As an ecommerce merchant, you likely make a point of prioritizing a great customer experience from the customer’s first encounter with your brand all the way until the package lands at their door. 

In fact, many brands have made “last mile logistics” a high priority. The “last mile” refers to the final step of the delivery chain, when a package is routed to the customer’s specific location. Customers want the ability to track their deliveries in real-time, and expect fast, on-time free shipping. Failure to meet their expectations means that you’re likely to lose customers to retailers who can deliver a better last-mile shipping experience.

But what about when a customer needs to make a return? 

As many as 40% of all online orders end up as returns – and here, it’s just as important to prioritize your “first mile” reverse logistics experience for customers, to encourage them to buy from you again and remain loyal to your brand. 

Let’s take a look at what that means and how to deliver a best-in-class reverse logistics customer experience.

What’s first-mile reverse logistics?

First-mile reverse logistics, or FMRL, refers to the customer experience of initiating a product return, starting with the customer’s request for a return or exchange.

Delivering a great FMRL experience should be a high priority for any ecommerce brand: Customers who are happy with their returns experience are 84% more likely to buy from your brand in the future. 

Self-service return requests

Your FMRL should begin with a seamless process for requesting a return. Customers shouldn’t be forced to put in a customer support ticket and wait hours or days in order to initiate a return request. Instead, they should be able to instantly initiate a return request on eligible items, using a self-service returns management solution like Loop. 

By automating the returns process, your customers will be able to instantly see which items are eligible for return based on item category and time since purchase, and can take desired actions including requesting a replacement for a damaged item, requesting a refund, or exchanging the item – either for the same product in a different size or color, or for an entirely new product from your shop. 

Depending on the item type, you can even automatically set conditions that enable customers to keep certain items and recycle them, rather than wasting shipping costs. fuel, and packaging by sending them back if they’re not likely to be resold.

Recommended products for exchange

By optimizing for exchanges, you can often retain the revenue from a transaction while helping the customer choose a new item that works better for them.

When a customer selects an item for return on Loop, they’ll be asked why they’re returning it, with options such as “wrong size,” “wrong color,” “damaged/defective,” and others. Based on the customer’s reason, Loop can offer relevant recommendations from your shop – whether that means a replacement of the item, the same item in a new size or color, or a different item altogether.

In order to optimize for exchanges, you can offer “bonus credit” that customers can use above the value of their initial purchase. Sweetening the pot can help incentivize more exchanges, which will help you retain revenue. And every customer that you’re able to hold on to can help you increase the likelihood of building their loyalty over time, increasing lifetime customer revenue. 

Multiple return options

It’s also important to provide the customer with multiple ways to return the items, based on their preferences.

Rather than simply providing a printable return shipping label, consider offering a QR code that the customer can scan in at a nearby drop-off location, eliminating the need for the customer to package their item and enabling them to receive instant verification, or even an instant refund, as soon as the item has been scanned in. 

Or, as we mentioned before, if your brand won’t get enough of an ROI from requesting the item back to your warehouse, consider offering customers the option to keep the item while still receiving a refund, or sending the item to a recycling center where it can be repurposed.

Great communication

During the FMRL process, it’s important that customers know that their items aren’t getting lost in the void. They want to know that their item has been processed for a return or exchange, and want to know when they’ll be receiving their refund or exchange.

Make sure that you offer great communication through the whole returns process, so that the customer is always confident about their return status and understands when they’ll be receiving their refund or replacement product, as well as any next steps that they may need to take to complete the process.

Why FMRL matters

By ensuring that your customers have a great FMRL experience when making a return, you’ll help them feel confident in your brand and the knowledge that you stand behind your products. Offering a smooth, seamless return and exchange process will encourage them not to give up on your brand just because a specific product didn’t work for them – they’ll be engaged enough to consider other alternatives, and remain loyal customers of your brand.

Delivering an all-around great customer experience is a key strategy for building brand loyalty – so don’t let it end when the product arrives at the customer’s door. By ensuring that your FMRL is just as strong as your initial customer experience, you’ll be able to keep customers in your funnel continuously, and delight them with a great experience through every phase of their journey. 

Want to build a better FMRL experience? Get in touch with Loop to see how we can help.