Returns happen to the best of us. They’re not fun for customers or merchants, and worst of all, they can be costly. Luckily, having a good returns plan can be a way of building a better brand, which can grow your sales and become a profitable strategy. A good fulfillment plan is common among the larger brands that most consumers shop from. While it’s not always possible to compete with the return shipping rates that platforms like Amazon offer, you can set realistic expectations for return timeframes.
As ecommerce evolves, companies with policies that favor the consumer are more likely to make the sale. This means that understanding consumer anticipations can lead to more cart conversions and can also create long-term customers. Our friends at ShipStation have conducted research on consumer expectations regarding returns and compiled the findings in this eBook. Using that data, here are some ways to empower customers with a solid returns process.
1.Know which types of items consumers return
The first thing to account for is which items consumers are likely to return. If you sell a variety of products, there are some items that customers return more than others. If you sell things like clothing, they will be returned far more often than something like pet supplies. So, as you build out a returns strategy, some items require a more detailed process than others. If your brand mostly deals with apparel, it’s important to have a strong return strategy.
Check out which product categories receive the highest return rates in the table below.
The predominant reason for items, particularly clothing, being returned is issues with fit. 74% of consumers returned items for this reason. Close behind, the next two reasons were not liking the item, followed by not having a need for the item. These reasons also came up most when consumers returned gifts.
2.Promote your returns policy
Merchants’ return policies are seen as more than just instructions for unwanted items. When customers purchase from a new website, there can be hesitation. Consumers may not complete the purchasing process if they think they will be stuck with an item that doesn’t meet their needs. Having a transparent and accessible returns policy can help instill consumer confidence and cut down on shopping cart abandonment.
In fact, 72% of customers check a company’s return policy before placing an order. When consumers find out that a website doesn’t offer returns, 70% of them leave without purchasing. To prevent that from happening, prominently display your returns policy or link to it on your product pages.
3.Fast and easy over free and slow
84% of consumers prefer fast and easy returns over free options that take longer to process. Features like a returns portal allow customers to easily generate their return label. The lack of back-and-forth is a great way to empower customers to place orders with you. Ultimately, customers prefer the returns process to be efficient and require as little email or phone interaction as possible.
Remember, just because you have an effortless returns process doesn’t mean customers will return at a higher volume. Only 12% of responders have kept unwanted items due to missing their returns windows. Customers will return unwanted items. The difference is that brands with easier returns policy simply land more sales.
4.Don’t charge too much for returns
Simplicity and speed are still a bigger driver than free returns. In fact, we found that consumers are willing to pay up to $5 or 11% of an item's value when placing a return. Keep in mind that charging for returns can elevate consumer expectations about the speed of the return shipping and chargeback. This makes the need for a robust returns strategy even more important.