Editor's note: Michael Lazar is an Executive at aACE integration partner ReadyCloud. We're delighted to share his expertise in eCommerce with our audience.
One of the most painful parts of running an eCommerce store is returns. It’s no secret that returns are looked down upon by online retailers in general. After all, don’t returns represent a loss?
What if the reality was that returns were actually the secret to improved sales? They wouldn’t be such a pain any more, would they?
If we really analyze things, sales and returns aren’t enemies. They’re inseparable best friends; friends in the sense that they actually cooperate and help each other out. We’ll get into details on that later, but for now, let’s consider the importance of returns.
Consumers want to be sure that if their purchase doesn’t work out, they won’t be stuck with a product that doesn’t fit or wasn’t what they were looking for. Who would buy with too much risk? No one. No one wants to be stuck with jeans that they can’t even button up.
Most returns (and one in three items purchased online ARE returned!) happen because the item didn’t fit, the wrong product was shipped out, it wasn’t what the customer was expecting, or it came damaged. Returns are a very normal and necessary part of the online buying experience.
Preventing Unnecessary Pain
Now, that isn’t to say that returns can’t be costing you money if you’re not being careful. But looking at it in a positive light, returns can be a learning experience and an opportunity to increase sales.
Most serious eCommerce retailers have implemented apps and other methods on their sites that help buyers to make an informed decision before they hit ‘‘buy’’. Return rates can be decreased by improving product descriptions as well as upgrading your site with other tools to help buyers make better choices – like multiple images, videos, zoom buttons or even short tutorials for technical products.
The Fine Print
Even after trying to ‘return-proof’ your shop, you won’t be able to prevent all returns. Sometimes it’s just inevitable. Regardless of whether or not you want to set up a returns process, it’s a must. The fantastic shopping experience that online buyers are looking for includes both the purchase and return experience, which means that you probably need to polish up your return process.
And it’s not just the process that needs to be easy. The return policy itself – that legal fine print – is so important to consumers that they actually read it. They’re looking for a smooth, convenient return process, and if that’s not available, they’re likely to buy from someone else. In fact, a UPS study found that there’s nearly an 80% chance that potential customers will leave your site if the return policy is convoluted and appears to make returning an item a lengthy, involved process.
In the long run, if you make even the returns a fantastic experience, customers will come back to you – and not to your competitors. And that means more sales.
What Consumers Want
You can get ahead by making your return policy similar to that of a brick and mortar retailer. The advantage of shopping locally is that you get exactly what you want, you take it home instantly, and you can return it easily.
So, why do people even choose eCommerce stores?
Convenience. They can sit around at home, or on their lunch break, and browse and buy. They are probably in love with your selection or your prices. And, thus, they’ll buy from you – if you have a decent return process and policy.
The risk of buying online is not getting what you were hoping for, and if you can eliminate that, then you can bring in more customers – and more profit.
You should ask yourself if your return policy is as convenient, fee-free, and easy as returns at local stores. If it isn’t, then you may be in trouble. Take a look at your competitor’s policy. Are they giving a better experience to the customer than you are? That’s why they prefer the competition.
The Reality of it All
According to several sources, the importance of having that smooth-ride policy is something you just can’t keep ignoring if you want to have success in the online shopping world.
- CNBC noted that there was a 357% profit increase in eCommerce stores over a period of 12 months when returns were free.
- Take, for example, Zappos. They had a 75% improvement rate in customer loyalty and purchases because they offer free returns. And, they’re more expensive than the competition. Think on that for a minute.
- Almost 65% of consumers actually do read your return policy before they buy from you, says comScore. And, as mentioned earlier, if they like the competition’s return policy better, the competition is going to win.
- Since a third of all online purchases are returned, customers are looking for easy returns. UPS noted that 81% of customers don’t want return shipping fees.
- Upstream Commerce backs that right up by saying that 81% of customers will not buy from you in the future if they had to pay a fee to return something.
Don’t Fear Returns
Stop being afraid of returns. They aren’t your enemies, and they aren’t going to put you under.
It’s really a no brainer. Would you really want to purchase something from your store if:
It didn’t fit?
You didn’t like it?
Or the description was completely off?
Would you lose money when trying to return it? If you wouldn’t have a good experience no one else will either.
Take the time – make the time – to analyze your online store. Check the product descriptions. Go over the return policy. And smooth out the wrinkles so that you’ve got an easy, hassle-free and fee-free return process.
You won’t lose time or money on it. Actually, if you review the facts we’ve just presented, you’ll understand that an easy return policy improves sales, loyalty and long-term retention while reducing cart abandonment rates across the board.
Now that’s something all online retailers can get on board with.
About the Author
Michael Lazar is an Executive at ReadyCloud, an eCommerce CRM software suite that includes premium plugins like ReadyReturns, an automated online product returns solution for e-retailers. As a nationally syndicated author Lazar enjoys covering topics that are related to eCommerce returns.