The importance of e-commerce return shipping solutions
Seamless return shipping plays a large role in overall customer experience. A great return shipping experience can help keep customers coming back to your business even if they need to send back an item from time to time. With the rapid e-commerce growth in 2020 due to COVID-19, many shoppers with varying levels of tech knowledge had to swap their physical shopping carts for online ones. Due to in-store limitations and COVID-19 lockdowns, by the end of March 2020, there had been 10 years of e-commerce growth in those 90 days!
With the tidal wave of e-commerce purchases product returns increased, which highlights the need for a seamless return shipping and transparent return policy. In fact, at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned, whereas only 8.89% are returned in brick-and-mortar stores.
What is returned most often? According to SaleCycle, the top categories for returns include:
- Clothing/Shoes 56%
- Accessories/Jewelry 30%
- Electronics 42%
- Health and Beauty 22%
- Entertainment 21%
This can happen for many reasons — a damaged product, a product that looked different than it looked online, the wrong size was ordered and so on. And on top of that, 30% of shoppers over-purchase on purchases, with plans to return items, and another 19% purposely order multiple versions of the same item with the intent to only make up their minds when the products are delivered — returning what they don’t want.
To reduce electronic returns, consider these 5 things before shipping your high-tech equipment.
To encourage customers to buy online (before they’ve even seen the physical product), the need for a positive return shipping experience is paramount. To succeed, retailers need to offer a transparent return policy and easy return experience.
Here are some sure-fire ways your online business can provide a returns shipping experience that’s convenient to your shoppers, and to your sales.
How to showcase a good returns experience while the customer is still purchasing
The old cliche is true. It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer. Plus, increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%. In other words, you want to provide a seamless return shipping experience while you have the customer already making those purchases, and it starts with the tips below:
Make your return policy easy to find.
It’s all well and good to have a well-written return policy, but it’s not helpful unless customers can see it before they make a purchase. When dealing with a frustrated customer who just wants to return an item, don’t tell them they should have read your return policy if it’s not highlighted in the purchasing process. It won’t resolve the issue and you may lose that customer for life. A whopping 96% would repeat purchase based on an easy returns process, and that starts with making it easy to find.
Need to write a return policy? We recommend this article on how to write a transparent return policy.
Include links to your policy in several highly-visible spots throughout your website, including:
- Your website footer
- In your FAQs
- At checkout
- On each product page
- In their cart
- On your website chat window, if applicable
By clearly outlining your return policy on your website so it can’t be missed by customers, you’re setting the right expectations before the purchase is made. Yes, there will still be some who are unhappy with the policy, but hiding it only leads to lack of trust and a diminished bottom line.
Avoid confusing terms and conditions in your return policy.
No one likes having to decipher complicated language. Make sure your return policy is clearly written in plain language that doesn’t require a dictionary to be understood. The last thing you want is to make the return a complex process.
Clearly call out what can/can’t be returned and the refund type (full refund or store credit). Also, include any other important conditions, such as the return deadline and return shipping procedures. Try to avoid language like “you must” and “we are not responsible for”. This can be off-putting to customers just looking to get the most out of their shopping experience.
Offer free online product returns as an incentive.
In today’s highly competitive retail landscape, free returns are becoming more prevalent and not just a luxury — but an expectation. A survey found that eight out of 10 consumers would rather get free shipping than get their items faster, and 88% rate free return shipping as “important” or “very important” when making purchase decisions. But how can retailers make free shipping work for their budget?
Start by establishing a minimum spend for free shipping, like $30 for example. This may entice them to add additional products to their cart to save the shipping expense they would incur if they only spent $25. If shipping is $5, they’d be spending $30 anyway, so they will be satisfied to get a “free” product out of it.
Looking to make free shipping work for your business? Learn how in our article.
Another way is to slightly increase your product prices and offer a no-strings-attached free shipping option. You can build shipping costs into the cost of your products. If you sell a lot of small products, $1 might cover your costs. Or you could raise the price of your best-selling products by $2 to make up for the free shipping on less popular products. Regardless, the lure of free shipping is a great way to increase sales, which can make up for revenue lost in shipping expenses.
Looking to minimize returns? Ensure your packaging is sturdy and your descriptions are accurate. For other tips on a great online CX, read our article.
Supply a return shipping label, or the option to easily print one.
If you’re looking to make return shipping as easy as possible — and contactless in a COVID-19 world — consider supplying the return shipping label or give them the option to print one for themselves. For instance, you can have them print a label on location using a QR code generated by the shipper, so the customer just brings it into the store for drop off, and can print the label there.
Another option is to include not only a return shipping label, when available, but also send them a link to print a return label (pre-paid or otherwise). This shows you think about their overall experience, not just this sale.
How to provide a good returns experience when the customer needs to return or exchange an item
Provide multiple return shipment options.
Most retailers already provide several different options for shopping and delivery, and the same general ethos applies to exchanges and returns. Due to COVID-19, more shoppers have been returning items via mail. Empower shoppers by including the option to return items to your physical stores or offer contactless in-person returns through your delivery provider.
Many retailers benefit from a simplified checkout process to give their customers the best user experience. But not everyone will be on board with returning a product by mail — a process that requires a box and a label. A variety of options are needed to suit all customers. And don’t forget that if they can come into your store for a return, it’s a great opportunity for an upsell. Take the time to show them why another item might be better. This increases the chance that they might make that purchase and become a repeat customer.
Provide return shipping tips and instructions.
Shoppers like to know what they’re getting into when they make a purchase.They also like to know exactly how to get the most out of the experience. It’s your job to provide tips and instructions regarding their return process to ensure that you’re minimizing frustration and maximizing the customer experience. Not only that, but correct packaging tips could reduce the risk of in-transit damage.
Tip! Ensure you keep your customers up-to-date with your return policies if you have to change them due to COVID-19.
It’s so important to acknowledge why your customer wants to return an item. A key to retaining that customer is to collect feedback via email or survey, asking the reason for an item return. Respond personally and address whatever the issue might be, whether it’s a defect with quality, design or packaging.
Use that feedback to reduce future returns – are there common reasons for returns? For example, were there many returns due to unclear descriptions? If so, create clear and comprehensive product descriptions (images, videos, detailed descriptions, etc.) that can prevent that issue from occurring in the future. This can effectively cut down on lost revenue and keep customers coming back. Also, it can reduce customer care call centre volumes and control costs for refunds, and increase overall revenue. When customers feel like they are heard and listened to, they are likely to continue shopping with your brand.
How a delivery provider can provide a returns service that’s convenient to your customers and to your business
Last but certainly not least, use a delivery provider that can seamlessly connect your product with your customer, and assist with a streamlined return process. When choosing a provider, look for these features:
- No handoffs to third parties, providing a consistent and reliable delivery.
- Convenient warehouse locations, so products can be quickly resold (where possible).
- Variety of options for returns via courier and widely accessible drop boxes.
- Large network of shipping locations, meaning faster refunds for customers.
- Contactless pickups from the customers’ homes.
The bottom line on return shipping
Nobody likes dealing with returns, but they’re an inevitable part of the retail experience — whether that’s in-store or online. Treat the process with the same consideration as the shopping experience. This means staying in touch with customers throughout the process, focusing on the services that matter the most to your customers, and choosing a reliable delivery partner to help with a seamless return shipping process. In turn, you’ll inspire brand loyalty and increase customer satisfaction — and your bottom line.