Here at Returnalyze, we like to think a lot about returns data, and how beneficial the analysis is for business.
We know that the returns process is crucial to a customer's overall shopping experience, and that a business's return policy can work to the advantage of both retailer and customer. We've also found that nearly a third of repeat customers would leave a brand because of a bad returns experience, which points to an overall need for preventing unwanted returns.
But before getting into returns, perhaps retailers should think — or rethink — what goes into the purchasing side of the transaction. Specifically, purchases from first-time customers should be considered, since returns data indicates that customers who return their first purchase are less likely to buy again.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways for retailers to rethink their customers' first purchases.
Ensure the First Purchase is Successful
To ensure your customer's first purchase is successful, you should provide an abundance of information upfront. Details such as sizing notes, product details, customer reviews, and a clear return policy, are all important aspects of that first purchase.
Also, you can be a proactive retailer when it comes to the inevitable returns you'll be dealing with, by offering a frictionless returns process. Making the process easy for your customer can help you gain repeat business with first-time customers, who may have shopped elsewhere the next time.
Fit and sizing issues remain the leading cause of customer returns, with over 50% of all retail returns being driven by this metric. Luckily, these unwanted returns can be avoided, and business outcomes changed.
By seeing to sizing details on the shopping side of the business transaction, retailers can drastically decrease the number of first-time customers that are lost because of a return.
Accurate sizing charts are a helpful way to ensure your first-time customer is making an informed purchase and receiving what they expect. In turn, you've eliminated the need for your customer to return their first purchase.
Additionally, sizing notes may be needed to provide an informed shopping experience for your customer. If your returns data indicates that a specific item is returned at a high rate due to it being too small or too big, for instance, then simply adding a note on the product description page would be an easy work-around for this issue.
When you prevent an unwanted sizing issue and need for a return, you're less likely to lose that first-time customer.
Product Photos & Details
Another way to ensure a successful first purchase is by improving your product photos, details, and descriptions. Quality photos, a variation of views, and detailed descriptions are all necessary for an ideal first-time shopping experience.
As a retailer, consider the photos you're providing as part of your product description page. Does the lighting allow for an accurate portrayal of color and detail? Your first-time customer may receive a red shoe when they expected pink. Also, including a variation of photographic views of your product is a great way to help your customer get a feel for the item, and make an informed first purchase.
Providing your first-time customer with what they're expecting from the photos helps to eliminate the need for a return on that first purchase.
When a consumer is making their first purchase from a retailer, reading product reviews is oftentimes part of their shopping experience. So, providing reviews by verified customers is a surefire way to ensure a successful first purchase for your shopper.
Your first-time customer is hungry for product information that can't be found on the description page, and wants real-life confirmation from other buyers. As a retailer, you can give them just that.
Designating a space for previous customers to share their experience is crucial to your retail business, and you may even consider allowing for photos as part of submitting a review. Furthermore, if you're looking to drive up the number of customer reviews you receive on your products, you might consider providing perks for repeat customers who consistently submit reviews.
Clear Return Policy
Another necessary part of informed shopping and successful first purchases has to do with your returns policy.
As a retailer, your return policy should be clear, concise, and displayed on your website. Your customer wants to know exactly what will happen if they have to return their first purchase. Do you offer free returns and exchanges? Be sure to let your first-time shopper know! You can provide peace of mind during their shopping experience by thoroughly explaining the returns process on your homepage, product page, and elsewhere on your site.
Even with extra attention given to ensuring a successful first purchase, the inevitable return will occur. And that's ok. You, as a retailer, have the power to make these returns work in your favor.
For example, offering free or frictionless returns increases the likelihood that your shoppers won't dread the process and abandon your brand.
Since free returns or exchanges are the second leading reason that customers are more likely to shop online, your return policy is an avenue for repeat business. Offering a free return or exchange to a first-time customer would be a good way to increase the likelihood that this shopper will come back, when they might have otherwise shopped somewhere else.
You can also simplify the returns process by offering various options to your customer. Returning to the store, returning to a third party drop-off location, returning online, or not returning at all, are options that you should consider presenting.
Additionally, you might think about providing incentives for your preferred return location. If you'd like to direct shoppers toward returning unwanted items to the store, for example, then you should make it easier for customers by offering contactless curbside returns or kiosks.
It's up to you, the retailer, to consider how you might use your returns process to ensure a successful purchase for a first-time customer.
Change Your Outcomes
Overall, you have several ways that you can ensure a successful first purchase.
Providing more information upfront — such as sizing notes, product photos, and customer reviews — helps your first-time shopper make an informed purchase, and may even prevent an unwanted return. As such, you're less likely to lose that customer due to a returned first purchase. And luckily, when the inevitable return does happen, you have the power to use your returns policy to your advantage.
At Returnalyze, that makes us pretty excited. We believe you have the ability to take control of your returns and change your business outcomes. Contact us to find out more.