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How You Handle Returns Really Matter to the Customer Experience

For many ecommerce companies, product returns pose some of the biggest hassles and can put a financial strain on their businesses. Retailers in the US report a return rate of between 20 percent and 40 percent for online sales, a higher margin than brick and mortar stores. Online shoppers are more likely to buy multiple items and keep only what they want, treating the system like their own fitting room. Other customers may find what they ordered wasn’t what they expected. While allowing customers easy shipping and returns is great customer service and is likely increasing your sales, the cost and time for processing returns can be debilitating.

Not only do ecommerce retailers need to give the customer a refund on the product, they also sometimes pay for return shipping, have to pay their employees to process the return, and then figure out that to do with the used product. Some can be placed back on the virtual shelves, but if the product is broken or appears worn, it can no longer be sold.

Ecommerce return rates are rising, and this trend does not appear to be abating anytime soon. In the 2016 MCM Outlook Survey, the percentage of retailers who had 10-14 percent of their merchandise returned jumped to 15.4 percent from 8.3 percent. As more and more customers begin to see easy online returns as the norm, having an organized system and well thought-out return policy is key.

If you have issues or confusion over your returns, be sure the policy is clearly stated on your website. A confusing or scary return policy may turn customers away, which may reduce your return rates, but will also reduce your sales. Customers want to be confident that they can return an item if necessary, so make sure the language is clear and it is placed in a prominent spot on your website.

If customers get annoyed with your return policy, they may choose not to shop with you again. So try and make it a hassle-free process, by offering free returns, clear instructions in the packaging, and no-questions-asked returns. And if you do offer free returns, publicize it! For long-term customer retention, it's better not to argue with customers over this.

You can also consider extending the amount of time customers can return products, which may seem counterintuitive. But in fact, researchers that the longer a customer has an item in hand, the greater the likelihood of attachment and the lesser the likelihood of a return. Customers will also appreciate having a longer time to consider keeping the product, even if they do end up returning it.

To help eliminate returns in the first place, make some updates to your website. Be sure you have detailed product descriptions and a variety of photos and videos to provide a full profile on the product. Combining thorough descriptions with excellent imagery and video can reduce the need for returns.

Including user reviews, where previous customers can indicate how a product looks or fits, can also help guarantee customers know exactly that the product is before they purchase it. If you offer clothing or other sized items, be sure you have consistent size charts. Consider integrating a fitting tool or virtual wardrobe to assist customers in finding their perfect size.

Returns can be burdensome to ecommerce businesses, but with a few enhancements, they can be a lot more manageable. Offering returns do come at a cost for businesses, but having a good customer experience justifies that cost!

Ryan Elich

Ryan Elich

Ryan Elich is the director of sales at Jazva, a unified multi-channel e-commerce solution that manages orders, listings, inventory and shipping, all through one platform. Ryan has been in the e-commerce industry for over 6 years, and his passion is selling baby potty training products online. Outside of work, he enjoys time with family, fantasy sports and Disneyland.