When you sell online, dealing with returns is unavoidable. Customers return products for many reasons such as a damaged product, wrong item, product looks different than online, or they purposely ordered different sizes or colors.
High return rates are a problem for eCommerce sellers. It can ruin your profitability. However, many sellers tend to overlook their return policies and processes.
Your return strategy is an integral part of your eCommerce strategy. If you haven’t put much thought into it, see why you should now.
How Online Returns Can Kill Your eCommerce Business
According to the NRF, returns are three times more prevalent for online retailers. 72% of shoppers return 10% or less of their purchases. Over the past few years, these shoppers have experienced only a slight increase in their satisfaction with the return process indicating that retailers have room for improvements. 65% of online shoppers were satisfied with their ability to process a return/exchange online in 2016, compared to only 62% in 2015.
So, what’s driving their lack of satisfaction with return policies? Among others, there are a few reasons. First, 30% of shoppers don’t want to pay for return shipping. They want to have options for where they return the product to. 68% of online returners have shipped items back to the retailer, 60% prefer to return items to a physical store.
If you don’t have an easy, clear strategy for returns you could be turning your customers off. An inconvenient returns policy deters 80% of shoppers. How you handle returns is a major part of the overall customer experience. If you have a poor customer experience, your eCommerce business will suffer.
Even though dealing with returns is tricky, it’s more than worth it to figure out a better process. Studies show that of the 60% of online shoppers that make at least one return or exchange per year, 95% will make another purchase if the return experience is positive. If you know your return process is lacking, make it a priority now to fix it.
Improving Your eCommerce Return Policy
To improve your return policy, there are two main areas to focus on.
First, make sure your return policy is written clearly and is easy to find on your website. Shoppers should be able to find it from the homepage or from product pages. Instructions should be listed out concisely. If they do have any questions, offer contact information for your customer service. See how to write an eCommerce return policy here.
Second, consider what terms you offer. According to this UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, these are the top elements of a best returns experience:
- 60% free returns shipping
- 51% hassle-free policy
- 44% easy-to-print return labels
- 42% timely refunds
- 40% return label in box
It’s great to have a written return policy, but the policy itself must be appealing. Your process should benefit the customer. To offer these type of elements though, you must have a good return management strategy in place.
Best Practices for Handling Online Returns
Customer notice the difference between online sellers who are intentional about returns management and those who aren’t. You must be strategic about your return policy, while also not ruining your profitability .
When you pay for free shipping & exchanges, handling costs can quickly decrease the profitability of the transaction. Then, the return product often can’t be sold at the original gross margin. You have to consider the cost of handling returns, and how to lower it.
Returns management touches many parts of your business such as customer experience, supply chain management, inventory, and customer service. More often than not, it requires specific technology to make sure all of these operations can work together to provide a seamless return experience, at a price that you can afford.
See some recommended practices for handling eCommerce returns for a more in-depth picture of what you can do.
What to Do Next: Update Your Return Policy
To fix your returns today, first review and update your policy on your site. This goes a long way with customer trust.
For the long-term strategy, consider your current weaknesses in your returns process. How many of those elements that make up a best experience do you currently provide? You can also benchmark yourself against the industry and competitors.
Make returns management a priority for the upcoming year. Keep learning about returns management by checking out these other resources: