A smooth returns process is an important factor in the long-term retention of customers. By easily accepting returns, you’re showing shoppers that you stand behind your products, that you’re willing to fix any issues that cause returns, and that you value customer satisfaction. Turn your return policy into a selling point by using these tips to optimize your product return process.
Take some burden off the customer
Look for opportunities to reduce the onus on your customers for returning products. For example, you could include a return packing slip with instructions in all orders and/or ship products in re-sealable packaging.
Use automated emails to keep customers up to date about the status of their return. This not only keeps customers informed, but it’s a marketing opportunity too; you can use these emails to include alternate product suggestions.
Adopt more lenient policies
Streamline your product return requirements to give customers a hassle-free experience. If possible, eliminate hurdles like strict cutoff dates or requiring that returns are unopened.
Recover associated costs
While implementing the above suggestions may cost you more, returns don’t always have to translate into losses for ecommerce businesses. "Store credit" is a classic example – it encourages repeat business and the value of future orders often exceeds the amount of store credit. If you're worried that your shoppers will be dissatisfied with getting credit instead of a refund, consider offering 110% of the original purchase price back as store credit for returns. Another great way to recoup costs is to hold periodic “opened box sales.” Mark down items and/or refurbish them, and you’ll be able to sell off what would otherwise be unwanted merchandise.
Free shipping is the most effective promotion you can offer ecommerce customers, hands down. However, not every ecommerce site has the ability to shoulder the shipping costs for 100% of their orders. Fortunately, there are many different ways you can have free shipping, and some cost less than others. Below, we go over some ideas you can use to offer free shipping at a reasonable cost.
Set a minimum order condition
Look at your product margins and calculate how much a customer would have to spend on an order to make free shipping easier for you to offer. You can help customers reach that minimum requirement by showing them either products based on their browsing history, or low-margin "add-on" products that cost just enough to make the order qualify for free shipping.
Reserve free shipping as a reward for repeat customers
In ecommerce, returning customers are your bread and butter. In fact, returning customers generate about three times more revenue than new customers. Invest in these customers by offering free shipping as a reward for actions like:
• Placing an order for the first time
• Signing up for your email list
• Participating in a survey or submitting other useful data
• Placing a certain number of orders over time
• Referring new customers
Try free returns instead
It may not be free shipping, but it can relieve customer anxiety about paying for shipping. As the next best thing to free shipping, a free and easy to understand returns process can be a great selling point that increases trust in your brand.
Negotiate with your shipping provider
Review your current shipping expenses to find the major cost factors, and research the prices from competitors to get a better understanding of average shipping costs. If your carrier can give you a better deal, free shipping may become a more viable option for you. At Fulfillment Works, we are always negotiating with carriers for the lowest price so we can pass those discounts on to our clients, which allows them to give better shipping rates to their customers.
When running an ecommerce business, email marketing is one of your most powerful tools to get products in front of shoppers and convince them to buy. Many sites have leveraged email to build brand reputation, engage with customers, and increase order volume. However, designing and writing emails that drive those kinds of results can be challenging. Follow these best practices to ensure that your emails are more effective.
The subject line is your first (and sometimes last) chance to grab the attention of a customer or lead. If the subject line of your email isn’t compelling, your email will get deleted without ever being opened. Make your subject lines concise (which will also keep them from appearing in the inbox as truncated), intriguing, and to-the-point.
Images are a great way to enhance the visual appeal of your email, but they should not be the only way your message and/or call to action is conveyed. Additionally, most email services have images from incoming messages disabled by default. If your email only makes sense when the images are visible, then you’re not reaching all of your readers.
Your email message shouldn’t look like a wall of text. Break up written information with sub-headers, images, video links, calls-to-action, etc. to make emails more accessible to your busy readers. You should also make sure that you're emails are optimized for mobile by adjusting the dimensions for mobile displays, decreasing the file sizes for faster loading on mobile networks, and limiting the amount of text.
Ecommerce sites that host user generated content (UGC) such as product reviews and photos taken by customers are relatively common. Unfortunately, the inherent value of that content is often overlooked by e-tailers. With the ubiquity of product discounts and shipping promos, UGC can be a great competitive differentiator. According to a consumer survey from TurnTo, 81% of US consumers say they would pay more for, and wait longer to receive, products that had UGC. Rather than “setting and forgetting” the UGC features of your ecommerce site, use the following tips to leverage this valuable content to your benefit.
Establish a baseline
Step back a take a broad view of how UGC is currently incorporated into your ecommerce site. What types of UGC do you support? Of those, which do customers interact with the most? Answering these questions will help you make informed decisions on adding new types of UGC, which types you want to promote to customers, and how effective UGC is for certain products.
Expand UGC touchpoints
UGC is only effective when customers are interacting with it, so look for opportunities to make UGC more prominent on your site and in your marketing materials. Some ideas include:
- HTML coding that allow ratings and review snippets from your site to appear in search results
- Including ratings and review information in the shopping cart and throughout the checkout process
- Using review commentary and customer photos in social media and retargeting ads
A robust foundation of UGC provides both you and your customers with more accurate information. For example, the 4-star average rating on a product page with 500 reviews is more credible than a 5-star average on product page with only 2 reviews. Use techniques to get more UGC submissions for your ecommerce site.
Growing your ecommerce business requires putting resources into both customer acquisition and customer retention. However, it's all too common to see companies that put too many of their eggs in the "acquisition" basket. According to consultants at Invesp, 44% of companies have a greater focus on customer acquisition vs. 18% that focus on retention. Unfortunately, that spread belies the great benefits that retention efforts can provide. Consider the following:
Without a doubt, acquisition is important for the short-term growth of your business and for increasing the number of customers to eventually direct retention efforts toward. As the New Year approaches, now may be the perfect time to evaluate whether your company is striking the right balance.