10 Top Tips for Managing Your E-Commerce Business’ Returns
Whether you are the seller or end-customer, no one likes returns.
As returns are an inevitable part of selling products online, it is vital for eCommerce brands to factor-in effective returns management as part of the customer journey.
Not only are returns inevitable, sellers also have minimum legal obligations which they must meet in this regard (www.gov.uk/accepting-returns-and-giving-refunds). Research also shows that 78% of shoppers will buy more in the long run if a retailer has a clear, free returns policy (www.klarna.com)
If returns are simply an afterthought, you risk frustrating your customers. This, in turn, could lead to negative reviews, harming your reputation and potentially causing you to lose future and repeat business.
You should think of returns management as a key part of your customers’ purchasing experience with your online store. If returns are handled well, you’ll improve shopper confidence and increase repeat purchases.
As e-commerce experts, we specialise in managing returns on behalf of many of our e-commerce clients, so we thought we would share our 10 top tips for handling your online business’ returns:
1. Great Packaging and Reputable Couriers
Products should be packaged well to avoid damaged goods returns, and also to show your customers that you really value their order.
As belt and braces, it is important to use a reliable and reputable courier to deliver your goods. At Elovate, we partner with some of the most reputable courier companies in the industry today and we only use sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging wherever possible.
2. Clear Returns Policy
One of the key aspects of returns management is being very clear on your written returns policy which reassures your customers upfront. Your policy should be easy to read and accessible. It should answer FAQs about your returns policy and provide transparency between you and the customer. This enables more positive communication from the beginning as your stand on returns will be clear.
Our tip is that you can make your returns policy more readily accessible by linking it on your website’s footer so it can be viewed from any page. You could also include it in the order confirmation email and delivery note.
3. Customers Love Free Returns
Customers respond positively to e-commerce brands offering hassle free returns with free shipping. In fact, according to a study by Klarna, 78% of shoppers said they would buy more with a retailer over time if they offered free shipping, with 86% saying that free returns make them loyal and more likely to return to a brand. So, if you want strong customer retention and repeat business, as well as great reviews, it be a good idea to start offering free returns!
4. Consider setting up a store credit system
Offering store credit as an option instead of a refund can be useful for eCommerce businesses because this means that you don’t have to refund the customer, saving time and money.
It’s also beneficial for the customer as they still get their money back in the form of credit, so they can buy an alternative product that they are more likely to keep. Shopify, one of the most popular e-commerce platforms explains more about giving store credits in this article here.
5. Every picture tells a story
One of the top reasons items are returned is that they don’t match customer expectations based on the pictures provided. Great photos are imperative for e-commerce businesses for this reason. Not only do people rely on photos to see exactly what they are buying, any unwelcome surprises at the point of delivery will result in increased returns.
In view of this, high quality photographs of your products are vital – ideally ones which are taken from different angles and zoomed in.
Video content is also a great addition to showcase your product, whether how to use it or let your customers see what it looks like in use. The more product visibility customers have before buying it, the more accurate their expectations and the fewer their returns. Boldist share their guide on increasing e-commerce sales with product video here.
6. Audit Process for Returned Stock
Do you keep track on the reasons your products are returned? Having an audit process in place, means that you will quickly pick up on return patterns and any recurring and easily fixable issues such as a manufacturing fault.
Having a fulfilment solution provider like Elovate can help make tasks like these a lot easier. Elovate can manage your returns and carry out regular audits for you in no time given its tech-driven approach. Return issues and trends such as a recurring fault can be flushed out and resolved quickly with the help of a dedicated account manager, saving your business time, hassle and money.
7. Encourage Reviews
Product reviews are key to building up trust in your brand and can be key in the purchasing decision. Having a review process in place can reduce returns as it helps customers form clearer expectations around the product they are ordering.
Many eCommerce brands gain reviews and testimonials by simply sending an automated email a few days after a customer has received their product, asking them to leave a review.
Many e-commerce businesses use verified customer review platforms such as Trustpilot or Feefo. Research by Feefo revealed that 94% of shoppers read reviews, with 43% trusting verified reviews the most.
8. Customer Feedback Can Improve your Service
By encouraging reviews, you’re also opening yourself up to negative feedback of course. It is however possible to turn negative reviews into positive reviews. The way you handle customer complaints is critical and can make or break a business. Reputation is everything, and this article explains how to turn a negative review into a positive one.
Giving customers a chance to vent can be really beneficial because it helps you identify and fix issues with your products, processes, service or pricing. You also get to see the honest reasons for products being returned, which helps you address the root cause.
If you listen and act promptly on feedback, whether positive or negative, you’ll not only improve customer experience, you should hopefully grow your business and reputation as a result.
9. Manage and Respond to Complaints Quickly
Receiving a complaint can be frustrating, and potentially damaging to your online business’ reputation. But if you respond to the complaint quickly and address the issue behind it, you are far more likely to gain that customer’s respect and have a chance to win them back.
If all of this sounds overwhelming and time consuming, perhaps consider outsourcing returns management to your fulfilment service provider, such as Elovate, instead. Elovate’s datahub technology enables speedy reporting and resolution of complaints, thus enhancing the customer experience.
10. Ensure Every Order is Right, First Time
The easiest way to reduce returns is to get orders right first time. Avoid mistakes by investing in your order processing systems, ensuring that the customer receives the right item. It’s also important to have a good quality assurance system in place, so that customers don’t receive faulty or damaged goods.
If you would like to avoid the pitfalls of returns management and outsource this aspect of your business, saving you time, hassle and resource, Elovate offer comprehensive eCommerce returns management as part of their fulfilment services.
Get in touch with the team Elovate and we’ll help you get every order right first time.