Reverse logistics management is an important factor for success in ecommerce - perhaps more than you may realize. To help paint a picture of all the different ways reverse logistics impacts businesses and their customers, we'll take a look at some fascinating data points from around the web and examine their importance in developing broad logistics strategies.
Stat: Ecommerce purchases are 3x more likely than retail purchases to be returned (USPS)
Takeaway: It’s all too easy to let outbound logistics absorb all your focus, but remember: the more you ship, the more returns you’ll have to process (statistically speaking). Plus, because they are such a significant aspect of ecommerce, returns are also a major component of the customer experience your business becomes known for. Streamlining your management processes for reverse logistics today will help you (and your customers) save time and money as the number of returns you process inevitably grows alongside your sales.
Stat: 20% of ecommerce returns occur because of shipping damage (Invesp)
Takeaway: Considering that the cost to replace a damaged product can be 17x the original cost to ship it, ecommerce companies would be wise to prevent those losses by modifying their approach to reverse logistics. Customizing your packaging to an optimal size and level of protection can be simple yet effective change that gets better DIM shipping rates, improves return rates for damaged products, and generates less packaging waste for a cleaner environment. And speaking of reverse logistics and the environment…
Stat: About 5 billion pounds of returned merchandise ends up in landfills (Retail Dive)
Takeaway: That’s a huge amount of waste – and it doesn’t even include waste from excess packaging materials or the fuel spent trucking products from fulfillment center to customer, then back to the fulfillment center and off to the dump. If you want your business to be more eco-friendly, sustainable, and profitable, think about ways you could be recouping costs from returns or donating them.
Stat: 58% of shoppers say they are “increasingly not satisfied” with the ease of making returns. 72% of shoppers are willing to spend more per order, and order more frequently, from online stores with a customer-friendly returns process (Shopify)
Takeaway: As the saying goes: “The customer is always right.” Optimizing your reverse logistics has the potential to do wonders for your brand reputation and customer trust levels.
From the perspective of customers, the checkout process is the most tedious part of shopping online. With that mindset, it's no wonder that many ecommerce sites struggle with cart abandonment.
The less time and actions your checkout requires, the more likely users will be to complete their orders. While looking for ways to streamline the design of your cart and checkout pages can be very effective in this regard, there are other strategies you can deploy to improve your checkout process to make it more convenient for customers, such as:
Alternatives to account creation
If your ecommerce site requires account creation to complete a purchase, you may want to consider alternatives like Guest Checkout and/or social media login functionality. While account creation helps you collect information about your customer base, the process adds more steps to what should be the simplest part of your ecommerce site.
More convenient payment options
Alternative payment options are designed to shorten the checkout process by eliminating the multiple form fields required for credit card payments. Additionally, the more payment options you can accept, the more customers you can serve. However, there are many systems to choose from – so consider surveying your customers to find out which alternative payment options are most popular for your target audience.
Autofill form fields (even for coupons)
By streamlining the process of inputting information, you can speed up your checkout while demanding less effort from your customers. Incorporating autofill features into your forms accomplishes this while also reducing the amount of errors that come from manual user input. By autofilling the coupon field with your latest promotion, you instantly show customers your best deal so they don't have to shop around – perhaps the most common motivation for abandoning the cart.
It's common for businesses to obsess over customer satisfaction levels – after all, it's true that happy customers are key to long lasting success in retail and ecommerce. However, it's only part of a larger picture: the customer experience.
A good customer experience comes from consistently meeting the individual's expectations during ALL touchpoints with your business. Things like the user experience of your website, the content you post in your social media channels, your returns policy, customer service interactions, the unboxing experience, and many other factors are all cumulative to the customer experience.
Someone who was able to find and purchase products they wanted from your site, and received them on time, is a satisfied customer. However, that's not a difficult bar for your competition to clear. That's why focusing on the customer experience your company offers is critical for standing out from competitors and earning customer loyalty.
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.
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.