When it comes to selling via ecommerce, returns are an all-too-common part of life: As many as 30% to 40% of all products sold end up being returned, depending on your industry.
This can cause headaches for both retailers and customers alike.
If a customer is returning a product, that means they weren’t happy with it. It might be related to the customer’s own preferences, such as the product being the wrong size or wrong color, or it may be a problem with the product itself, such as arriving too late or being defective.
One survey found that customers had returned items for many different reasons in the past. Among the most common, 70% had returned an item that didn’t fit properly; 65% had returned an item that’s damaged or defective; 49% had returned an item that didn’t match the product description; and 32% didn’t like the item.
Some of these returns are avoidable with better operations management and quality control. By ensuring that your ecommerce brand has a solid process in place for inspecting the quality of products that leave your warehouse and include protective shipping to avoid damage during the transit process, you can cut down on the portion of returns that are due to damage or defect.
But many returns are still likely to occur due to the nature of ecommerce shopping, where a customer isn’t able to see or try on a product in advance of purchase.
So rather than trying to get your return rate down to zero, it’s a better strategy to focus on building a better returns experience — optimizing the returns process for both your customers and employees.
Let’s look at how to set up a good returns management process across different ecommerce industries.
Returns policies for fashion and apparel brands
Fashion is an industry with one of the highest ecommerce return rates. About 12% of all apparel items are returned.
As such, it’s important to put a flexible return policy in place from Day One, or you’ll risk losing customers to competitors.
You should build a dedicated returns policy page and list your returns policy in plain language on every product page, so customers can feel confident in their purchases.
With apparel, you may need to differentiate your returns policy for different types of products, however. A customer may be able to return a dress or pair of jeans as long as the tags are intact, but with items like underwear, they may still need to be in an unopened bag to pass the mark for hygiene inspections. Make sure you offer clear details on returns for each type of item, so there are no surprises.
Using a returns management solution like Loop empowers your brand to set conditional logic that provides different options to customers for different types of returns through a self-service portal. With Loop, you can fully automate the experience so that customers will get access to the right policy based on their purchases and their condition, with no need to involve customer support.
That provides a better, faster customer experience to enable them to get a refund, or to exchange the product for another option in the right size or color, drawing directly from your brand’s real-time inventory to suggest replacement options.
Returns policies for furniture and home improvement items
Ecommerce returns can be trickier for larger items, such as furniture, which may be much heavier and more expensive to ship back, and home decor, which may be very fragile and require special packaging, but these are some of the most common return requests: “home improvement” and “housewares” combined make up 23% of return requests.
In these cases, you may set up a less flexible policy that allows returns only in cases where the product is damaged or defective for certain types of large or breakable items, as reverse logistics may otherwise be too expensive.
In situations where an item is damaged or defective, your brand might also elect to skip the returns process altogether, and issue a refund or credit without requesting the item back. If the item can’t be resold, it’s not worth the money and hassle to send it to a landfill — you’re better off winning over customer goodwill by refunding their money and asking them to recycle or donate the item on their own.
Returns policies for beauty products
Beauty products make up about 4% of all ecommerce returns.
Beauty products like skin care, cosmetics, and hair care products have similar issues to swimsuits — if they have been used, they’re not able to be resold.
However, unlike apparel brands that may limit returns on certain types of items but be more flexible on others, many beauty brands stay competitive by setting a flexible returns policy on all their products. Brands including Birchbox, Ulta, and Dermstore include blanket return policies that allow customers to bring back any purchases within anywhere from 30 to 90 days for a full refund — even if the customer has already used the product.
For beauty brands, this is a key part of providing a good customer experience. They know their customers will need to sample multiple products before they find the ones they love, so they want to make sure that customers stick with them through that whole process, even if it takes a few returns before the products they’ll love forever.
Benefits of a great returns management strategy
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s important to get your returns process right.
By building return policies that put your customer first without negatively impacting your brand’s bottom line, you can build a great customer experience that boosts retention and brand loyalty.
And, using a returns management solution like Loop to streamline the returns process can improve staff productivity by reducing the need for customer support interaction, while also providing better customer satisfaction, as customers are able to quickly and independently resolve their issues. They’ll be able to easily choose between getting a refund when eligible or processing an exchange, with options like “bonus credit” to incentivize exchanges so that customers will be more likely to choose a new product and maintain their relationship with your brand.
Ready to revamp your brand’s returns management strategy? Contact Loop to see how we can help.