E-commerce returns have been a bit of a void for merchants and still are today. The main reason is that understanding the full impact of returns on the company and customer level has been problematic since the process has traditionally been manual, heavily relying on paper-based methods, which complicates synchronisation and prompts mistakes. With little insights on returns, digitising the process is generally seen as a nice-to-have but also avoidable expense and therefore ignored in terms of impact on the company and, particularly, customer loyalty and retention.
Things are slowly starting to change, though. As eCommerce deprioritises customer acquisition to focus on growing by betting on customer loyalty and retention, brands have to pay special attention to turning one-time buyers into recurrent customers. Many aspects come to play to ensure customer loyalty, and one is guaranteeing a fuss-free return experience and keeping the customers engaged throughout the post-purchase journey. Let’s deep dive a little bit more on this, shall we?
Challenges of eCommerce returns
The biggest challenges of eCommerce returns are the costs they entail, the complications in managing reverse logistics and, last but not least, the impact on customer satisfaction. A study by Klarna shows that 60% of online consumers say that returns are a necessary part of online shopping. It’s quite probable that this percentage will increase in the upcoming years as more people take on online shopping as their preferred choice over in-store.
eCommerce Returns and their impact on customer loyalty
Another report by IMRG shows that 25% of shoppers in the UK think that a delay in processing a refund contributes to an overall negative brand experience, negatively impacting the chances of a customer buying again soon. On another note, a survey from Inmar Intelligence found that 72% of customers would buy again from a brand if it provided a positive return experience. For this reason, to ensure future purchases and, consequently, increase the customer lifetime value, it’s essential to deliver an excellent return experience to your customers.
How to build an excellent return experience
Sales and returns often go hand in hand, meaning that if sales peak, returns will, unfortunately, also increase. While the pre-purchase, purchase and checkout processes are widely taken care of, many retailers forget that the customer journey does not end at check out. The customer journey is a circular experience, and the post-purchase journey is essential to making the whole system work. As a matter of fact, the return experience could make or break your brand; it can be the reason you’re losing customers or be the reason for your brand’s success story.
To help you increase customer loyalty, here are six ways to create an excellent return experience that delights your customers and benefits your team and company.
Treat the ecommerce return policy page as a marketing and sales tool
A study done by TrueShip shows that over 60% of customers check the return policy page before making a purchase. Sixty per cent is a pretty high number to not pay attention to and, definitely, a waste if you’re not optimising it for loyalty and retention purposes. There are two different ways to build and use your return policy:
- Simple text-based landing page with all the necessary information. It could be enough to kick off things, but it definitely needs to be optimised as the brand scales.
- FAQs are probably the most efficient way to go about the return policy page. Create a list of possible questions your customers might have, like “how to make a return?”, “Will I get a shipping label” “Will I have to pay for my return?”, “How long should I wait to get my refund? and use links to re-direct them to the solution to their problem.
Reassure customers with automated confirmation emails
Most first-time customers feel like walking on eggshells when they process their first online return. Reassure them with automated confirmation emails as soon as they have submitted their return request, and every time there’s a big status change on their return status, for example, in-transit; warehouse received, warehouse check ok, accepted and refunded/exchanged. If you have the option, add a tracking link on the return confirmation email so that customers can easily track their package in real-time and without needing to contact your customer’s support team.
For example, the underwear and swimwear brand, Ysé, offers its clients a fully digital return experience powered by yayloh return management platform. When a customer processes a return via a digital return form, they receive status update emails to ensure that they are informed of the status and have the chance to get real-time updates via a tracking page.
Offer Free Returns (or clearly explain why you don’t)
Given the unpredictability of online shopping, it’s hardly surprising that 79% of buyers demand free return shipping. Consumers, in general, seek peace of mind when purchasing online, which is why providing free return shipping to your customers is like sending a soothing signal. On an unfavourable point for the brand, it’s important to point out that the logistics of returns add extra expenses to your company, reducing income.
What happens when you can’t offer free returns? It’s not the end of the world, but you have to clearly state it throughout the customer journey to avoid disappointment and confusion.
Some brands do not offer free returns to encourage customers to buy consciously due to the high environmental cost of returns. Another common fact revolves around the cost of returns; it’s rarely feasible for a small brand to offer free returns. If you’re starting and the budget is tight, we recommend not offering free returns. You can always change the rules once you scale!
Simplify ecommerce returns and exchanges
If there’s something that we have learnt so far, is that returns are inevitable; it’s better to use them to your advantage rather than see them as a negative aspect. Regardless of the return reason, to boost customer retention and loyalty, we recommend offering different return options to give your customers the choice of cashing back their returns in their preferred form. That could be store credit, exchange for another available product or speedy refunds to foster customer retention. On one side, exchanges and store credit are great ways to boost customer retention. While on the other side, a full refund is a good option for customers who aren’t too sure about their purchase and prefer to sit back to make a proper decision before, hopefully, coming back to your store.
Tie everything together with a return management software
A return management software can put an end to your return fatigue. In the same way, you set up an online store using an eCommerce platform, a return management software exists to manage your store’s online returns. Each point mentioned above can be tackled and simplified with a return management platform, so acquiring one is a smart decision for your brand.
yayloh is a return management software specially built for DTC to simplify and digitalise the return process. It provides customers with a fully digital return experience that makes the process easier and keeps them engaged with the brand longer. For you, it will streamline operations, make your customer service team's lives easier with automation, and help reduce returns with return data insights and customer comments.
See the bright side of eCommerce returns
Most brands working with a manual return process associate returns with negative thoughts and lost customers. With a digital return process, the tables turn as the brand takes complete control of the process and can re-engage customers will a fully branded journey that reinforces the customers’ trust in the brand, boosting customer loyalty and retention.
In addition, the brand can collect and analyse the feedback and return data from the customers to reduce returns.
To be more time and cost-effective, we recommend digitising the return experience from the very beginning for small teams and brands. Investing in a return management software can show great ROI and impact the team’s productivity and efficiency. This way, founders and first employees can focus on value-added tasks rather than answering “Where is my return?” emails or sending shipping labels. Furthermore, it will help your brand scale faster as all return processes and operations will already be automated. It’s a win-win situation!