Returns are an unavoidable part of running a successful ecommerce business. In order to compete with larger retailers, it’s important to prioritize return shipping. Your returns process directly impacts consumer satisfaction and their decision to purchase from you in the future. The faster and more effectively you set customer expectations, the sooner they will purchase from you.
From attracting new customers to delineating tasks for your team, running a profitable online store requires having a solid plan for handling returns. Regardless of if the return is due to an error or is expected, a clearly defined returns policy will protect your bottom line.
69% of consumers say they expect to do more holiday returns in 2020 than in 2019, with consumers saying they expect to do 26% more returns this year, on average.
Revisit your Return Policies Each Year
When was the last time you updated your returns policy? Probably never?
Well with the busy holiday season it’s important to ensure you have a solid and updated plan for handling returns. Did you know that 11% of consumers will abandon their online shopping cart if they think the returns policy is unsatisfactory?
The holiday season isn’t the time to completely overhaul your policy, but it’s a good time to make sure you and your staff are clear before the holiday returns begin to roll in.
Is there a maximum time frame from purchase? Do you take the holidays into account as when that time period starts, or from date of purchase? What limitations exist for returns?
Making your return policy easily accessible and simple is a great way to establish good customer service. With returns, the simpler the better. Detailing in three steps or less how a customer can return a product to you can actually help sustain their future business. Customers are less likely to work with stores that saddle them with extra steps or fees. Although, it is imperative that your return policy also considers your business’ needs.
Any confusion or vague understanding of your policies could turn into a customer service nightmare and vastly reduce the likelihood of repeat business. 95% of shoppers who are happy with the returns process said they’ll purchase with the same retailer again. Those unhappy with the process are 3 times more likely never to return.
A streamlined returns process will help elevate your brand above the competition. Offering a convenient way to return items showcases your commitment to great customer service. It also helps establish your brand as being bigger than it may actually be. The more established your business appeals to customers, the more likely they are to order from you again.
How to Offer Returns
- Extend the return window
- Make processing returns easy
- Free returns and exchanges
Extended Return Window from Holidays
Particularly with holiday returns, when those returning gifts may never have even visited your store, make sure your policy is easy to find on your site and very clear. For the holidays, you’ll likely want to give a bit of extended time to return items than you would throughout the rest of the year.
Most retailers offer at least a two-week extension (into mid-January) for holiday returns. Some stores extend the return deadlines even longer. If you offer a longer return policy, there are always going to be consumers who take advantage of that, as well.
Easy to Process Returns
Make returns easy. Returns are a zero-sum game for both customers and merchants. However, mastering returns can increase customer satisfaction and contribute to long-term customer loyalty. Instead of requiring customers to call into a support line or wait around for you to send an email with next steps, allow customers to initiate returns in the same way that orders are placed. Make the process easier by offering automated returns through return portals on your website or including pay-on-use return labels with the outgoing package.
78% of consumers would rather have a prepaid return shipping label with the return cost deducted from their refund.
Consumers are aware that there will sometimes be costs associated with returns. If there are, strive to make the process as easy and convenient as possible. Providing a prepaid return label and deducting the return cost directly from the refund reduces the effort needed on part of the customer and may make them more willing to buy from you again.
Free Return Shipping
Free return shipping can give your business a boost when it comes to customer satisfaction. In fact, 76% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with retailers this holiday season who offer free returns.
E-commerce returns are already a major roadblock on the way to a smooth and satisfying customer experience, so by asking your customers to pay for return postage, you’re introducing more friction and hassle into the process.
You can offset customer frustration by offering free returns and exchanges, which will provide a smoother shopping experience. Remember it’s all about customer retention. To remain competitive in today’s customer centric retail space your business must proactively employ policies like free returns shipping.
Most Commonly Returned Items
According to a recent study, 65% of consumers are likely to return clothing and apparel.
Clothing and shoes are the most commonly returned items, but right behind them are electronics. The major reasons that consumers cited returning items were:
- 74% of returns are over issues with the item’s fit.
- 55% return items because they ended up not liking the item.
- 41% ended up not having a need for the item.
While these issues largely reflect apparel, it also rings true for electronics and computer parts. Offering store credit with discount codes for items that don’t end up working is a great way to incentivize additional sales. 46% of positive returns experiences result in consumers exchanging for more expensive items. This is especially true during the holiday season.
ShippingEasy understands how vital an effective returns process is to the viability of your business, that’s why we offer some great workflow tools to make the returns process easier. While returns may feel like a business setback, they are an important touchpoint for customer retention.
Below is a list of quick resources if you’re a ShippingEasy customer (even if you’re not, you may find some of the information helpful):
- Create a return label
- Can you get a refund?
- Prepaid returns FAQ
- Scan-based FAQ
- UPS Return label options
- Amazon Returns
- Create a prepaid return label without an order
Need more assistance with returns? We’ve partnered with UPS on a webinar to show you that not only do they not have to be a pain—they can be easy! Register to attend on December 30.