Generate business by having no regrets about returns
If you're a smart retail owner, you measure the success by the number of sales you generate and how much revenue these transactions pull. However, sales shouldn't be the finishing point in the shopping experience, and truly successful merchants will have fleshed out return policies that serves their customers when necessary.
Although returns aren't something that most retailers look forward to, they are a fact of eCommerce life. At some point, a customer will buy an item that is defective or not quite what he or she wanted.
Try as you may, you can only minimize these instances and you'll never be able to completely eliminate them. Therefore, it's critical that you make the process as painless as possible when your loyal patrons do want to return a product.
Multichannel Merchant recently spoke with Melissa O'Keefe, the senior director of eCommerce operations and marketing at Innotrac, for some advice on creating exchange policies that are consumer-friendly and sure to resonate with customers. As she says, returns are only costly when looked at from the perspective of a single transaction. Someone who exchanges a product will likely come back to make additional purchases – unless the return procedure is so time-consuming it discourages them from coming back, in which case they are costly.
1. Promote transparency
First, merchants must do their best to promote their returns policy. Nearly two-thirds of customers (63 percent) view exchange procedures before making a purchase, and hiding it on your website can actually cause customers to abandon a purchase.
"You don't want to jeopardize future purchases of a potentially valuable repeat customer because a single purchase didn't work out," O'Keefe explains. "An unfriendly returns policy damages the likelihood that consumers will recommend a brand."
2. Make returns free
Just as shipping costs can deter customers from making a purchase to begin with, charging them for shipping a return back can similarly be detrimental. Few retailers do this because, in the short-term, it can be very costly to do so. However, considering free returns could mean the difference between a person who makes one purchase versus one who makes multiple, it could be beneficial in the long run.
That being said, you could also try different variations of this practice. For example, if a customer wants to return a purchase, you could allow for in-store exchanges of online transactions. This way, you're still giving them a free option, even if you aren't offering free return shipping.
Returns and exchanges are just a reality of retail, particularly when people are buying items based solely on a few pictures and descriptions on an eCommerce website. By utilizing consumer-friendly exchange policies in conjunction with eCommerce software, you can make great inroads on streamlining the return process and improving your customer service overall.