May 18, 2022
Let’s face it, no one really likes returns and we know it’s difficult to think of them in a positive way. Returns can lower your profit margins and are distressing for your business. In 2021 the rate of online returns was around 21% and slightly more than half of those returns were believed to be fraudulent. However, ecommerce returns are a substantial part of your order fulfillment process.
Can anything good come from ecommerce returns?
Online returns can be viewed as a way to build sales, attract loyal customers and earn a reputation as a good company to do business with. Clever companies put as much thought into their returns policy as they do their sales strategy. That’s because they realize that when it is easy and inexpensive (or free) to return a product or merchandise, customers come back. Free returns seem troublesome (can you afford to do this?) but, studies have shown a 357% increase in customer sales when free returns are offered. Yes, you read that right. 357%. Incredible!
Gather data with every return
Companies often include a form for the customer to fill out and send back with the return. On the form, customers will describe why they are returning the item and what they want in return (a refund, exchange, merchandise credit). Some ecommerce companies might have customers relay the information online rather than fill out a form. This information is useful when making future decisions as long as you accurately track the information you receive.
Are a majority of the coffee table returns because it was smaller than people thought it would be? Are customers complaining that a certain dress is see-through? Or maybe customers continuously state the ceramic lamp they ordered arrived broken. Whatever the data shows, use it to your advantage and make the needed changes.
What should you do with your returns?
Don’t just take the customer’s word for it; always inspect returned merchandise or products for problems. The rules your company sets in your order management system will tell your staff what to do with a returned product. Products in good condition with no damage or problems are frequently returned to inventory. Products that are damaged or faulty might be recycled or destroyed. Your order management system will generate a report describing a returned product, including its item number, why it was returned, and how that product return was handled.
Tips to stop returns before they happen
There are some best practices for ecommerce businesses that will help curtail returns.
- Include size, dimensions, weight, and materials used on all product listings.
- Display accurate sizing charts.
- Use high-quality images and videos of all angles.
- Use augmented reality to provide users a way to determine if a product is a right size or fit.
- Example: A customer could use AR technology to see a visual representation of what a table would look like in their dining room before placing an order.
- Package orders securely to prevent them from arriving damaged.
- Encourage online reviews and ask customers to tag your brand on social media.
- Prominently display your return policy on your website.
- Increase your returns window.
- This takes away the urgency customers feel surrounding the return and by holding on to the product longer customers might get attached to it or simply forget about it.
Use ecommerce returns to your advantage
An excellent order management system collects and manipulates all kinds of data from your ecommerce returns. This is a great way to get an idea of what your customers are experiencing when they return items. You can aggregate customer feedback, and break it down into various variable groups that will help you better understand the customer experience with the product in question. You might find that there are common factors at play that will help you identify problematic products, designs, shipping companies, etc. You might also find that a lot of people change their minds and some customers are just serial returners. Whatever the case might be, you will adapt and overcome the dreaded ecommerce returns.
If this becomes too costly and time-consuming for your business to manage, consider outsourcing your order fulfillment, which includes returns, to a third-party fulfillment center like Bluegrass. We have a team of experts in fulfilling orders and we have seen it all. Then you and your team can get back to doing what you do best.