The word is out far and wide in the ecommerce community: if you don’t improve your process for online product returns, then you can’t really get upset when sales are down or when your competitor is outdoing you at every left turn. That’s the new status quo, augmented by the voice of the consumer, which has repeatedly made clear that they want product returns to be simple, convenient and fast.
Think tank ComScore has published numerous studies regarding this topic. They say that over 60% of shoppers review the returns policy offered by the store before they make a purchase. As much as 80% or more of shoppers are influenced by what’s involved in making a return. In short, if the process to return an items is more difficult than it was to buy it, shoppers will take their business to a store that makes it just as simple to do both.
Competing with Stores Like Zappos
Stores like Zalando and Zappos have made much headway by offering hassle-free returns with no shipping fees. Each entity has reported strong gains year in and year out since implementing these policies. And each e-retailer has a return rate that’s nearly as high as 50%. But, each also are posting strong profits. That’s because they know that their most loyal shoppers will also make the most returns, but will also keep on buying products, too.
Letting Consumers Know They Matter
Customer service in ecommerce goes above just offering competitive prices or a toll free number or online chat. It’s also about taking care of the customer long after the purchase has been made. Factor in that over 30% of products will be returned by consumers from online purchases, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it’s easier to understand why the returns policy is so important.
How Lenient Returns Can Improve Sales
Lenient returns can indeed improve sales. A study that was reported on by Science Daily separated two control groups of a major e-retailer. One group offered easy returns; the other made them difficult. After six months, the control group offering easy returns out-performed the other group, posting $1.8 million in revenue as compared to just $1.2 million, a more than 30% increase.
Automating the Returns Policy
Now some e-retailers mistakenly think that they can’t afford to integrate automated product returns systems, fearing that it would cost too much or that they would have to create a custom system. But newer SaaS providers are offering RMA software that does just this for feasible monthly fees. In light of newer solutions being available, there really are no more excuses for a poor returns policy.
Encouraging Healthier Long Term Sales & Retention
Naturally, the end goal of revamping your product returns policy is to improve customer service, loyalty and long term retention. Consider this along the way: in about 65% of all cases of products being returned, it’s not the consumer’s fault, it’s yours. Top reasons include a damaged product being delivered, wrong item being delivered or even the product being significantly different in person.
By integrating a hassle-free returns policy you are telling your customers a lot of different things. But the most important thing that you are doing is increasing their confidence and further influencing their buying pattern because you are letting them know: Hey, don’t worry about shopping at this store. Returns are easy. So if the product doesn’t work out, just send it back and you can buy something else.