Even with all the fun, fanfare and good fortune surrounding the holidays, for businesses of all sizes, there’s one thing that can easily kill the mood—merchandise returns.
Think about it, after a blissful couple of days following weeks or months of working extra hours, hustling to fill orders, and sharing the goodness of your wares with multitudes of seemingly happy shoppers, is there anything more deflating than a flood or returns rolling in? That’s exactly what January 2—or National Returns Day—was all about.
According to UPS, close to two million shoppers shipped returns back to online retailers on this new holiday of sorts. With Christmas in the rear, January 2 was not only the first back-to-work day of the new year, but also the biggest day for returns with a 26% increase from last year, according to the shipping giant. And, it will likely continue in high volume throughout the month of January. (Note: these stats are just for UPS—USPS, FedEx and other carriers will no doubt, also have their fair share of returns coming through.)
What’s Up with All These Online Returns?
With a healthy job market, plus more and more customer-centric incentives to shop online, it’s all too easy to order something you may not be 100% sure about—with the intent of shipping it back for free if it’s not quite right. In fact, in 2018, $369 billion of returns took place in the U.S., which amounted to 10% of total merchandise sales.
Clothing and Apparel are Prime Examples
While we all wish shopping for clothes online could be as seamless as say, buying a bottle opener, in reality, sizing and wearability are only truly verifiable when trying on in person. And, today’s savvy shopper is all too attuned to the art of free shipping and returns, so the thought of buying several styles and sizes to try on at home without any guarantee of keeping them has become commonplace. This, of course, ultimately serves to squeeze business margins and add significant additional expenses to the original transactions.
Making the Most Out of Customer Returns
On the surface, dealing with customer returns may feel disappointing. But, don’t be discouraged. Think of it as an opportunity to build customer loyalty and drive repeat business. Customers who don’t have a positive return experience are three times as likely to never buy from that merchant again.
One of the keys to creating a stellar customer experience is to have clear and concise communication throughout the transaction.
Ways to do this include:
- Providing robust product details that are easy to read and understand. Example: if shoes run true to fit, make sure to state that prominently on the product page
- Displaying product reviews so your customers can get additional insights up front—from real people
- Being accessible—quickly responding to questions and comments that come up during the shopping process
- Paying attention to special requests—your customer may ask for their purchase be packed a certain way to avoid damage during shipping. Try to accommodate as much as possible.
- Following up with a friendly note. Let your customers know how much you appreciate them—this will help solidify a successful transaction and build loyalty at the same time
By ensuring your communication is clear and easy to understand, you may find that your customers are happier, and even more importantly, prone to sticking around. According to a recent study, 95 percent of customers would be more apt to shop again from a retailer if their returns experience went smoothly.
Setting Your Returns Process Up for Success
As you plan for the new year ahead, here are a few tips to help ensure your returns process is both convenient for your customers and efficient for your business to manage:
- Send easy-to-understand instructional emails
- Provide scan-based labels in all outbound packages—your customers can easily initiate returns, bypassing the need for your business to create labels manually upon request. (FYI: Shippo allows you to do this for free, and you’ll only pay for the return label in the event that it actually gets used.)
- Display a clearly defined shipping and returns policy on your site
- Set a reasonable time limit (30 or 60 days, for example) and make sure it’s displayed prominently
Ultimately, handing returns with clear communication and a bit of poise will paint your business in a positive light, creating long-term, satisfied customers in the process. You can also explore ways to bolster exchanges or create incentives through loyalty programs (more on that in a future installment).
Utilize the Right Tools and Technology
If you’re looking for ways to improve your shipping process and maximize savings at the same time, it’s time to explore Shippo.
Shippo’s API and web app helps businesses of all sizes connect to a global network of carriers, and provides cost savings and more control throughout the shipping process, which ultimately makes for a more satisfied customer.