Ecommerce bands, even those with amazing reverse logistics operations in place, feel the negative impact of returns. They’re quite literally the enemy of profit, and they absorb valuable time and resources from your team in terms of claims management, accepting and processing the returns, and reshipments. The toll may not even stop there. If your ecommerce brand is dealing with a return then typically one of three things has happened:
1.) Your customer doesn’t like what they ordered.
2.) The order your customer received was damaged.
3.) There was something else wrong with the order (missing item, incorrect item, item not as advertised, etc.)
Either way, you have to act fast because that return (and how it’s handled) can minimize your chance of getting that customer’s business again. Because, as much as ecommerce brands don’t like returns, buyers sure don’t like them either. Returns mean their time, their inconvenience, their dissatisfaction (potentially depending on the product), and even their dollars if you don’t offer free returns. So, on all fronts, a return isn’t setting someone up to be a happy camper.
In sum, returns represent a difficult situation for both parties—business and buyer. However, they are a necessary, unfortunate reality of doing business. The optimal way to handle them is having a strong 3PL partnership. The best 3PLs, like ShipMonk, take care of the reverse logistics side of things, which helps limit the fallout of these situations. Moreover, having an effective and efficient claims management system will help everyone involved. But the best thing you can do for your ecommerce brand really is to reduce how many returns you get. How, you may ask? Great question!
1.) Detailed Product Pages
People at different levels of your organization may have varied depths of understanding about your product(s). Overall though, they know what you sell and have better insights on the product(s) than the average person. The problem is that the average person is the target you’re trying to appeal to. To stand out in the market and win those customer dollars, you have to be able to communicate what you sell, how it works, and most importantly how it works for potential customers.
As a result, product pages become your best asset to make sales and reduce returns. The secret recipe to a strong product page is to keep things simple, clear, and detailed. You want sharp photos from assorted angles and distances. Depending on your product you want a description of materials, dimensions, fit, care, etc. Supplemental materials may also help, like a size chart or video.
Basically you need to provide info on everything people buying your products could potentially want to know in order to make an informed decision. By doing that, your ecommerce brand decreases the likelihood of customers sending products back because they didn’t like them. They got what they paid for; no mystery or misleading turn of events.
2.) Real Buyer Reviews
Sometimes detailed descriptions from the maker of a product don’t tell the full story about that product. After all, they are trying to make a sale for the ecommerce brand, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In line with this mentality, product pages are more about fact. Fact isn’t all there is though. Potential customers also value opinion when bridging the gap from browse to buy. That’s where product reviews come into play. They shed more light on real experiences with goods (social proof), which leads to a more informed buying decision and thus you reduce returns.
Think about it. Have you ever been unsure about what size to buy in an item of clothing, but customer reviews on the page describing fit and style brought clarity about whether or not that piece of apparel was for you, and if so what size or even color to get it in? This is just an example of course, but it’s the perfect one to illustrate how impactful a review on a product page can be.
Some ecommerce brands may feel hesitant about posting customer reviews on product pages because if the feedback isn’t wholly positive it could limit the sale of an item. The truth is, though, if an item doesn’t match a customer’s needs there’s nothing you can really do about it. The product either works for them or not. So you gain nothing by trying to hold back any opinions that provide context.
Maybe the browser won’t buy if a review gave them info that a product wasn’t necessarily a match for their needs, but it’s better they know that now and you give them the ability to learn it before checkout. Because otherwise they’ll order, not like the product, it’ll cost them and you time and money to return it or exchange it, and in some cases it’ll damage their view of your ecommerce brand. So in the end it is best to aim to reduce returns vs. get more sales, which customer reviews on product pages achieves.
3.) Accommodating Customer Service
Customer service is a key element to any successful ecommerce brand. ShipMonk values that, and provides our clients with quick, caring, and thorough customer service on all order fulfillment fronts because we know the better we help you, the better you can help your own customers.
For ecommerce brands, a lot of the time customer service is traditionally associated with dealing with returns. There is another side to that coin though. A strong customer service game before a purchase is made can help reduce returns.
Let’s say a potential customer has a question about a product as they debate whether or not to check out. By making it easy for that buyer to contact a representative of your business and get the answers they need now, they won’t have to buy the product and get the answers for themselves later on. The three main ways to provide accommodating customer service to reduce returns are:
1.) Instant chat support online
2.) Phone number with convenient hours of operation
3.) Contact email that responds rapidly
The best ecommerce brands will offer all three outlets as part of their strategy to reduce returns. Whichever you employ for your ecommerce brand, the takeaway is that by making information and answers easily available to customers before the purchase, you reduce returns because they are going into that purchase with eyes wide open and their uncertainties cleared up.
The Back-up Plan
Product pages, reviews, customer service, and policies can all help reduce returns for your ecommerce brand. As you merge further into this new year, definitely keep this advice in mind and optimize wherever and whatever you can so that your margins stay as healthy as possible.
Just keep in mind that even if you do all these things right to reduce returns, they’ll still happen and you do need a strong reverse logistics plan in place for when they do. ShipMonk is happy to step in here because as one of America’s top companies for the fourth year in a row, we’re not only great at order fulfillment; we’re excellent at receiving and restocking your returned items.
Our advanced 3PL software helps your ecommerce brand thrive in the areas of inventory, order, and warehouse management. Our 12 state-of-the-art order fulfillment centers run efficiently and accurately across the globe. And our package protection post-purchase suite MonkProtect ensures claims management is easy for your customers and your company.
Overall, we’re rooting for your ecommerce brand to reduce returns this quarter, all year, and always. For the occasions when they do occur, we’re here for you and will do everything possible to reduce the impact those returns have on your business. Contact us today to learn all about our reverse logistics, omnichannel order fulfillment, and other offerings.