How to Optimize Your eCommerce Return Policy
Your return policy can make or break your customer experience. Research shows that 58% of consumers want a hassle-free 'no questions asked' return policy, and 92% will buy something again if the returns process is easy. As much as customers want their products shipped quickly and easily, they want the option to return purchases just as easily. Below are several best practices for optimizing your return policy:
Make your return policy easy to find and easy to read.
67% of shoppers will read a brand's return policy before making a purchase online. Because customers can't try on items or see them in person before buying, many will purchase several items at once, try things out at home, then return whatever they don't want. But first, they must ensure that the store's return policy can support this practice. Make your return policy easy to find in your site's navigation and simple to understand. And be sure to address a wide range of FAQ's like 'How can I return an item I bought online in stores?' and 'Which shipping carriers can I use to return my items?' The more transparent your policy is, the less hassle you create for consumers and your customer service team.
Encourage customer reviews.
Oftentimes returns happen because customers receive a product that looks or fits differently than what they saw on the website. Incorporating user-generated content like ratings and reviews, where customers can leave information on the fit and quality of the item as well as upload photos, can help consumers make an informed purchase decision and reduce the likelihood of returns. Additionally, incorporating Q&A on your site where other customers or someone from your online team can answer customer questions can help customers make the final decision to purchase and ensure that they know as much about the product as possible. The more informed a customer is before making a purchase, the less likely they are to return or exchange that item.
Create an online returns portal.
Many retailers are no longer including return shipping labels in their packages, instead allowing customers to go through their site to manage their returns online and print a shipping label at home. The benefit of taking this route is the flexibility to modify your returns policy with minimal frustration for your suppliers and shipping partners.
Allow enough time for returns.
Be as flexible as you can and give customers a long enough window of time to make their returns, either by shipping the items back or returning them in stores. A good practice is to meet or exceed Amazon's 30-days return policy, as more customers have come to expect this from online retailers.
Consider offering free return shipping.
Studies indicate that 79% of consumers want free return shipping, and only around 49% of retailers currently offer it. Knowing that their purchase can be easily returned if needed increases consumers' trust in your brand and likelihood of purchasing. And even if they do end up returning the items, a seamless return experience will make them more likely to shop on your site in the future.
Comply with marketplace return policies.
Selling your products on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay comes with its own challenges when it comes to returns. On Amazon, for example, third-party sellers are required to accept 'automatically authorized returns' without having any direct contact with the customer. Additionally, return policies have to account for managing returns and cancellations on product subscriptions. Be sure to review these policies thoroughly to create the most seamless experience for customers across all channels.
Many retailers focus on building a positive shopping experience for their customers, but few dedicate the time and resources to creating a seamless returns experience. Customers expect the returns process to be intuitive, simple, and fast. And retailers that deliver will find an increase in customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
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