Online retailers know the struggles of returns all too well. They are time-consuming and costly, and can significantly damage customer relationships. Even worse, the culture of returning goods is more prominent than ever, with a lot of customers purchasing items with returning them in mind. Reducing your return rate is a mixture between a good returns management software and developing best practices to process your returns effectively. With that in mind, here are our 8 tips for reducing product returns:
1. Ensure product quality lives up to expectations
When advertising your products, you’re likely to slightly inflate them to attract people’s attention. You need to be careful though, as inflating the product too much compared to its actually quality can trigger a lot of returns from unhappy customers. Ensure the way you talk about, and sell, your product is in line with its actual quality when it arrives with the customer. This method is best practise and will help reduce your product returns, but will also increase your credibility and overall customer satisfaction. To ensure your advertising of products is consistent, you could create branding guidelines that outline how you promote your products and brand overall. This will help lower your return rate as your team is sticking to the same guidelines when promoting your product, and in the future will prevent any further returns because of mis-selling.
2. High quality product images, videos and descriptions
Control what your customers expect vs. what they get. Several high-resolution images on your website, that can be zoomed and show the product from various angles, help shoppers decide whether the product is right for them. The same is true for product descriptions, which should be as detailed as possible. This ensures customers have all the information they need to make the right purchase decision. And where it makes sense, why not produce a video that shows the product in use? It doesn’t have to cost hundreds of pounds to produce, it can be a simple video filmed on a phone showing a 360° of the product. This helps your customers understand the product better pre-purchase, so they know what they’re purchasing and are less likely to return it as a result.
For after the purchase, why not create explainer videos showing how to set up or use the product? This is particularly useful for complex or highly technical products, where customers might get frustrated and send it back when they can’t get it to work properly.
3. Implement detailed size guides and fitting tools
The biggest downside to online shopping is that you can’t try on a product to see how it fits. This leads to customers purchasing multiple sizes of the same product, trying them all and returning what fits, increasing your return rate and costing you money. An online fitting tool can help prevent this by providing an easy-to-use guide to how the product will fit. Detailed size guides also aid the shopper finding the perfect size – avoiding a disappointed return afterwards. This step is most obviously relevant for the fashion industry, where size related returns remain an issue. However, there are a lot of other sectors that benefit, for example virtual room planners for furniture retailers. Size guides or specific product measurements can be easily included within your product listing, however fitting tools may need a large time and money investment. If you’re looking for a starting point, consider approaching freelance developers on a site like Fiverr. They can write a coded element/tool that you can add to your websites code, which can then help improve the shopping experience for your customers and reduce returns at the same time.
4. Encourage product reviews
You should develop a core process to encourage customers to leave a review of your product or service. Having a good amount of reviews will help prospect customers make an informed decision on your product. This, in turn, will reduce your returns, because customers are less likely to misunderstand the product or what they are getting from it, as real-life customer reviews paint a picture of said product from their angle. Reviews can also be great to increase sales, and get the right customers through your door, with research showing that online reviews impact the buying decisions of over 93% of customers. Get your target customers buying your products thanks to a healthy collection of customer reviews, and see your return rate drop as a result.
5. Provide excellent customer service
While the previous steps have already ensured that shoppers find as much information on your product pages as possible, there will always be new and unexpected questions coming up. This is why offering a great customer service 24/7 is so important. If your customers contact you easily via phone, email, live chat or any other means of communication, they ask their questions before they buy – avoiding unnecessary returns. And if your customer service staff has access to a fully integrated CRM system, it’s even better. Then they will immediately know who the customer is and have all the relevant information to provide not only a good service, but an excellent one.
6. Optimise your pick, pack and despatch process
Unfortunately, a common reason for returns is not caused by the buyer being unhappy with what they ordered, but by the seller sending a completely wrong item. Especially at hectic times like Christmas, online sellers often struggle to fulfil orders. If they rely on spreadsheets and post-it notes and handle their pick, pack and despatch processes as reactively without a clear strategy, mistakes are unavoidable. The solution is simple: implementing a cloud ERP system that handles all orders from all channels in one place.
It will also help your pickers get orders right first time. No more need to key in orders manually, leading to small mistakes with big consequences. It’s all done automatically. Also, it will help your packers deliver customer experience that lives up to your values and their expectations. And it will do all that as efficiently as possible. In short, a cloud ERP solution will allow you to optimise your pick, pack and despatch processes, avoid mistakes and therefore reduce returns.
7. Don’t underestimate the importance of packaging
It is not only important to deliver the right product, but delivering it in the right packaging. Products that arrive broken or damaged, because of insufficient packaging, are another major reason for returns. If this is the case in your business, you should re-evaluate your packaging and try to improve it. This will also indicate to customers that you truly care about their orders and make an effort to protect them properly.
8. Combat serial-returners
Cracking down on above average return numbers can help to reduce the overall number of returns you recieve. Large organisations like ASOS have famously started to target those who return a lot of items at once, and take advantage of more flexible return policies to essentially “rent” items. By using the item once, like wearing a piece of clothing, and then returning it afterwards for a full refund, they can cost companies thousands. Even if you are a small business you can still harness this approach. Start by recording every return (if you don’t already), and when you have enough data, start to familiarise yourself with any clear patterns. If you think a certain customer is guilty of serial returning, keep an eye on their returning habits and with enough information you can issue a warning, or even temporarily block their account to prevent them from purchasing with you. It is best practise to send an email to your customer base to communicate that you’re keeping an eye on high numbers of returns from the same person or business, so your customer base are kept in the loop at all times.
Reduce returns to save money
Reducing the net amount of returns your business processes annually will save you heaps of money. Even better, sometimes the smaller changes can make a tremendous difference, like quickly checking through your product descriptions to ensure they describe the product and all its caveats. Our above tips are a great starting point to easily reducing the amount of returns you recieve on products, and not only will they save you money, they will also improve customer satisfaction and retention, earning you more money in the long run.
If you’re searching for a software solution to assist you in minimising returns, check out Khaos Control Cloud, a cloud-based ERP solution with built in returns management and analysis.