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4 ways to improve your eCommerce returns process

If you are operating an eCommerce website with an online store then it’s vital that you have a solid returns process in place for when things go wrong.

If you get this process right and meet the expectations of your customers, you will not only inspire confidence in your brand but also encourage repeat business from your customers.

With that in mind here are 4 tips to improve your returns process.

1. Reduce returns by improving your product descriptions

If your product descriptions are vague or missing key information that relates to the product then you run the risk of not meeting your customers’ expectations upon delivery.

Things to consider:

  • A great product description is also a selling tool, especially if the content is benefit focussed. Getting this right could lead to more sales of the item in the long run.
  • Improve your SEO by increasing both the length and quality of your product descriptions. This can have a positive impact on how well your products rank in search engines such as Google.

 

2. Consider offering free returns

Offering free returns is a great way to take the sting out of returning an unwanted item. Of course this also means that you will have to cover the costs of postage yourself.

Whilst this may seem daunting at first there is actually evidence available in the Journal of Marketing that implies customers are more likely to remain loyal to your brand if you cover the costs of returns. In theory this means you should be able to re-coup your postage costs over time via repeat business.

Things to consider:

  • Supply pre-printed returns stickers with each product. Doing so is both convenient for the customer and helpful to you, since you can ensure the sticker contains vital information such as the products SKU code and customer ID.
  • If you can’t afford to cover postage costs at least consider offering pre-paid postage for damaged or exchange items. Otherwise you are almost guaranteed to lose a customer’s repeat business.
You may think that offering a larger deadline such as 60 days will result in more returns due to ‘buyer’s remorse’, however it’s actually been shown that the longer a customer has an item the more likely they are to become attached to it.
Laura Wake, Account Manager

 3. Make your returns process clear via a product returns FAQ

A well written and informative returns FAQ can help to reduce customer service related emails and calls. It can also help to improve sales by alleviating any doubts customers may have prior to making a purchase.

Things to consider:

  • Consider the common questions your customers may have such as how long refunds take to process, or reasons for why a return might be rejected.
  • Consider including a printed FAQ and including it along with each product to ensure customers know what to do if they need to return an item.

 

 4. Consider offering  longer returns deadline

One of the first questions a customer has when it comes to returns is how long they have to return the item. Some retailers tend to have a 14 day returns policy whereas others such as Amazon offer 30 days.

You may think that offering a larger deadline such as 60 days will result in more returns due to ‘buyer’s remorse’, however it’s actually been shown that the longer a customer has an item the more likely they are to become attached to it – this is known as the Endowment Effect.

Things to consider:

  • If you sell used items – consider whether or not you need a separate returns deadline for these items versus new items.

 

 So in conclusion

Most potential issues with your customer returns can be reduced by improving communication with the customer throughout the entire buying cycle.

If you are unable to make major changes to your returns process due to budget constraints then you can take little steps – such as being flexible with your returns deadlines.

Ultimately a happier customer is more likely to become a repeat customer so bear that in mind in your handlings of customer returns.