What the main causes of e-commerce returns are and how to avoid them
The causes of returns can be various and related to multiple aspects, also based on the type of business and items that the company sells. We have analyzed the main ones, summarizing them in five points:
Products received with defects or damage. One of the most frequent reasons that lead a customer to ask for the return of the goods or a refund are objects with defects or damages, problems often due to packing with low quality materials or to unprofessional shipping services. How can you avoid this? By choosing the correct and most suitable materials according to the type of goods and relying on expert personnel able to pack suitable packing for every need can contribute significantly to reducing this problem.
Second thoughts about the necessity of the purchase. Cases in which the customer buys on impulse, perhaps driven by a promotion are nor rare. For example, this category includes items purchased during seasonal sales, in which a price promotion, a bundle or alike, can lead customers to place an order even if the characteristics of a product do not exactly match what they were looking for. However, this type of sale often leads the buyer to return the item in the following days. This aspect can be contained through an adequate customer targeting process and an accurate calibration of promotional campaigns able to reach buyers who are really interested in a more precise and effective way.
Receipt of goods which are different from expectations. This is an aspect that significantly affects the customer's trust; he had expectations about the characteristics of the chosen product that have been partially or completely disregarded. This situation generally occurs due to the lack of clear communication about the product or when the customer believes that there is a mismatch between the amount paid and the real value of the item received. To avoid this occurring, product sheets are therefore required with clear and exhaustive descriptions, accompanied by multiple photos, contextualized and on a white background, which give the potential buyer the opportunity to get a precise idea of the item to be purchased.
Wrong measurements or sizes. As opposed to what one might think, this aspect does not only concern clothing and footwear but also the purchase of furniture and furnishings. The customer who receives an item that he cannot use because of wrong dimensions or sizes tends to return it or exchange it for a different size. This type of return can also be limited through the presence in the online shop of product sheets that show precise sizes and measurements and, in the case of shoes and clothing, of sample cards as a practical "size guide".
Little familiarity with the product. You might often buy a product that you cannot use due to the presence of unclear instructions. In this case, the return of the goods or the refund of the amount are the most frequently adopted solutions by dissatisfied buyers. However, this probability can be limited through a careful purchase support policy, made up of video tutorials on the page or available on the e-commerce site, downloadable online guides and accurate after-sales assistance.
Each of these decisions certainly involves a cost for the company, which will have to activate a series of logistical and management steps to meet the specific needs of the customer through operations that can be costly in the short term, but can translate into a significant competitive advantage and greater customer satisfaction, as well as a reduction in the number of returns. Examples? Here are the main costs that can be avoided thanks to fewer return requests:
• Transport costs for the collection of the returned item
• Costs related to logistics such as a dedicated warehouse, staff dedicated to both logistics and administration, means of transport
• Verification of the problem and possible repair of the goods
• Return of the amount paid or other method of reimbursement
• Possible new packaging for re-sale
• Disposal of the previous packaging
All these aspects must therefore contribute to the creation of integrated and efficient management that aims to minimize the returns of orders placed online. For this to happen, it becomes essential to plan a clear and effective policy for the management of e-commerce returns: let us see which are the fundamental steps to follow to avoid setbacks and optimize communication with the customers of your online store.
4 Strategies for correct management of e-commerce returns
We have seen how an unpleasant circumstance can become an opportunity for growth for the business. However, there are a number of steps that a company can take in advance: first of all, clear and easily available regulation, one of the ways to obtain a return of image capable of retaining the customer.
In fact, the construction of a relationship of trust between buyer and seller begins when he first enters the online store, attracted by the products on sale or looking for a specific item. Here are some rules to follow to transform the return management policy of an e-commerce business into a tool to strengthen the relationship with customers.
Adopt a clear and visible policy. Useful, clear, concise and easily available information is the first pillar of good management of returns of an e-commerce site, especially at the time of sale: the useful times for return, any additional costs, reimbursement methods, are all data necessary for a prompt resolution of possible problems. If you offer free return of goods, make sure that this is clearly visible throughout the purchase process. Alternatively, you may decide to apply a trial period to your products, after which it is no longer possible to request a return. In all cases, clarity in communication is a winning strategy.
Propose an alternative. Customers are not necessarily interested in reimbursement of the amount spent: providing a purchase voucher via vouchers or exchanging goods with products of equal value can be a valid and effective solution in order not to lose a sale that has already been made.
Invest in customer services. Customer care is the beating heart of an online store and can make a difference. Dissatisfied buyers are not always convinced that they want to return an item: toll-free numbers, chatbots and live chats can be excellent tools to dispel doubts, reassure the undecided with clear and professional information and avoid the return of goods.
Enhance your services during the sales. We spoke at the beginning of this article about the particular windows represented by the sales, periods linked to seasonality in which customers are looking for offers and therefore tend to be more willing to buy: in this situation, it will be important to evaluate the possibility of enhancing customer services in order to maintain your high standards and allow adequate management of your e-commerce returns.
The challenge that online merchants must meet today regards policy that is increasingly attentive to customer needs and feedback.
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