How to reduce customer returns
26th January 2023
A challenge that all ecommerce businesses face to some degree, regardless of product range, volume or offering, are returns. eCommerce returns are a costly part of selling online. Widely considered to be an unfortunate yet inevitable drain on staff resources and profits, product returns and policies are also one of the most under-reviewed parts of running a business. With growth and sales revenue on the line, however, investing in solutions to reduce returns is essential.
In today’s ecommerce landscape, where not having a generous returns policy in place can mean the difference between making a sale and losing out to a competitor, it can be hard to know how to save money on product returns without sacrificing sales. After years of facing this issue, many of the most successful ecommerce businesses have realised that, if there is no room for compromise on the side of the customer, the only remaining option is for sellers to rework their approach to product returns.
In this post, our ecommerce experts will be taking sellers through the necessary steps to revitalise their systems and reduce returns. So, if you’re struggling to cope, read on to discover the most common reasons for returning an item, and our recommendations on how to reduce the impact each one has on your business.
What are the reasons for a sales return?
When shopping online, customers have a wide range of reasons for returning an item, most of which usually fall into two main categories: seller error and consumer error. When it comes to reducing returns, it is the responsibility of the seller to identify and resolve the causes of both types, whether that be by improving user experience and the information available to potential buyers, or by solving issues internally to ensure the correct item arrives on time, and in perfect condition.
Below, we’ve outlined the top five most common return reasons from both categories, along with suggested solutions to reduce the likelihood of them affecting your business, giving you the tools and guidance you need to bring your ecommerce return rates to manageable levels.
- Item arrived too late
A common reason for returning time-sensitive items such as suitcases, occasion dresses, gifts and even Halloween costumes, delivery delays can cause ecommerce return rates to skyrocket. After all, if the product isn’t delivered in time for the customer’s holiday, special event or Halloween party, then it’s highly-likely that they’ll be shopping elsewhere for a last-minute alternative and returning the redundant item when it does eventually arrive at their door.
The best way to reduce returns caused by a late delivery is to perform a thorough review of your delivery process. Key factors to consider include offering not just an array of couriers to suit all delivery destinations (such as Europe and Rest of the World), but also ensuring essential delivery options, including next-day and tracked, are covered for ultimate flexibility. At StoreFeeder, our multi-channel solution allows merchants to choose from a range of couriers, including Royal Mail, DHL, DPD, Evri, Yodel and many more, giving customers the flexibility of choosing their ideal courier and delivery option, while leaving the seller in control.
- Item arrived broken or damaged
An inconvenience for both buyer and seller, having an item arrive broken or damaged in some way is likely to see the item in question returned, along with a potential negative review. In this case, the reputation of the business, and the number of purchases made on that particular item are at risk – which is when good customer service becomes critical. In order to ensure customer complaints are dealt with quickly and efficiently, businesses should refine their customer service method, making sure every individual is treated kindly and their issue is resolved, either with a refund or a replacement, and an apology for any inconveniences caused. It’s worth noting that prompt refunds and replacements can also soften the blow to the customer and lessen the chance of receiving a negative review – so make sure that your systems are set up to issue a refund or dispatch a replacement quickly if required. Once again, this is something that StoreFeeder software can help with thanks to its courier, warehousing, and accounting integrations.
While having good customer service strategies in place is an absolute necessity for sellers across every industry, one method to reduce the likelihood of customers returning a product that’s broken or damaged is to review your packaging methods for fragile goods. After all, goods are most commonly damaged during transit, and if an extra layer of bubble wrap can mean the difference between a returned item with a complaint and a happy customer with a positive review, the extra cost is worth it.
- Wrong item delivered
Another example in which good customer service is essential, being sent the wrong item by a seller, whether it be the wrong size or colour, or the wrong item all together, is a frustrating time for the buyer. Even so, this doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all of a customer-seller relationship. In fact, provided the customer’s case is dealt with in an efficient, professional and apologetic manner, their loyalty to the company can be reinforced, not diminished.
As with broken and damaged items, the chances of an incorrect item being sent can be reduced when proper precautions are taken. Of course, the time it would take to double, or even triple-check every delivery made is likely to be a big drain on resources, and more effort than it’s worth. As such, we recommend streamlining your pick and pack process by using StoreFeeder’s intelligent warehouse management system. Designed to minimise the risk of human error, while simultaneously driving efficiency, this implements a user friendly barcode system which makes order fulfilment easier and faster.
- Item not as described
A common reason for ecommerce returns is the item failing to meet the customer’s expectations. There is, unsurprisingly, a wide variety of reasons that could lead to this occurring. For example, in the fashion industry, clothes can fail to meet expectations by being a slightly different colour in person than on the screen, or not feel the way they expected. If the item isn’t exactly what the customer wanted when they made the purchase, it is likely that they’ll return the item and keep looking for what they wanted elsewhere.
The best way to reduce returns caused by the item not being as described is to optimise your product descriptions and images. Continuing with the clothing example, rather than having one flat-lay picture of the piece, it’s best to include multiple high-quality images taken at different angles. If possible, including pictures of the item being worn by multiple models is also a great way to show the piece on different frames. Once images have been uploaded, it’s also worth updating the product description to include all relevant information about the item, including its material and any key features.
For merchants who sell over multiple ecommerce platforms, this task is made more time-consuming as the same product may need to be optimised across their own site, ebay, Amazon, Etsy and more. In such cases, the most efficient way to update products and reduce returns across all platforms is to utilise StoreFeeder’s listing management feature. Designed to make optimising product listings across certain platforms easier, StoreFeeder’s software gives sellers the ability to independently manage listings, or bulk upload and monitor their performance across all platforms for effortless visibility.
- Item doesn’t fit
Similar to returning a product due to it not being as described, product returns caused by ill-fitting items is something that commonly occurs in the fashion industry. Fortunately, just as poorly-described products can be optimised to share relevant information with potential buyers, so too can size guides.
There are a number of ways sellers can reduce returns caused by ill-fitting items, with the most obvious being to implement better, more accurate and easy-to-read size guides. The best size guides offer both inch and centimetre measurements to cater to individual preferences, and should change according to product ranges available, including men’s, children’s and women’s, as well as petite, maternity and tall collections.
On top of this, additional methods sellers can implement on their site include interactive questionnaires which automatically recommend the ideal size for the customer, additional information by product which states whether it’s regular, oversized or slim fitting, and a size review feature to allow previous buyers to share their personal experience on if it fits well, or whether they’d recommend sizing up or down.
How do you improve the return process?
While implementing the solutions covered above is a great way to limit your exposure to the most common return reasons, the best way to make improvements specific to your customers is to also improve your return process. The first part of this task is to refine your consumer refund service feedback form to include both the most common return reasons shown above, as well as any additional reasons you think may occur in your own business, such as ‘it was bought as a gift’ or ‘I changed my mind’.
With a fully optimised feedback form in place, you can start to record the reasons given by customers, as well as the product it relates to, to start building a clearer picture of the regular offenders in your business. From here, you can prioritise which solutions need to be implemented to get your ecommerce return rates under control.
How to reduce customer returns with StoreFeeder
At StoreFeeder, our innovative ecommerce solutions software puts merchants in complete control of their businesses, allowing them to efficiently manage everything from couriers and warehouse pick and packing systems, to multi-platform listings and returns.
If you’re looking to reduce customer returns, and save money and resources doing so, our ecommerce software is perfect for you. To learn more about how StoreFeeder can boost your business, book a free demo today and test it out for yourself.
The StoreFeeder Blog shall return next week.