What a journey has it been for e-commerce returns — From terrifying businesses with the presumption of being customer repulsive and a cost-center to becoming one of the most sought after services from a business.
However, even today, most businesses consider the order experience to end with delivery and see returns as just something trivial instead of a feature that they definitely should embrace.
But is just providing returns enough? Well, not so much in 2023 at least.
Today’s customers have increased expectations when it comes to returns experiences from brands.
Meeting, or rather exceeding these expectations, can lead to a smooth and hassle-free returns process that increases their satisfaction levels and helps you turn a potentially negative experience into an opportunity to win loyal customers.
Thus, without further ado, here are some tips to help you optimize your returns process to create happier customers and enjoy success.
Tips for Improving Your E-Commerce Returns Process
1. Simplify handling returns requests
The first step to make your returns a breeze starts with the first action that takes place when there’s a need to make a return arises from the customer’s end — initiation.
Returns initiation is nothing but the customer having a product that they’d like to return at hand and notifying you of it.
Under legacy methods, this usually involves the customer contacting the support team with a query, which becomes a ticket that needs to be followed up and acted upon.
However, this may not be the best ploy as support interactions may take time and a long initiation process can frustrate customers who may drop off without initiating AND doing business with you.
Up to 40% of customers will stop doing business with a company if the process for initiating returns is complicated.
Worry not! There’s a better way to do this.
Have a clear returns policy
Tailor your returns policy in a way that it meets your objectives as well as is clear enough for your customers to understand.
When customers know what to do and what to expect there is less friction in the initiation process, thus leading to:
- Happy customers due to increased satisfaction and reduces frustration levels
- Reduced workload on customer service reps
- Increased savings on shipping and processing costs, thanks to lower number of returns
Make the returns initiation process as simple and straightforward as possible
Ensure that doing returns with you, comes with a host of benefits such as:
- Multiple channels to request returns, such as a dedicated returns portal on your website, or even a chatbot – to display your commitment to providing customers with a great returns process
- Flexible return methods such as exchanges and store credits – to make the process more convenient and encourage repeat purchases
- Automated and prepaid return labels – to retain control over return-related costs
All of this can make the returns initiation process quicker and easier, and ultimately reduce the chances of your customers giving up on doing returns by enhancing their satisfaction.
2. Deliver a great returns experience
A seamless returns initiation process to begin helps you improve customer satisfaction among other things.
Riding high on that wave, your next action is to provide a great returns experience that boosts loyalty.
92% of shoppers say they will buy again if the returns process is easy.
This means your chance to redefine returns as a growth driver and not customer repulsive is here and well-defined.
Proactively Process Returns
Once returns are received, process them promptly and efficiently to ensure that your customers don’t get any second thoughts regarding continuing business with you.
Aim to issue refunds or exchanges as quickly as possible, demonstrating your commitment to resolving any issues proactively.
You can also employ automation to manage inventory, track the status of returned items, and ensure that items are returned to the correct location and that they are available for sale again.
Provide seamless returns status tracking
Providing customers with real-time updates on the status of their returns builds trust and transparency.
Send proactive updates on returns requests, via automated email and SMS status notifications and provide a live tracking page, to allow customers to stay in the whereabouts of their package. This works in reducing support inquiries and enhancing customer experience, thereby leading to increased customer confidence.
Being proactive with returns also helps in reducing the time taken on handling returns and frees up your support agents and warehouse operators time.
3. Reduce the number of returns
Almost all returns are valid but not all of them have to be refunded or initiated as returns. This is because almost 70% of all returns are size and fit related.
These returns, if not cut down, can prove to be a costly problem for e-commerce businesses, and lead to lost revenue and increased shipping costs.
Lucky for you, there are a number of things that e-commerce businesses can do to reduce unwanted returns.
Implement return reason analysis
Analyze the reasons for returns to identify patterns and potential areas for improvement.
If the data suggests that there are recurring issues with product quality, size discrepancies, or incorrect descriptions, etc, you can take efforts to address the problem at its root cause and implement corrective actions to reduce future returns.
Understanding return reasons can also guide product development and improve product descriptions, leading to a better shopping experience for your customers.
Leverage returns data for business insights
Returns data can offer valuable insights into your business in the form of specific products or categories, seasonality trends, and the impact of marketing campaigns on returns.
This data-driven approach allows you to make informed decisions and fine-tune your inventory, marketing and customer service strategies.
Improving your returns process is not only crucial for customer satisfaction but also an opportunity to gain a competitive edge in the e-commerce industry.
By offering a clear and user-friendly returns policy, simplifying returns initiation, and efficiently processing returns, you can create a positive post-purchase experience for your customers.
Leverage returns data to make informed business decisions and continuously improve your operations.
Remember, a seamless returns process can turn dissatisfied customers into loyal advocates for your brand. Invest in enhancing your returns process, and watch your e-commerce business thrive.