Handling eCommerce returns can definitely cause headaches for e-store owners and retailers.
- Costs of processing returns
- Products possibly getting damaged when they're shipped back
- The possibility of losing customers due to an unsatisfactory experience
The rate at which your online store receives returns will have an impact on your profit margins. According to Paazl, online retail businesses can expect return rates between 25-40%, versus brick and mortar stores who average an 8% return rate.
Another study on eCommerce returns statistics shows that return deliveries continue to increase. In the US, they are estimated to cost $550 billion by 2020, making it an issue that simply won't go away.
According to Optoro, here are the categories that get returned the most:
- Clothing & Accessories
- Beauty & Personal Products
- Outdoor & Sports Gear
If your store sells any of the above products, it's necessary for you to have and maintain a return policy for your eCommerce store. Customers look for it before buying from you, and it's reported that they are happier and more willing to purchase from a retailer again if the eCommerce returns process is seamless. Since you want their business, you'll just have to play along.
Why eCommerce has a higher return rate than traditional retail
Since customers miss the opportunity to see and try the product in person, there's a higher risk that it may not meet their expectations once they receive it.
To make up for this, some customers may buy different sizes and colors to see which one fits best, and return the ones that don't.
There are also those who "rent" a product, using it once and then returning it afterwards.
According to ReturnLogic, while serial returners do exist, they are a small percentage of product returns and are not the main cause for the higher return rates.
While you can't control a customer's urge to return something, you can control how your items are displayed and promoted on your website to ensure returns are kept to a minimum.
There are multiple reasons why returns happen, and they include but are not limited to the following:
- Inaccurate product descriptions
- Lack of accurate dimensions and size
- Significant variations in sizing charts
- Received a damaged product
- Product received looks different
- Received the wrong item
Considering the above, here are some best practices that can help your customers make better purchasing decisions, therefore reducing the amount of returns you need to process.
How to reduce returns in eCommerce
- Encourage customer to leave product reviews: When your customers leave reviews or feedback, it will help potential customers make smarter buying decisions. For example, a customer will be able to determine if a shoe is true to size through reviews.
- Have high quality photos: This is especially important if you sell fashion items like shoes, clothes, and handbags. Display the items from various angles, and allow customers to zoom in so they can see the product in detail.
- Include accurate size guides: This works great for clothes and shoes. If you're targeting overseas customers, ensure you have size guides that correspond with the local size metrics.
Make sure your product page contains detailed descriptions so your customers know exactly what to expect. Important information to include are size + sizing guide, price, material, care instructions, and shipping details.
What to include in your return policy
A return policy is meant to encourage customers to buy from you, so make sure it's easy to understand and customer-friendly! Consider implementing the following:
- Personalization: Address the specific products you offer instead of ‘copying and pasting’ any policy you come across. This will show your customers that you are thorough.
- Make the returns procedure clear: Let your customers understand the procedure to return items that do not suit their needs or wrongly shipped to them. The simpler, the better.
- Make the timeframe clear: If there is a limited window to return an item, be sure this is clearly mentioned in your policy.
Apart from these, your policy should also be able to clearly answer some of the key questions your customers might have, such as who pays for the shipping, how duties and taxes will be handled (for international returns), if they need to include any paperwork (such as the order slip the item came with), and anything else specific to your business that will help you process the return quickly.
Even though it appears eCommerce returns are here to stay, it can be effectively managed when retailers go the extra mile to ensure that consumers find the right products each time they visit their online store. With the right mix of accurate product information, visualization, and customer feedback, returns can shed their bad rep!
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