When shopping online, making a purchase is usually a very pleasant and user-friendly experience. Retailers go to great lengths to ensure their customer’s happiness on the purchasing side of the transaction.
But what happens when a purchase is made, the item is delivered, and it's not as expected? Perhaps it's too big, or too small, or isn't the right color. That's a bad customer experience, which completely negates the previously positive shopping occasion.
Plus, a customer receiving the wrong item from a retailer creates an unforced error with the returns process all its own.
Imagine if you could prevent negative shopping ordeals like this, or at least greatly reduce them. You would significantly elevate the customer experience.
Unfortunately, many retailers overlook this very important area of business. That's not fair to the customer or to the retailer.
But it doesn’t have to be like that! The returns paradigm is changing, and you have the power to control your business outcomes.
Discern Between Return Types
Not all returns are created equal. Some returns are unavoidable, such as when a customer simply dislikes a product and returns it. These kinds of returns are acceptable, but other returns should be reduced or even eliminated.
If customers are returning items because of sizing mismatches or shipping errors, for example, those returns should be avoided in the first place.
Additionally, if products are being returned because of problems with quality, supplier issues, inaccurate descriptions, or even as part of wardrobing abuse of the returns policy—those types of returns should be eliminated completely.
Can you discern between these return types? Yes! Analyzing your returns data provides all sorts of insight to which kinds of returns your company is dealing with. And the best part? Applying that discernment to your returns process will drastically improve the experience for your customer, while also providing measurable impacts to your business.
Prevent Unwanted Returns
Which types of returns is your company experiencing? Analyzing this data can help you make informed decisions about your business operations.
For example, fit, size, or color issues are the number one reason consumers return items to retailers. Knowing that your company is experiencing a high volume of returns because of a specific issue, such as sizing, means that you can address these specifics and work to avoid your unwanted returns.
An easy way to workout issues that lead to unwanted returns is by improving the accuracy of product description pages. You can do this by providing customer reviews, including sizing charts, displaying accurate product photos and descriptions, and by providing a variation of product views.
Something as simple as adding a sizing note such as “runs small” or “runs large” on the description page can help prevent unwanted returns.
Prioritize Your Returns Process
Only a fraction of retailers prioritize managing their returns, which means that many companies are missing out on opportunities to create customer loyalty and repeat business. Not only is a retailer’s return process a major part of the customer experience, but it’s also crucial to making a sale. In fact, shoppers are unlikely to make a purchase if they can’t find the return policy, or if they have to contact support to initiate a return.
Being proactive with your returns process ensures that your customers get what they want—before and after the sale.
What You Can Do Now
There are a handful of best practices that you can apply right now to elevate your customer experience.
Like we explained above, simply revising the information on product description pages can prevent unwanted returns, thus improving customer experience. Additionally, consistent branding and a clearly displayed returns policy on your website homepage will immediately provide peace of mind for your online shoppers.
As for processing your returns, convenience is critical. Customers expect convenient shipping and returns methods, and we know that a bad returns experience negatively impacts customer retention and loyalty rates. In fact, nearly a third of repeat customers say they would leave a brand because of a bad returns experience. Luckily, it is possible to take control of your returns, and change these outcomes.
Why It Matters
Prioritizing your returns process not only elevates your customer experience, but it also creates measurable impacts to your business. Understanding your returns means you can reduce your returns rate, save hundreds of hours in operating costs, and increase your customer loyalty.
Additionally, your returns analysis informs product design and assortment, and improves product performance, operational efficiency, and quality assurance.
When you know which types of returns your business is dealing with, you're able to avoid unnecessary errors, while also building a strong brand that customers will stay loyal to.
Dealing with returns is a major part of the retail industry, and should be prioritized as such. These are a few of the ways you can take action to improve your returns process, and you'll elevate your customer experience by doing so, as well.