Whether they bought it in two sizes just to see which fits better, or didn’t realise their friend-who-has-it-all really did already have it, there are plenty of reasons why shoppers return their goods. In fact, around 30% of all items bought online are returned.1 Unsurprisingly at Christmas, with all those unwanted or unsuitable gifts, the figure is even higher.
But what you may not realise is just how critical the returns process is to your customers’ overall perception of your brand. According to a poll by Doddle,2 84% of consumers say the returns experience affects their opinion of a retailer. Shoppers who had a bad returns experience were three times more likely to abandon a retailer.3 But on the flip side, 95% of consumers say that if returns were a positive experience, they would shop with the brand again.
- It drives sales: 67% of shoppers check the returns page before making a purchase.4 They want to see that you have an airtight policy, that it’s simple to return things and it won’t take an age. Once their fears are allayed, they’re more likely to buy.
- They’ll make more purchases: Customers are more likely to part with their cash if they feel safe in the knowledge that they can send things back. This is particularly true for the 40% of shoppers who ‘bracket’ purchases,5 meaning they buy multiple versions of items to work out which ones they like. Whether you’re a fan of this behaviour or not, today’s consumer will do it anyway, so enabling it means securing more sales in the long-run.
- Encourage them to replace it with you: Though 43% of consumers choose not to replace their returned item, 40% will not only replace it – they’ll replace it using the same retailer. Meaning if you’ve made the returns experience pleasant, almost half of the sales may come back around sooner than you’d think.
- Get products back on the ‘shelves’: An efficient returns process also helps you to repair, recycle or restock the returned item quickly, meaning it’s ready for sale again in a shorter timeframe.
- Make it easy: Offer a variety of options to support your customers’ busy lifestyles, from doorstep collection to in-store drop-off. And keep the returns policy as simple as possible for both yourself and your customers.
- Make it quick: 62% of customers expect an exchange or refund within 30 days of purchase,6 and a quarter think a delay in processing returns contributes towards a negative experience, so it’s critical to keep your returns process effcient.
- Make it visible: You can achieve this efficiency by offering the ability to track the progress of the returned parcel, sending confirmation when you’ve received the parcel, and relaying information on when they can expect their refund. You’ll also want to make sure your returns FAQs are clearly signposted on your website.
- Make it free: Unsurprisingly, offering at least one free option is one of the best ways to guarantee a better returns process. 75% of consumers say that they will buy more over time if a retailer offers free returns.7 To keep this cost-effective for your business, the free option would ideally be the one that’s cheapest for you to fulfil.
- Make it sustainable: Consumers care more about the environment than ever before. Offer a sustainable option, like label-less refunds or collecting in bulk from one location. You can also go paperless and offer a seamless digital journey, which also helps both with transparency and speed. If you do decide to offer a green option, make sure to shout about it to attract more conscientious shoppers!
- Make it a last resort: Despite how useful they may be for customers, returns are an expensive headache for any retailer. So the easiest way to make your returns process simpler is to limit the amount of returns you need to support. Some of the reasons for returns are outside of your control, like a customer changing their mind. But others are within your grasp, like providing detailed product descriptions, accurate sizing and true colours in product photography; and minimising items damaged in transit.
To sum it all up, offering returns gives you plenty in return. Improving your process (particularly in time for the busy Christmas period) will be good for business and help you promote brand loyalty well into the new year. Just be sure to pick a partner that can support speedy, simple, reliable and sustainable returns so you can reap the most rewards.
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