It’s the day after Christmas, and you may be in the middle of dealing with returns. Though managing returns is often a frustration, know that of the 60% of online shoppers who make at least one return or exchange per year, 95% of them will make another purchase from an e-retailer after a positive return experience. And, if buyers feel their return/exchange experience was easy, 64% will refer their friends to that store. Even though returns feel like the death of a sale, they can actually be the catalyst for future purchases – if handled properly. Here are some tips on handling those post-holiday returns and maintaining customers.
Make It Clear
Make sure your return policy is easy to find on your website and that all policy information is clearly stated. Include all rules, such as what you will provide (return postage, for example), and how to proceed with the return. Some online retailers like Zappos.com will list an easy to follow step-by-step guide on how to complete return shipments. Below is an excerpt of “Step One” from Zappos.com’s return instructions:
This is just Step One of three total steps. Take a page from Zappos.com and make sure your return instructions are just as detailed and clearly outlined.
Know The Worth Of Returns vs. Customer Service
There may be some instances where it is actually worth more to send a replacement item and let the buyer keep the original product, even if you eat some of your profit. Here is an example outlined in Practical Ecommerce’s 4 Tips for Better Ecommerce Returns and Exchanges:
A guitarist for a popular party and event band recently ordered a new guitar strap from a merchant on the Amazon marketplace. Unfortunately, there was an error in the shipment, and the merchant apparently sent a shorter strap than expected. When this guitarist contacted the seller about an exchange, he was told that a new strap would be shipped that day and that he could simply keep the smaller strap.
This solution was great for the customer, who did not have to repackage the strap or arrange for a carrier to pick it up. He was generally happy with the experience. This was probably also better for the merchant, who might have simply been able to order a new guitar strap from its distributor for about the same cost has having the strap returned.
Before making a decision like this, you need to know all applicable variables: cost of return shipping, cost of processing return and profit loss on item. Sometimes though, a small (or near insignificant) loss will lead to a huge gain later – a customer so impressed with your service will not only shop from you again, but they’ll refer friends. Don’t forget, 64% will speak highly of retailers that gave them a positive return experience.
Bring The Policy To Them
You already know not to bury your return policy landing page somewhere on your site where buyers will have difficulty finding it. To make it easier for them, consider posting (just once) on your social media sites either a link to your returns page or a condensed version for them to quickly scan. You can use this opportunity to demonstrate that you’re on their side and you definitely want them to be happy with their purchase. If there was an issue, you will make it easy for them to return the item. This will help your brand become known as a considerate and helpful business. Follow this with another social post inviting followers to share pictures with their new products. The more connected buyers feel to your brand, the better your business will perform in the long run. A 10-year study completed by marketing firm Hiebing found that brands that evoke a strong emotional response can sell more, drive customer loyalty and successfully charge 20 to 200% more than competitors.
We hope that all of your holiday shoppers were satisfied and don’t need to return or exchange anything – but in case some do, we hope these tips help. Do you have any other suggestions for other sellers on dealing with returns? Let us know in the comments.
Florin, Dave, Barry Callen, Sean Mullen, and Jeane Kropp. Emotional Connection Can Build Strong Brands Seven Ways. Wisconsin: Hiebing, 2005. PDF.
Roggio, Armando. “4 Tips for Better Ecommerce Returns and Exchanges.” Practical Ecommerce. Practical Ecommerce, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.