portals more efficient for merchants, but ShipStation found that consumers were 29 percent more likely to keep shopping with merchants that had implemented this type of software vs. merchants who had not. Ultimately, offering self-service returns saves time for both the customer and retailer, ensures a consistent return policy, and decreases the number of return labels merchants have to void as unused.
3. Connect with the carrier.
Low shipping costs are crucial for e-commerce businesses. While retailers focus on offering the most cost-effective shipping services, what impact do returns have on the retailer? While cheaper is better from a seller perspective, cheaper means slower, and maybe even no tracking. And you as a seller may be waiting on a returned product so you can process a refund that the customer is waiting on. The longer this process is, the worse it is for everyone. Return shipping may detract from profits, but they can positively impact your bottom line. Return shipping helps increase your shipping volume, which helps you to negotiate better rates with carriers. Retailers should leverage automated returns portals, as they automatically apply the best possible rate according to criteria like size and weight. Fully enabling the afore mentioned saves time and money.
Returns are unavoidable. If you don’t offer them, it’s likely that customers will shop elsewhere. Having a cost-effective plan in place for offering returns as well as better automation strategies for processing them will end up driving more customers to your site and purchasing from you more frequently.
John Kinny is general manager of ShipStation, shipping software that's designed to save retailers time and money on e-commerce order fulfillment.
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