Returns and complaints are an inherent part of eCommerce. Buying a product over the Internet is done at a distance and involves a higher risk than traditional shopping. Hence the need for buyer protection is considered a must. Without a doubt, if you run an online sales store, you want to generate as much profit as possible. To generate profit, you need to acquire as many customers as possible, keep them loyal, and handle one of the primary sources of operational costs in your business – the returns. Running a prolific, good prospering business is not only about preparing an attractive offer, an aesthetic website and a marketing plan. Every week there are more and more new online stores, not every one of which stays on the market successfully. A well-prepared online store will significantly reduce the risk of product returns because it is aware of a growing return rate in online businesses. What does the successful entrepreneur have to do to handle returns in a way that will help avoid unnecessary costs and, in some cases, be profitable to a shop? This article will try to provide six valuable strategies which can be used to swiftly handle the problem of returns.
The shopping patterns of the new generations are also important. Representatives of generations Y and Z expect to return part or all of the order more often than other generations when shopping online – 46% of e-buyers aged 18-25 make such declarations (according to State of eCommerce delivery research, 2016). It is young customers who return the most online purchases. Consumers in the 14 to 29 age group send back 18% of their orders. Therefore, more and more online retailers, including the aforementioned Zalando, are asking themselves whether free returns are a business attribute or a growing cost that threatens profits. It’s also worth remembering that the propensity to return varies by industry. We most often return clothes and shoes (even 60% of products bought online) and consumer electronics. Next are children’s goods, home furnishings and cosmetics. Companies from these industries face the biggest challenges. All the more so as they increasingly have to deal with dishonest customers who return used products. The clothing industry is leading the way, with more and more people buying clothes to take a picture on social media or to go to a party, meeting, etc. These are only a few examples of returns one can encounter. There are many more. That is why Staying up to date is so important for anyone running an eCommerce store. Know the trends, especially those related to returns.
Customers want to see the product before they buy it. It is often enough to publish pictures showing the product from all sides, without any background or clever arrangement. Usually, a set of such photos is provided by the manufacturer. In such a situation, however, you have to reckon with the fact that each of your competitors will publish the same photos as you. You need to stand out from the crowd and be prepared to show something more attractive that will catch the customer’s eye. Not only will he see the product clearly and not need to return it, but he will also be more eager to buy it. Moreover, there are industries, such as, among others, fashion, beauty, or design, where a simple, attractive picture is not enough. In their case, it is worth deciding on dedicated product sessions. You can do it yourself or in cooperation with a professional photo studio. It is important that the photos are of excellent quality and stylistically match the target group. Again, figure out what suits your business best and start to implement it. Product descriptions play the role of an abstract salesperson – thanks to them, a potential buyer makes contact, and they have to convince him to buy.
For this reason, it is worth considering how to formulate the message and what stylistic tricks will allow you to get closer to the customer. However, the most important thing is to define who this customer is. Product descriptions that speak the recipient’s language are the essence of online sales, but on the condition that they are tailored to the target group’s profile. We address future mothers differently; young people dancing pogo at a Behemoth concert in a different way, while Chilean doughnut lovers will have their own language. At first glance, you can think that this is not related to the returns – but it clearly is. The more informative and audience-focused the description is, the fewer returns will occur.
You must fill out an order form to purchase from an online store. This is usually a multi-step process. Before our order is processed, we have to go through successive tabs, first adding the product to the cart, entering our data, choosing the shipping and payment methods, and finally confirming the data’s purchase and correctness. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Not in every case. Shop interfaces can be unintuitive and complicated. Sometimes, the selection of a wrong product or a size of a product is reported, and it
results in a return of a product. When we put it next to the correctly placed order, it becomes clear that the problem of a clumsy site interface generates way too many unnecessary costs. When the interface is misleading, it is easy to make a mistake. Adding a summing-up page or enforcing the order confirmation along with the obligation to pay is a way of preventing wrongly placed orders.
The importance of product packaging in mail orders is not only to protect the item from damage during shipping and transportation. It is, above all, effective marketing and building dialogue with the consumer. Even a basic logo placement on the box increases the uniqueness of your products. Packaging used properly will bond with customers’ emotions and make it easier to attract new ones. Packaging changes its protective function, becoming a business card of the company. Securing the product will greatly indicate how the company treats its customers. The company’s packaging standard often will tell the customer more than the brand itself.
It is a logistic challenge to handle the return. You will need to cover the costs of the returned product, the cost of selling or utilising the damaged product and the cost of both shipments. This is a lot of money, which can be easily avoided if the packaging is properly handled. Moreover, the alternative costs will be a lot more problematic. Labour, caring for complaints, shipping the product again – everything consumes a lot of time which needs to be paid for. To all of those costs, we need to add possible refunds to the clients. Refunds or compensation for damaged products and space to inspect, repack and store customer-returned goods are burdensome for the company and its finances.
Packaging is the first point of contact with a customer, so good packaging shows that you care and value the overall customer experience.
You have to handle returns effectively. Two solutions can help you decide what to do with them. You can either minimize the number of returns or make the returns benefit your company. If you have decided to avoid the returns, write the policy in a way that will benefit you. Formalise the reasons for returns in your policy so that the customer will be aware of the practices allowed. Doing this will avoid unfair returns, which are the fault of the unfair customers. At the same time, some mistakes can be made in the process of preparing the parcel, such as during labelling or addressing. Your policy should cover every probable user story – be customer-oriented. When considering and choosing the claims you want to put in your Return and Refund Policy, think that there are many benefits of ensuring that your policy is actually focused on the customers. Innovative businesses know that a well-tailored return program is an effective marketing tool. And the rate of return purchases is higher in places where refunds are free or when the refund time frame is longer. That is maybe counterintuitive, but it actually works. Many big fashion eCommerce stores have a customer-centric refund and return policies. Usually, eCommerce stores offer a 15 to 30-day return frame in which customers can return a product, and after that time passes, they ask for a refund. The biggest businesses extend that period up to 90 days. Decide what works for you and start to implement it!