A high merchandise return rate is an expensive hassle. If you are currently selling online, you’re no stranger to returns. Online consumers return 20% to 30% of apparel and soft goods, and 10% of home products and toys. Although returns are inevitable when selling online, there are ways to decrease your return rate.
Here are 9 tips for reducing return rates:
Spend Time Describing and Photographing the Item
Online customers, like in-store customers, want to know what they are getting. The difference is that online customers are relying on you to describe the item for them. How it feels, smells, and looks. Combine that with the fact that they are purchasing pre-owned merchandise. Your online customers must trust your product descriptions and images.
Companies that spend time and effort on product specifications, descriptions, and photography have smart buyers. Smart buyers make better buying choices leading to lower return rates.
Product descriptions aren’t just important, they are a requirement of successful online selling. An item that does not match its product description will be returned in 61% of cases.
Double, Triple and Quadruple Check the Item
It is shocking how many returns happen because the customer received something different than what they ordered. In fact, 24% of all returns are attributable to the fact that the package does not contain what the customer actually ordered.
It is equally important to ensure the customer is not receiving a defective or damaged item. To prevent quality defects, you should perform a detailed inspection of the item before wrap, pack, and ship.
41% of returns are due to defective or damaged products. Manually inspecting packages will lower this percentage.
It seems like a no brainer, but do not ship the item if it is misdescribed, damaged, or defective. Notify the customer and explain the situation. Verify that they would still like the item. Proactively keep your customers informed.
Make it Snappy
The longer it takes for a customer to receive their item, the greater the chance that when they do receive it, they won’t want it anymore. Quick delivery results in better customer satisfaction. Plus, it helps ensure that the customer’s needs have not changed or that the customer simply doesn’t want the item any longer.
Create or update processes for faster ship times and keep your customers happy throughout the process.
Include a Tracking Number
It’s fun to order online and track the package in the mail. When your customer receives their package tracking, they will not only be excited that the item is on its way, they will be thrilled that you fulfilled the order so quickly (See #3).
Added bonus: When your customers see that it is on its way, they are less likely to call or email you for an update.
Make Online Customer Service a Priority
Oftentimes online customers require greater customer service than in-store customers.
Open lines of communication will help your customers feel comfortable buying from you so make yourself available via telephone and email.
High-quality service is key to keeping your online customers happy and reducing returns.
Added bonus: Online customers are active on social media and online review forums. After the purchase, think about sending a follow-up email or survey to invite feedback.
Packaging is Important
People do judge a book by its cover and shoppers do judge an item by its packaging. Damaged, excessive, or chaotic packaging can create a bad impression. So can receiving broken or damaged products.
Smart, creative, practical, and attractive packaging can be the cherry on top of your customer’s experience. Take a look at your current packaging to ensure the customer is receiving the item in the best condition possible.
Personalize the Customer Experience
Differentiate yourself from your competition. The outside packaging (see #6) isn’t the only crucial piece of the puzzle. Little things can make a big impact. Consider including a personalized note, message, or coupon with the package. Think about inviting them to leave a review on social media or Yelp. Personalized notes send the message that you care about your customers. A happy customer leads to lower return rates and higher customer satisfaction.
Look for Trends in the Items Being Returned
Returns are a part of selling online, but their brands and product subcategories that have higher return rates. Study the items that are being returned and try to find patterns. Proactively spend more time describing and photographing items (See #1) that you know your customers return more often.
This proactive approach will save you time, money, and hassle.
Not Everything Goes Perfectly
Returns happen, but it is how you handle them that will determine your destiny. Create and modify processes to handle your unexpected returns gracefully. The perils of a bad customer experience go beyond that 1 returned item. Show the customer you care, treat your customers with courtesy, and commit to quality service.
If you found this article helpful... check out our other article that discusses how pawnbrokers can lower eCommerce returns!
About the Author:
Tally Mack is a fifth-generation pawnbroker and eCommerce enthusiast. She loves traveling, being outside, and working out.
Before taking the reins as CEO, Tally served as Bravo's Vice President of Business Development, leading the company's sales and marketing organization. She's been instrumental in leading and executing many of the company's strategic shifts, including the acquisition of CompuPawn and the recent launch of UsedGuns.com.
Tally earned her Doctorate of Law (J.D.) from DePaul University College of Law in 2013 after attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned her B.A. in Communication Studies. She also completed the Key Executives Program from Harvard Business School in 2013.
Tally is a pawnshop lover and eCommerce enthusiast—dedicated to the success of both her employees and customers!