While e-Commerce sales skyrocket, online returns are growing at an even faster rate. When it comes to online shopping, consumers are three times more likely to return an item they purchased online versus in-store. In fact, 30% of consumers say they purchase items online with the intent of returning and 25% of those same customers wouldn’t make a purchase if they had to pay for the cost of returns.
While we're all familiar with the saying “the customer is always right," this can be a hard mantra to live when dealing with returns. In order for retailers to maintain a loyal customer base without negatively impacting their bottom line, retailers should become more strategic with returns policies and processes. Here are a few ways to give yourself a competitive advantage and prevent returns from becoming a pain point at your company:
Make Your Policies Clear
Making your returns policy easy to understand is the first step in creating a process that works. Your returns policy should detail products eligible for returns, time frame for returns, and product condition requirements. Keep it simple.
Don’t forget to make your policy easy to find on your web site. Consider giving returns and exchange information a dedicated web page.
Get Creative With Your Policies
Shoppers who purchase with the intent of returning are commonplace. Retailers should identify solutions that motivate individuals away from this shopping practice without negatively impacting customer experiences.
One option to give shoppers more control over returns is to offer a discount if they opt out of free returns during the purchasing process. Of course, shoppers can still return an item, but you won’t pay for return shipping or restocking the item.
This tactic empowers shoppers to make a decision about returning a product right off the bat, and rewards shoppers with a discount if they choose to opt out of returns.
Make The Process Easy
If the customer does want to return a purchase, make the process hassle-free. Include step-by-step instructions in the package or include them on the packing slip.
Another way to make the returns process easy is to provide your customers with return labels and/or packaging. This can be done by either including them in the original order or emailing a printable PDF copy when the shipment tracking information is sent out. Simplifying the process means that both you and your customers can get their products returned quickly and without any confusion.
Sync With Customer Service
You should also equip your call center agents with the proper knowledge and tools to handle customers who are looking to return an item. Train your agents to get to the bottom of why a customer wants to make a return and then, if appropriate, help them to find an alternative to the return, such as exchanging the product for a different size, color or style. Call center agents should feel empowered to help customers through their shopping experience.
Consider A Fulfillment Partner
A fulfillment partner can be an ideal way to streamline the returns process. Fulfillment partners can own both sides of the business — sales and returns — which frees you up to focus on your business’ core competencies. A fulfillment partner can be particularly advantageous during peak periods and immediately after to handle the influx of returns.
The Bottom Line
There's no denying that returns are an inevitable part of a retailer’s business. Consumers return items for a variety of reasons — clothing didn’t fit, electronics didn’t work properly, they simply changed their mind, etc. All of these factors are out of the retailer's control. However, retailers can control the returns experience by ensuring customers receive the right product and stellar customer service. Providing a positive customer experience can go a long way in deterring customers from making returns.
Returns will continue to become an important part of a retailer’s business as online sales and e-Commerce continue to grow. In order to stay ahead of the game, retailers should perfect their returns strategies or risk losing business.
Spencer Moore is EVP of Speed Commerce, a provider of fulfillment solutions, customer engagement services and e-Commerce order management technology for retailers and manufacturers.