Any ecommerce brand worth their salt knows that focusing on efficient, fast logistics is a key way to deliver a great customer experience. Studies have found that 62% of shoppers say that delivery speeds impact their purchasing decisions, and 30% of shoppers even have an expectation of same-day delivery. 

But many brands don’t pay nearly as much attention to the reverse logistics process – and that’s a key part of the customer journey that can easily result in customer churn if expectations aren’t met.

So what is the reverse logistics process, and why is it so important for ecommerce brands?

Let’s dive in.

What is reverse logistics in ecommerce?

While the logistics process focuses on moving products from the warehouse or manufacturer to the customer, “reverse logistics” focuses on the opposite – moving products from the customer back to the merchant or a recycling or donation facility.

Reverse logistics are necessary any time the customer needs to make a return – whether because the product was damaged, defective, the wrong size, or the customer simply didn’t like it. At least 30% of items purchased online end up getting returned, compared to less than 10% of in-store purchases. 

If you’re an ecommerce merchant, returns are a predictable event – so it’s time to build a streamlined process that ensures that your customers will be able to complete the process hassle-free, with incentives that will help them build loyalty towards your brand even if the product didn’t work out for them.

By prioritizing your reverse logistics experience just as you do your initial shipping experience, you’ll be able to exceed customer expectations, reduce churn, and retain customer revenue that would otherwise be lost for good. 

What customers are looking for

When considering your reverse logistics experience, first take a look at what your customers expect and anticipate when it comes to returning products.

For example, two-thirds of customers have abandoned a shopping cart due to a bad returns policy, and about the same number have decided to shop with a business a second time if they’ve been able to process returns for free. Additionally, 77% of customers prefer to process online returns in store at a drop-off location or retail store, rather than repack and mail the item back. Customers also like a lengthy window to consider whether to keep a product: The average period that customers want for a return window is 32 days

Across every customer interaction, customers also want the opportunity to self-service their requests. Online self-service is a top customer service factor in determining brand loyalty, and 57% of customers said that they would abandon a brand after one or two negative online customer service experiences. Customers want the ability to initiate returns via self-service, without waiting for an agent to respond to a query and delaying the return process. 

Your returns policy should be built to give customers confidence in your brand, and make them feel like they can take the time to trial your products before making a decision – and that they won’t be penalized in any way if they decide not to keep the product. Next, let’s look at how to do that effectively. 

Building a reverse logistics experience that’s good for your customers and your brand

As you build your reverse logistics experience, focus on key factors such as:

  • A generous return policy
    Pay attention to customer insights in building your return policy. Customers are more likely to make an initial purchase if your return policy offers an extended returns window (30+ days), and free return shipping. By taking friction out of the returns experience, they’re more likely to give your brand a try if they’re not sure about you.

  • A fast and easy process
    By using an automated returns management platform like Loop, you can enable customers to easily self-service their return requests, whether they want a refund, exchange, or store credit. Rather than waiting to talk to a support agent, they’ll be able to resolve their concern in the space of seconds, leading to higher customer satisfaction and more repeat purchases.

  • Simple drop-off options
    Since the majority of customers don’t want to ship items back themselves, make sure that you offer multiple ways for customers to return their items. While some customers may prefer to print return shipping labels and mail them independently, others may prefer to scan a QR code at a nearby drop-off center, where the item can be safely repackaged for them. Make sure to provide flexible options that meet all of your customers’ needs. 

  • Transparency in the returns process
    Customers don’t want the stress of worrying about whether they’ll get their money back if an item is lost in transit. Consider putting their minds at ease by issuing their refund or credit immediately upon scanning an item in at their local post office or drop-off location, so that they’ll be free to make another purchase immediately rather than waiting for the item to arrive at your warehouse.

  • Easy exchange options
    Customers will be more likely to consider an exchange – helping your brand retain more revenue from the transaction – if they have a seamless way to complete it. Rather than asking customers to process a refund and then purchase a new item, make it easy for them to process a direct exchange or get store credit when they request a return. That gives them the flexibility to exchange an item they don’t want for one they do, at their own convenience, reducing churn and keeping customers engaged with your brand. 

Want to learn more about how Loop can help you improve the reverse logistics experience for customers? Check out a demo today.