Top tips for handling online returns

Top tips for handling online returns

Top tips for handling online returns

A good product returns process can save money and create loyal customers.

A good product returns process can save money and create loyal customers.

Will your returns policy delight or irritate your customers? Find out how to grow your business with ways to handle goods being returned by customers.

Managing customers that want to return their goods is a standard part of online business. While most online shoppers don’t return purchased items that regularly, the statistics put online returns at around 30%.1 We also know that as many as 81% of customers value flexibility in returns or cancellations when making purchasing decisions.2 So it’s important to make sure you have a reliable returns policy that supports the preferences of your customers.

Some retailers choose to forgo free return shipping to customers who routinely send items back, while others welcome returns as a form of added customer service. While you want strategies that minimize the number of returns that occur, small businesses also need to make it as easy as possible for customers to return products.

Optimizing returns
The best way to minimize returns is to give the customers exactly what they want. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible in the online world. It can be hard for people to assess how much they like or want something until they can physically inspect it. The best thing businesses can do is to make the digital experience as close to the in-person experience. For example, some fashion retailers are now providing customers with apps that allow them to virtually try on garments or apparel. Others use techniques such as “bracketing”, where they send customers a product in a range of sizes, colours, and other variations - customers then choose which they like best and return the rest.

Part of the overall experience
Many studies show that shoppers will actively look to see if purchases include free returns or not, which can impact their willingness to buy from a particular brand. In other words, choosing not to offer free returns could cost your business potential sales - important to remember when weighing up the cost of returns.

It’s also important to think about how much time you give customers to return a product, particularly if items are seasonal or trends change quickly. If that’s the case, a shorter return window might work best to avoid saddling you with a heap of unsellable items from last season. On the other hand, it helps to have extended holiday returns policies that give your customers more time and flexibility.

How to return shipments painlessly
The simplicity of the returns process can affect how likely customers are to shop from you again. Providing pre-printed address labels, example forms, and even reusable packaging for returning items can help smooth out the process at relatively low cost.

Creating a great returns policy can take time, and more than a little trial and error. Get ideas from what your competitors and others in the industry are doing, talk to your customers about what they want, and work with partners who can help you streamline the back-end process. It’s worth taking the time to get it right - a good returns policy often means more return customers. Learn other ways your business can deliver a truly great customer experience in Why more choice gives customers joy.

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