5 Tips for Building a Successful Online Returns Strategy

By Karen Fitzgerald on August 04, 2017

In the era of mobile commerce, same day delivery, and instant gratification, easy online returns are the next e-commerce expectation. These five best practice tips are designed to help merchants meet that expectation while building a successful long-term online returns strategy.


1. Simplify Your Returns Policy

Let prospective shoppers know what the process of returning products would be by having a dedicated returns page on your storefront that describes how the process works with simple language and clear expectations on cost (flat rate or free). Offer a consistent policy across your entire site, not by product category. Shoppers are often unaware of the category they are buying, and a consistent policy will help lower return rates and avoid unsolicited returns.

63% of U.S. online shoppers look at the returns policy before making a purchase and 48% shop more often if an online retailer offers a lenient, easy-to-understand policy. Keep in mind that this affects return rates as well. Research from UT Dallas found that lenient return policies led to a decrease in returns as they believe the more time a customer has a product in their hands, the more attached to it they feel. 


63% of U.S. online shoppers look at the returns policy before making a purchase. 
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2. Offer Self-Service Returns

Provide shoppers with an easy self-service returns experience with a low barrier to entry to start a return. At Returnly, we have seen our self-service portal improve returns processing by 95% for one apparel retailer. By automating the process and making it easy to get started, it improves the overall shopper experience and saves you time and money processing returns.  

3. Gate-Keep Returns at the Source

If you are considering peel-and-stick return labels, keep in mind that this can lead to expensive surprise returns down the road. Without visibility into what's being returned and why, it makes it challenging to manage warehouse costs, and impossible to control stock and restock dynamics. Instead of gate-keeping returns at the warehouse, gate-keep at the source and let shoppers know what items within their purchase history are returnable before creating the RMA.

4. Maximize Post-Purchase Engagement

As a customer begins a product return, think of this as the start of a new customer journey with new click-through channels to maximize engagement and conversion. By re-engaging with shoppers at the time of the return, you can show that your processes are fair, transparent and that you care about customer service. This provides a powerful opportunity to turn one-time buyers into hyper-loyal advocates. Endicia reports 95% of customers will go back to an online merchant and make additional purchases after having a positive returns experience. 

5. Issue Immediate Order Refunds

Keep shoppers informed on the status of their returns and issue order refunds as quickly as possible. In the same comScore report, 57% of U.S. online shoppers say that automatic refunds are the most important element of a good returns experience. By keeping shoppers informed and delivering instant refunds on-the-spot, it lowers support inquiries, encourages repeat buying, and builds long-term loyalty. 

For more information on Returnly's approach to building a positive product return experience, read a post by the Returnly CEO here.
 

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By Karen Fitzgerald

Karen is senior marketing manager at Returnly, helping to inform and educate online merchants about the benefits of easy returns. She is passionate about telling great stories through content and product marketing.