There’s been much debate recently about the issue of serial returners – particularly those who might wear an outfit once and then return it - and whether retailers and brands should make changes to their returns policies to discourage this habit. After all, it’s a practice that costs retailers a significant amount of money.
The global fashion retailer ASOS recently announced that it was making changes to its returns policy to crackdown on such practice, with the threat of deactivating accounts if they believe customers are taking this approach.
While serial returners bending the rules can be an issue, it’s more important that retailers look beyond tweaking the terms and conditions and look at the bigger picture with returns and the opportunity they provide as a touch-point to deliver a standout positive customer experience. This goes far beyond simply offering free returns as standard.
There will always be returns in the ecommerce age, because it’s difficult for any customer to truly know if they will like a product, or whether it will fit them until it’s in their possession. So it’s not surprising recent research highlights that today more than 20% of all purchases made online are returned. And with additional research by YouGov communicating that 74% of consumers are likely to switch retailers due to poor returns management, it’s vital that online retailers make the returns process as easy and straightforward as possible to ensure their customers remain loyal.
Partnerships with the high street
It makes sense for ecommerce retailers to offer returns in the high street, to offer increased convenience, a better customer experience and standout in the crowded marketplace. Such a partnership could also cut the cost of returns. Therefore, they should investigate partnerships with a non-competitive retailer with a high street presence to handle their returns. It’s an arrangement that will not only benefit the ecommerce retailer, but the high street retailer too, who will experience increased footfall and sales from those coming to return their items. Alternatively, another option could be for those in ecommerce to offer return bins in the high street or shopping centres to make it easier for customers to return product.
Embrace the latest technology
Use the technology available to improve the returns experience and even upsell. There’s an opportunity to deliver proactive notifications, or micro-moments, about the refund status of the customer’s order via SMS and email, so they can clearly see how it’s progressing. Also, why not use these micro-moments to deliver personalised communications that upsell alternative products to the ones returned to encourage a purchase, based on previous transactional data and additional insight on the customer.
Analyse returns data and personalise
Closely analyse data from the returns process and use it to inform your product range, future targeting of customers to improve their experience and improve your bottom line. For instance, do the stats highlight that certain products are being returned more frequently than others. And if so, why? Also, use the feedback on why the customer has returned the item to inform future personalised communications targeted at that customer.
Automate as much as possible
Speed and accuracy are critical with returns. Therefore, invest in technology to automate as much of the process as possible. This will help reduce the cost and increase the speed of turning around items and getting them back out on sale, while helping to remove the potential for any delays caused by human error.
It’s time to look at the bigger picture with returns and realise that they shouldn’t be seen as a necessary evil, but an opportunity to deliver a standout customer experience that will help to position your brand head and shoulders above your competitors. Clever partnerships, embracing technology, analytics and personalisation will help set retailers and brands on the path to achieving this.