In the current retail climate, eCommerce brands and merchants must place increased value on designing returns policies that protect their bottom line and set clear expectations. Increasingly, customers expect more from their buying experience, and companies must take proactive steps to meet those expectations.
By creating an efficient return policy that communicates terms and conditions and options for an item exchange and refunds, businesses can build trust with customers and ensure their brand is top-of-mind. Incorporating an expedient resolution process will also help to retain customer loyalty in the long term.
At the end of the day, returns can be expensive and time-consuming—sometimes costing up to 21% of the original item value from processing to restocking. But there are strategies to minimize the cost of returns and maximize return on investment (ROI).
With that in mind, here are five ways businesses can establish returns policies that improve their ROI:
1. Create a Clear and Visible Return Policy for Your eCommerce Store
According to a recent report by UPS, 66% of customers say they will review a retailer's return policy before making a purchase decision. In comparison, 15% of shoppers abandon a cart when the returns policy needs to be clarified.
To mitigate this type of result, consider linking to the return policy in the footer, order FAQ, order tracking page, or help center to make it visible to shoppers. Clearly state what can be returned, how long shoppers have to return an item, and how to return an item. You can use return policy generators like https://www.aftership.com/tools/return-policy-generator to streamline the process.
Your return policy should include details such as whether the item can be washed, worn, or used. Make sure the language is simple and understandable to make sure everything is clear. Remember, your return policy is an extension of your brand, so ensure the language is consistent throughout the website.
Lastly, ensure that what you include in your return policy page is the same as what is included in your returns solution to avoid discrepancies. By creating a clear and visible return policy, you can improve customer experience and ultimately boost your online sales.
2. Automating Your eCommerce Store's Return Policy
Automation can be a powerful tool in the returns process, helping to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve the overall customer experience.
Automation in the returns process can help improve the customer experience, increase customer satisfaction, and drive repeat business. By providing an online returns portal, real-time tracking updates, and a convenient and hassle-free returns process, retailers can differentiate themselves from competitors and build customer loyalty.
A staggering 69% of retailers need technology to help them with their returns processes. How can you get ahead of this massive opportunity?
First, set clear non-returnable rules for items that can't be returned. Next, consider which items can be returned and whether you want to block returns based on specific products or product categories. You can also automate partial returns in case your customers only want to return one item out of a bundle.
Setting a standardized return window is another efficient way to automate the process. This means establishing a specific time frame for customers to initiate a return. You can set it up so the window starts when the item arrives at the customer's doorstep.
Finally, consider providing return solutions based on product type or location, such as store credit or exchanges only. This ensures that you process returns in the most efficient way possible. Remember, a good return policy can turn an unhappy customer into a loyal one, so make the process as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
3. Ensure Items Can Be Resold
It is vital to ensure that returned items can be resold. In some cases, returned items may be in a different condition, making them ineligible for resale.
Depending on your returns solution, products like AfterShip can ask additional questions, like whether an item has been worn or washed. Consider filtering out customers who need to meet your return policy criteria to avoid complications.
It's also essential to review items when they arrive to ensure accuracy. A thorough review can help detect any discrepancies or damages to the item before it's restocked or resold. Doing so can provide a better customer experience and avoid returns due to faulty or damaged items.
Ensuring that returned items are inspected and can be resold is crucial for the success of any eCommerce business. Failure to properly inspect and process returns can lead to various issues, including inventory management problems, customer dissatisfaction, and lost revenue.
In 2020, returns created an estimated 5.8 billion lbs of landfill waste, coupled with 16 million metric tons of CO² of return shipping emissions. For low-cost or damaged items, consider using keep-the-item Green Returns, which allow customers to keep the item while still receiving a refund.
4. Consider Return Fees
Charging return fees is a controversial topic in eCommerce. While some retailers believe that return fees are necessary to offset the costs of processing returns, others argue that they can discourage customers from purchasing and lead to negative customer experiences.
And while there are costs associated with returns, the negative impact they can have on customer loyalty is very real. 81% of consumers said they would be less likely to shop with a retailer again if they charged for return shipping.
To maintain positive relationships, some retailers like H&M waive fees for registered members. While the retailer would incur the costs, members would then be opted in for marketing communications to encourage new revenue.
Another method to balance these return fees is to provide at least one free return method, such as store credit. This way, the customer doesn't feel too restricted, and you can still benefit from the positive customer experience.
5. Meet your customer needs
Meeting customer needs and taking customer feedback into account when designing a returns policy is crucial for the success of any eCommerce business. By listening to customer feedback and designing a policy that meets their needs, retailers can improve customer satisfaction, build loyalty, and increase sales.
To begin, consider tweaking return policies depending on the holidays. This includes adjusting the timing of return windows, being more lenient with the types of items that can be returned, and offering customer service support during extended hours.
By doing so, you show customers that you understand the difficulties of this time of year and are willing to work with them to make their shopping experience as seamless as possible. Many major retailers, like Amazon, Target, and Nike, tweaked their online return policies to stay competitive and meet customer needs.
It's also vital to listen to feedback and make adjustments accordingly. What may work in a physical store may not necessarily apply to the online space. By taking feedback seriously, you can identify areas of your return process that need improvement and make further changes that enhance the customer experience.
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