A customer focused returns policy is a core component behind many successful online retailers. Consumers today have an endless choice of online merchants and the ease to return a product can be a key deciding factor before purchase. In Asia Pacific, the majority of eCommerce sites are not yet as liberal with returns as their global counterparts but there are significant benefits to be gained with the right approach. From boosting sales to creating brand advocates, this article offers six best practices eCommerce retailers can adopt to significantly improve their customer experience with returns.
Why is a Returns Policy Important for eCommerce?
Online shoppers are often reluctant to click ‘buy’ as they do not know how a product looks and feels before purchase. According to a research study in 2012, 62% of online shoppers had returned a product. Despite this significant figure, 97% of eCommerce stores within Southeast Asia still did not offer free returns as of May 2014. Businesses need a simple and effective returns policy to impress customers and turn them into brand ambassadors. Increased global competition is leading the transition to customer-centric returns management with more consumers expecting free returns as a standard service offering.
How Does a Returns Policy Boost Sales?
Much of the risk with online shopping is eliminated when customers know they can conveniently return a product. This lowers abandoned shopping carts, builds customer loyalty and demonstrates a true understanding of consumer needs. For certain retailers, returns have even become a fundamental part of their business model. Zappos, a US-based online shoe and clothing shop, was one of the first retailers to provide a highly customer-centric, end-to-end online shopping experience. This is reflected in their very flexible return policy, which encourages ordering multiple sizes of an outfit for shoppers to try on each piece in the comfort of their own homes. Unsuitable items could then be returned free of charge, within a year. Other retailers have followed suit; major retailers Nordstrom and Macy’s have both established a no-deadline product returns policy, while others readily hand out prepaid shipping vouchers to expedite the returns process.
But Wait, Aren’t Returns a Bad Thing?
Retailers are forgiven for considering product returns to be a negative cost of doing business because in the short run, they definitely are. According to a study by Internet Retailer in 2013, on average 4.96% and up to 30% of all products were returned, costing not only resources to investigate every case, but also incurring expenses for processing returns, product replacement and shipping. However, even more important than cost is the customer experience. A dissatisfied customer can be a great opportunity to create a brand champion – if their complaint is resolved quickly and effectively. Shoppers today aren’t just looking for the lowest price, they seek convenience with retailers they can trust.