Consumers are returning more purchases than ever, especially with the growing convenience of online orders, but it is becoming an increasingly expensive problem for retailers. Last year alone, retailers lost $218 billion to ecommerce returns. With holiday shopping in full swing, returns are set to be another expensive problem for brands this year.
Shoppers Already Expecting to Return Gifts
According to a recent survey from Loop Returns, 31 percent of consumers are already expecting to return a few gifts this holiday season, whether it is items they intended to give to someone or gifts they have received. Rather than mourning holiday returns as a cost-center, retailers must optimize these return lifecycles and shift their focus of returns into a profit-center.
“Returns do not necessarily mean losses. Brands can make the most out of a return by offering options such as exchanges, store credit, or other incentives rather than refunds,” Tasha Reasor, SVP of Marketing at Loop Returns, said. “This not only helps brands retain revenue, but also creates opportunities to shape happier customers. We have found that by offering a great return experience, brands can increase customer happiness, which encourages repeat purchases faster.”
How can retailers solve the returns problem with the start of the holiday shopping season upon us? Wholesale Central has some helpful tips indie retailers can follow:
- Utilize a Product Information Management System
- Create a More Customized Shopper Experience
- Make Your Returns Process Easy to Understand
Utilize a Product Information Management System
According to the National Retail Federation, apparel had a higher rate of return than most other product categories. One of the main reasons for ecommerce clothing returns is that the fashion industry does not rely on data as much as it does the shape and feel of the garments. The material type, color, and fit are all important factors that a customer can quickly gauge when they see an item in store — the challenge is translating that in a meaningful way for shoppers who are only viewing a garment online.
Experts at Avensia advise that the answer to this lies in a retailer’s product information management (PIM) system. PIM enables fashion retailers to think one step ahead of the customer, anticipating the questions and concerns they may have about a product. This enables brands to provide shoppers with the information they need to not only be convinced to buy, but also to keep their purchase.
Create a More Customized Shopper Experience
According to Reasor, investing in customized shopper experiences is where brands should be focusing their time and attention this post-holiday season. There are many benefits to this like higher profit margins, increased revenue, and happier customers — who come back and shop again, of course ― but there is a clear marketing play here, too.
It is likely that a certain percentage of returns will be initiated by consumers who did not enjoy a gift, which is okay, because if you wow them with an easy and wonderful return experience, they will not only get a second chance to love your products, but they will get the opportunity to become repeat purchasers. There are three areas where brands can tailor their customers’ experience to achieve this:
- Rewarding your best customers:
Offering an extended return window or free returns to your VIP customers is a clear way to create a more profitable post-holiday return season because it continues to reinforce their loyalty to your brand. An easier, customized experience will make them want to continue to come back and shop again and again.
- Offering various return options:
This encompasses the growing trends around seamless convenience when it comes to returns, like buy online and pick-up in store (BOPIS) or buy online and return in store (BORIS). When you offer the return options customers want, they will repay you with their loyalty.
- Optimizing return processes:
Automating your returns process is the easiest win. From there, you can begin to consider other parts of the return process like logistics and by partnering with the right return solution. Optimizing your returns process can be as simple as downloading an app.
Make Your Returns Process Easy to Understand
The Loop Returns survey found that the majority (57%) of consumers have stopped purchasing from a particular retailer after a bad return experience. Put customers at the center of your return and exchange policy to avoid sending them running in the opposite direction. Customer retention benefits come from easy-to-follow return processes and extensive exchange options, so be sure all of this information can be easily accessed through your website.
Here are just some questions your customers should be able to find the answers to on your website:
- Can customers exchange their items?
- Can shoppers receive store credit rather than a refund?
- How can customers return or exchange their purchases?
- If shipping the item back is a process you offer, is it free or does the customer have to pay for it?
- How many days does a customer have to return a product?
- Are there any specific items that are non-refundable?
- Does a shopper need the receipt to make a return or exchange?
“Brands can wow their customers by automating their returns, empowering shoppers, and offering the most desired return options,” Reasor said. “Automating returns saves brands time and money, but also creates hyper-convenience for customers, which means no more long wait times for emails and calls with customer support. By offering the most desired return options like exchanges, store credit, or convenient return options, you will not only create happier customers, but also encourage them to come back again.”