Thursday, January 2, was National Returns Day, and it marked a seventh consecutive record-breaking year for online returns. UPS alone expected to process 1.9 million returned packages — a 26% spike from last year. Records like these show how e-commerce is changing shopping patterns, especially when it comes to returns.
Return experiences can quickly win or lose shoppers, especially when it comes to repeat business. According to a UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, 73% of digital consumers say the returns experience affects their likelihood to buy from a retailer again. That’s a big chunk! And it shows why it’s so important for brands to have efficient returns practices.
When it comes to Amazon, handling returns is a balancing act between maintaining a healthy return rate and efficiently dealing with existing returns. Brands can accomplish this by doing three things: taking preventative measures, developing an efficient returns policy, and stepping up customer service.
Start with Prevention
Many times, returns are the result of a misunderstanding. A shopper might get confused about product sizing or might get the wrong impression from a product lifestyle photo. Brands can proactively prevent these situations by providing accurate, clear product details in the right places.
Netrush partner Ruffwear is a great example of how this can be done. Ruffwear sells accessories for dogs — toys, harnesses, etc. With dog harnesses in particular, clearly communicating sizing, material, and adjustment instructions is an important part of preventing returns and ensuring customer success.
Photos like these give shoppers a clear expectation of the product while also educating them on how to choose the right size. The more information a shopper can have before purchasing, the better.
Make the Return Process as Easy as Possible
It isn’t possible to prevent 100% of returns. When they do happen, it’s important to provide an easy and timely return process. There are several ways brands can simplify the return process for shoppers:
- Offer a return label – Letting customers request a return label that’s already paid and addressed makes things easy. It gives shoppers peace of mind knowing that they won’t have to pay for shipping or dig online for a correct business address. It ensures that the product will be properly returned to the business.
- Answer customer communications quickly and thoroughly – Quick responses let customers know that a solution is on its way. No one likes waiting in limbo while a problem gets worked out. Even if a solution can’t be worked out right away, acknowledging the customer with a quick confirmation message can do a lot to ease customer frustration.
- Be Flexible – Having flexibility built into a return policy makes it more customer-centric. This might mean making exceptions to return policies (return windows, wear and tear, etc.) or shipping out an exchange before the return arrives. Whatever the case, return flexibility allows shoppers to buy with a higher sense of confidence.
Once a return has started, doing everything possible to keep that customer happy increases the chances of repeat business. Again, 73% of online shoppers say their returns experience affects the likelihood of repeat business.
Respond to Reviews, Both Positive & Negative
According to a study done by Podium, 93% of customers consider online reviews when making their purchases. Brands need to pay attention to what their customers are saying. It’s never too late to turn an unhappy customer into a brand advocate. Responding to negative reviews can be a great way to do this. By addressing customer issues, brands show that they care about their product and their customers.
When responding to negative reviews, starting out from a position of receptiveness is essential. Even if nothing is actually wrong with the product, empathizing with customer frustration helps them feel understood and diffuses tension.
Brands should always provide some sort of action that the customer can take, whether that be an exchange or a refund. It’s also a good idea to suggest moving the conversation to a more direct form of contact, such as a support team email.
Going the extra mile to make things right for a customer can turn a bad review into a good one. Take another example from Ruffwear. In this case, a customer purchased a dog harness that didn’t fit their pet properly, and to make things worse, they initially encountered complications with their return.
Netrush’s customer service team replied to the customer and encouraged them to reach out directly for a return or exchange.
Later, the customer updated their review to 4 stars and specifically referenced Netrush’s customer service in the update.
Making things right for customers should always be a priority; it’s good business and leads to positive reviews. Still, negative reviews happen. That’s okay. Having a negative review here and there is normal, but it shouldn’t be the predominant trend.
A solid returns strategy:
- Starts with prevention – Some returns can be prevented by ensuring that customers have all the information they need to make an informed purchase.
- Makes the returns process as easy as possible – Even with prevention, returns are a common part of doing business. Making the returns process as easy as possible increases the chances of repeat business.
- Delivers top-notch customer service – A return isn’t always a loss. Brands can change unhappy customers into brand advocates by going the extra mile.
Learn how Netrush’s customer support team helps brands with returns by visiting the Customer Support page.