Perfecting the online returns process

Order Management

With the customer experience growing more important to retailers across the world, it's pivotal that you not only perfect the way you secure sales, but also the approach you take when purchases go wrong and customers want to return items. A flexible and accommodative return policy can be just as important to winning customers as free shipping and other perks. After all, no one wants to buy from a retailer for the first time when there are no returns or they have to pay for return shipping on top of exorbitant restocking fees.

Setting a flexible return policy
So how should an online returns policy work? As Practical eCommerce notes, you should try to mimic or even exceed the offline experience as much as possible.

A flexible and accommodative return policy can be just as important to winning customers as free shipping and other perks.

This starts by making return policies visible on the main page, making shoppers aware of the procedure before they complete transactions.

Once they have entered the return section of the website, give as much power to the customers as possible. Allow them to choose the platform the conversation happens through, whether it's a real-time online chat, email, phone or in a brick-and-mortar store. Let them pick exchange items if they want to make an exchange, down to the size, color and features of the replacement product. If they want a refund, let them choose between a variety of payment options if it makes sense for you. Convenience is a major factor in why shoppers pick specific retailers, and this should extend to your return and refund policy.

Effective return policies also allow customers to settle price differences online, extend the return period of a product in the case of a replacement, and other factors that provide additional convenience. Customers should never be left sitting at your returns page, wondering how they can take care of certain tasks. Account for every imaginable circumstance possible.

After choosing whether they want to make an exchange or get a refund, let them print a return label. While it's standard practice to include one with each purchase, this goes back to the convenience factor – if they lost or misplaced the original, it shouldn't be a hassle to get a new one. Although this can be a challenge for your organization,it makes the customer's life easier, which should be your ultimate goal.

"This feature can be tricky," Practical eCommerce adds. "It will require tight integration with carriers like FedEx, UPS, or the United States Postal Service, and it may require merchants to take additional certification steps – FedEx, for example, will require a certification before its application programming interface will allow label printing."

By doing all the leg work for the customer in advance, you are showing them that you value their time. This goes a long way in creating a base of loyal shoppers who know you respect them.

How to execute flexible return policies
Clearly, having a flexible return policy is important. According to a 2008 study from the UPS, 55.2 percent of customers even pointed to difficult return policies and high restocking fees as the No. 2 barrier that prevented them from making a purchase.

However, accepting returns and getting products back out to customers isn't an easy task from your end either. In fact, being flexible with your returns policy can even be costly if you don't execute properly on your end. Fortunately, eCommerce software such as SalesWarp can help you better manage your returns, RMAs, exchanges in addition to all of your logistics, inventory and order processing procedures.

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