For all of the convenience online shopping affords, there’s still an inherent risk in buying products sight unseen. All the photographs in the world can’t compare to viewing or holding a product in hand before deciding to purchase it.
This is why returns will always be part of the ecommerce business model.
However, the cost of accepting those returns adds up over time, to seriously eat into your profit margins. Return rates between 25 and 40 percent are common for sellers of commodities like apparel, furniture and more.
With that in mind, consider these ideas for reducing ecommerce return rates.
Update Product Listings
Return rates depend directly upon the information you include in your product listings. The more useful information you provide to shoppers, the more likely they’ll be to order exactly what they need the first time around. Buying remotely means depending upon these listings to provide enough data to make a savvy purchasing decision.
To that end, make sure each product listing in your catalogue includes:
- List of features
- Specifications (where appropriate)
- HD photographs or video
- Size chart (if applicable)
Short of being able to try out your products for themselves, customers should be able to glean an accurate idea about the size, appearance and functionality of your offerings. This is why it’s worthwhile to go above and beyond uploading basic manufacturer-provided data; every little bit helps reduce return rates and boost customer confidence.
Tighten Your Threshold
It’s simply unfeasible to expect every online merchant to be able to offer free returns to every customer. How you structure your return policy depends upon a number of factors. Among these are the size of your operation, your platform for enterprise ecommerce, the nature of your products, your shipping solution and more.
Some companies have found success by enacting policies meant to make customers think twice about returns. MultiChannelMerchant provides the example of Jet.com, which “offers a lower price if the consumer opts out of the free return policy.” Some brands choose to set a threshold for their returns, meaning customers must surpass a certain dollar amount to unlock the perk of free shipping and returns. Other companies offer free returns on certain products—namely those reasonable to ship back and forth.
Your exact strategy for tightening your threshold will vary depending on the nature of your online store’s products. Still though, the underlying principle is you don’t have to offer free returns indiscriminately. Although customers do appreciate, and often expect, this benefit, there are creative ways to make it less of a financial burden while delivering a fair customer experience.
Understand the Reasons for Returns
To prevent returns, your online store must first understand them. This process begins with stellar customer service. Collect data on why people are returning your merchandise. Are products becoming damaged in transit? Are your sizing suggestions inaccurate? Are customers experiencing product malfunctions? Do recipients feel the product they got differs from the photographs they viewed online? Whatever the case, work to alleviate these issues so you can reduce return rates and keep your customers satisfied.
These ideas for reducing ecommerce return rates will maximize your profit margins and wow your customer base. While proactive customer service will go a long way toward mitigating complaints and helping customers sort issues, it’s also important to also address the root causes.