According to the Office of National Statistics, in December 2019 Online Retailing accounted for 19.0% of all retailing in the UK – and that rate continues to grow about 1% every year. So with an increasing number of people choosing to buy online, it has become more important than ever for businesses to have a solid returns process.
Get your returns management right; and you have happy customers and build advocacy for your brand – but get it wrong; and it could hit both your pocket and your reputation.
By the very nature of buying online there are many reasons we need to make returns. If we haven’t seen, tested, touched or tried-on our purchase there is a high likelihood it might not be quite right.
So even if you have the best online user experience, customer service, and delivery – you will still receive returns. For the ultimate user experience, and reduced loss to your business, you need to ensure your returns are managed well. So, here is a helpful guide to effectively managing returns.
How to Manage Online Returns Effectively
Clear Processes for Online Returns Management
Vital to effective returns management is an understanding of just how important they are. If returns are an afterthought in a business, they will not be managed correctly. Things will be forgotten, steps skipped, and customers unhappy.
Having a clear process for any returned item means businesses can meet compliance as well as maintain high customer service.
Returned products can’t simply be put back on the shelf – there needs to be an assessment of the product and a decision made about what happens next. Ensure your team knows how to handle returned products and manage the process well to reduce waste.
An effective returns management strategy should include everything from logistics right through to customer communication. Implement a successful strategy and see your team managing returns effectively, less waste, increased customer satisfaction, and all-round good business practices.
Identifying the Causes for Online Returns
As a business, you need to understand the root cause for returns. Address any arising issues to prevent future returns. By taking time to really understand why an item is being returned, businesses can benefit from their newfound knowledge, implementing processes to rectify issues.
Whether it’s an issue with products, information on the website, or the customer journey, solving the problems early on can reduce the number of returned items in the future.
Wider Implications of Online Returns
There are lots of things to consider when dealing with returns. It’s not just a simple case of return product and refund the customer. Businesses need to ask questions and address the answers.
From basic questions likes “does this customer need a refund?” to more complex questions like “factoring in returns, are we making enough profit from this product anymore?”, businesses frame returns in the context of commerce and profitability. Put your business caps on and get thinking about the wider implications of this process.
Having high return rates may also impact long-term growth and be an indication that a product is not fit for market. Without addressing this, customer reviews could end up scarpering the product’s future.
The financial implications of returns can have a noticeable impact on businesses’ bottom line. Without being given attention, returns could easily lead to losses.
Seeing the Opportunities
Returns management can present innovative businesses with a great opportunity. Deal with returns in a fast, friendly and effective way, and customers are likely to take note. Regardless of whether they are impressed with their product, they will be impressed by you.
While other businesses may struggle to manage returns and see it as a burden, you can take this opportunity to communicate with customers, understand their experience with you, and use these insights to evolve.
An effective returns management strategy has implications for your business as a whole. Far beyond a simple interaction, managing returns gives you unique business insights and grounds for future development.