eCommerce has transformed the way we shop, making products more accessible to consumers. The fast and flexible method of buying and selling goods online has resultantly boomed in recent years, with the market projected to surpass $5 (£4.3) trillion for the first time in 2022, before exceeding $7 (£6) trillion as of 2025.
Despite the convenience and choice provided, roughly 15-30% of products purchased from an e-commerce platform will be returned, compared to a lower figure of 9% for a classic brick-and-mortar store. This difference may be due to several factors, such as:
Alternatively, packaging may have been damaged along the line, meaning an individual is no longer keen to possess the item, or the product purchased itself may have been damaged or broken. As a result, you need to ensure that you have a returns system in place that allows your target audience to return their purchase with ease.
Returns management, also known as reverse logistics, is an essential part of a successful e-commerce fulfilment business. All businesses will experience returns at some point - so there should be a sufficient (if not flawless) process in place for your end-users to return their items.
Whether a human error or a machine error, mistakes happen. However, there is no need to panic about the cost of a refund, the cost of product dispositions or the shipping costs that accompany a return. Instead, as the retailer or seller, you have the power to conduct damage control for your returned products.
To help you, Cloud9 Fulfilment, a highly reputable eCommerce fulfilment centre, has put together several expert tips to ensure your online returns system is performing its best to minimise returns.
Customers appreciate a transparent return policy, as it ensures they feel comfortable making a purchase. As a result, your return policy should be easily accessible and visible on your website, alongside any partner sites.
You should additionally strive to include a hard copy of your return policy in any physical packages when shipped, or you can go the extra eco-friendly mile and send out a digital version.
Having an evident return policy also protects you and your business, should a customer try and challenge your return process.
Descriptions of your product should always be accurate and detailed. Doing so makes sure that you manage customer expectations, as a different item is likely to be returned.
Some of the key information you should include in your product description includes:
To go the extra mile, you should also have a photographer capture high-quality images of your product. These will not only act as a primary way of attracting consumers into buying your product but also help inform a customer of an item’s visual appearance – so get several angles!
Finally, videos of products are becoming increasingly popular. For example, a model walking in clothing may help a consumer figure out how a clothing item fits, while a video showcasing technology can highlight how your product works.
On-time delivery is vital to prove to your end-users that your business is functioning smoothly. If you cannot fulfil orders on time, you may not be capable of meeting customers’ demands and delivering products or services.
If you are not running on schedule, you may be impacted by negative reviews or a reduction in your loyal customer base, both of which may significantly hinder your sales.
High-quality materials are multi-functional - they make your product look appealing and protect the contents of your package. As the majority of customer returns are initiated by damaged or faulty items, you should prioritise using durable packaging.
Examples of packaging materials that are cost-effective, tough and ideal for shipping include:
By constantly analysing your returns, you receive a complete view of your customers, relevant processes and any products that may need to be altered or removed.
These metrics are vital to learn how to improve your returns and exchange processes. They moreover provide knowledge to improve your business decisions and reduce the volume of returns.
Other metrics useful for returns prevention include:
Rewarding your customers for reviews not only increases sales, but provides valuable insight into the effectiveness of your buying cycle and returns system. Such a reward may include a discount, such as 10% off their next order or free shipping.
As online reviews can impact buying decisions by as much as 93%, reviews are a vital way to sway an unsure buyer into purchasing your product. They also act to reduce returns as a buyer is more likely to have an informed position prior to purchasing. This can eradicate:
Other benefits of introducing a rewards system include:
Many businesses overlook their returns journey and the importance of data that can be gathered along the way. However, if you have an item that is being frequently returned or receiving negative reviews, it is important to take these on board and to become more customer-centric in regard to your systems.
If there is a complaint in a review, it is therefore vital to immediately address the problem. These are often minor and can lead to immediate sales improvements, with common problems including:
Immediately fixing the problem will not only allow you to reply to negative feedback, stating you have solved it, but moreover lead to increased trust in your brand and improved customer satisfaction - and happy customers mean less returns!
Cloud9 Fulfilment is an industry-leading and multi-channel provider of eCommerce services for a wide range of industries.