Posted: Tue 5th Jan 2021
Oliver Horne, e-commerce marketing manager for UPS UK & Ireland, shares his top tips to help you turn your small business returns process into a competitive advantage after the holiday season.
The coronavirus pandemic has propelled us into a new era of online shopping and the trends show no signs of slowing down, especially during the holiday and sales season. With surging online purchases come holiday returns, and according to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, 73% of online shoppers report that the returns experience affects their likelihood to buy from a retailer again.
For consumers, a positive returns experience is a clear driver of brand engagement and loyalty. As shoppers adjust their purchasing habits, retailers also must adapt to meet and exceed the expectations of their customers.
So how can your business optimise its returns strategy and prepare for the holiday season's influx of returns? It's simple - the best way to optimise your returns strategy is to listen your customers. Here's what they want:
Consumers want to know your returns policy upfront
Keep in mind that returns aren't only part of the post-purchase experience; they are key in the pre-sale process as well. Our global study of online shoppers found that 46% of consumers in the UK review return policies before making a purchase. Take a close look at your return policy now. Do you have one? If so, are the terms and conditions for each scenario clearly defined on your website? Is your return policy user-friendly and visible at key points along the customer's buying journey? Not only is a transparent return policy an easy way to secure buys and build a positive experience for your customers, but it will end up saving you valuable time on customer service.
Customers want to know what they are buying
Our research found that nearly one fifth of consumers listed 'items not as described' as the reason for their return. To avoid unwanted surprises and preventable returns, be sure you provide specific details necessary for your customer to make an informed purchase. For instance, clothing retailers should include a sizing guide, measurements and pictures of a model wearing the product. Composition and care instructions should also be included, as well as a video of the product, if possible. You can then analyse your returns data for trends and use these insights to improve future product descriptions, for example if a number of customers return trousers, perhaps it's time to revisit your product description and sizing guide.
Customers want to feel empowered with choice
Today, customers expect more choice than ever with their online shopping experience, and returns are an important part. Consider offering more flexible options when it comes to returns, for example with the UPS Access Point™ network, customers who value convenience and flexibility can pick up parcels and drop off returns on their own time using UPS's network of collection and drop-off points. Added bonus: offering solutions like the UPS Access PointTM network appeals to the more environmentally conscious consumer as it enables them to collect and drop off parcels at a convenient and centralised location, which in turn reduces the fuel and emissions associated with final-mile delivery services. In addition, the network prevents missed deliveries, which also reduces emissions.
Customers want a successful transaction
When it comes to e-commerce returns, suggesting an alternative product can be a great way to encourage new sales. Typically, we associate 'like-product replacements' with the in-store return experience; however, it can be equally effective online. Your customer is clearly in the market for the product you're selling, so why not try suggesting a suitable alternative (i.e. different size or colour)? Don't miss the opportunity to recommend a 'like-product', which might retain the sale and keep your customer happy.
Offering an easy and transparent returns process is key to your success, as it provides customers with the confidence and security they need to make future purchases from your business. Choosing the right service provider for your business needs is also key to your success. The right partner can offer solutions that will empower both your business and your customer throughout the returns process.
For example, UPS Returns Manager gives shippers control over their returns process, providing insights into why certain products have been returned - giving you the visibility needed to anticipate impacts to inventory and route your returns to be processed for repair, repackaging, or restocking. Meanwhile, it allows your customer to generate an authorised return label themselves and track their return parcel throughout its journey.
I hope this read helps you feel empowered to turn your returns process into a competitive advantage. Now that you know what your customers want, it's the perfect time to create a positive returns experience and enjoy 'the returns' of your hard work.
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