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.
Customer feedback is vital in any business or industry – after all, the customer is always right. Acting on the feedback you collect through reviews, emails, social media, and surveys not only helps you adapt to shoppers' preferences; it also shows that you value their input. Below are some of the major areas where you can use customer feedback to make improvements.
Customer feedback can help shape your decision-making around merchandise strategy. While the exact approach will depend on your inventory and audience, it’s best to start broad. Start by examining overall customer sentiment according to product category to establish a baseline for expectations. As you narrow the focus of your customer feedback analysis, it’ll be easier to establish whether individual products or a whole category is underperforming. From there, you can discover if there are new SKUs you should be adding to your inventory, or if you should discontinue item/categories that aren’t meeting shoppers’ expectations.
Site usability & design
The UX of your ecommerce site can be one of the most important keys to its success – and customer feedback in this area can help you identify pain points and bottlenecks that you can address to improve usability and eliminate customer frustrations.
If your customer service department uses call monitoring tools, that’s an excellent resource for finding areas of the customer experience that need improvement. Reviewing customer service calls can reveal patterns or errors you may not find by manually browsing your site, such as pricing errors, frequently asked questions, or even areas where customer service reps need more training. You can also assess your customer experience by analyzing product return codes to look for common themes (this can also be useful for shaping your merchandise strategy).
Whatever product or service your company offers, keeping customers engaged and coming back to your site is critical for ecommerce success. Customers remain loyal to brands that treat them well, but even more so to companies that implement memorable tactics to keep them happy. Below are some easy ideas that can go a long way toward leaving a good impression on your customers.
You don't need to be pushing a sale every time you communicate with your customers. Sharing content related to your products or industry can provide your customers with helpful information for purchasing decisions. By establishing your company as a source of authoritative information, you also build up your trust and reputation among customers.
Create helpful offers
Go beyond the run-of-the-mill discounts and think of special offers that improve the purchase experience, rather than just trying to make a sale. What sets you apart from the competition? Do your product margins grant you the flexibility to give away free gifts with orders? Are there ways you can simplify the decision to purchase (like offering free returns or special warranties)? To come up with a promotion that works for your situation, consider the interests of your customers, the products you sell, and the logistics of your company.
Keeping a professional tone with your customers doesn’t mean all communication needs to feel scripted. Remember, messages that actually have a “human touch” to them will go a long way toward making your brand memorable and encouraging repeat business.
Say 'thank you'
Sending a thank you welcomes new customers to your site, and is a reminder of your expert service to returning customers. To encourage repeat business, offer a coupon or shipping discount on their next order. Consider also sending thank you emails/discounts when customers complete other actions on your website, like signing up for your newsletter.
Theft during the last mile of product fulfillment is a growing problem in ecommerce. According to a report by InsuranceQuotes.com, 23 million Americans had packages stolen from their doorsteps in 2015. Even worse - a DropOff study found that 94% of consumers blame the e-tailer for poor delivery, while only 42% blame the delivery provider. Not only are you losing product from theft, you're also losing repeat customers and brand reputation.
While there isn’t much you can do to directly prevent this type of “shoplifting,” there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of theft and provide customers with a better delivery experience.
Secure delivery options
Unattended packages are the ones thieves like to target, so secure delivery options can be a major deterrent. Some common solutions are:
- Signature request
- In-store pickup (if you also operate brick-and-mortar locations)
- Delivery to a storage locker (Amazon Locker is a good example)
- Customer-supplied delivery instructions (for example, you can add a new checkout field where customers write instructions, like “Please leave package on the back porch.”)
Proactive shipping notifications
Most ecommerce sites allow customers to passively check the delivery status of an order. Taking a more proactive approach to this idea can not only make your deliveries more secure, but improve your customers’ experience. Encourage customers to sign up to receive delivery notifications via text message, email, or even app push notifications.
Work with your carriers to offer your customers the ability to select a specific delivery date and time. This can be a value-added shipping option at checkout, or you can offer it for free with a minimum order.