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Opinion: 5 top tips for managing returns effectively


In the latest in a series of eDelivery opinion articles focussing on returns kees-de-vosKees de Vos, chief product and marketing officer for MetaPack shares his top tips for making returns a key ecommerce differentiator.
The purchasing decisions of eCommerce customers are directly influenced by delivery and returns. So, encounters with brands and retailers when shopping online grows increasingly important. To stay competitive in today’s eCommerce environment requires a complete online experience that meets the highest expectations for transparency, ease and accuracy.

Findings from research we recently conducted amongst consumers, reveals incredibly powerful insight that can inform retailer plans, as our tips below show. In the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and the US, consumers have come to expect simple and seamless processes for receiving goods and returning them if they change their minds. This is to the extent that retailers will lose revenue if they don’t get their returns policies right.

Returns are the next differentiation battlefield in eCommerce, so here are some key actions drawn from the research:

1 Keep returns easy

The benefit of making the returns process easy is that it will encourage customers to buy more. 69% of UK respondents to our survey and an even higher 72% of all respondents said that they are somewhat or very likely to shop more with a retailer that made returns easy.

2 Make returns policies and processes clear

Online consumers want transparency with returns, but this is not always provided by retailers; 49% of respondents to the MetaPack State of eCommerce Research confirmed that an online merchant’s returns policy had deterred them from making a purchase. Given that in the UK almost three quarters (73%) of the consumers we spoke to had often or sometimes checked out a returns policy before completing a purchase, it is vital that returns options are clearly available and straightforward.

3 Provide a good range of returns options

What’s obvious is that online consumers increasingly expect to have the choice of how to return their goods through various pickup or drop-off methods. Post is still the top option for 40% of all respondents and courier pick-up is popular with 34%, but many consumers (31%) are warming to the idea of pickup/drop-off parcel points (PUDOs) and drop-off at a retailer’s store scores a hit with 29%.

4 Keep millennials happy

If there’s one cohort of consumers most likely to be influenced by returns options on offer, then millennial shoppers are it. They are most likely to purchase multiple items in the knowledge they will be making returns. Almost half (46%) of those aged 18-25 said they frequently purchase items online, expecting to return some or all of these; contrast this with 33% of all other respondents. 71% of these shoppers say they’ll review an e-tailer’s returns policy before completing an online purchase.

5 Premium prices for convenient returns are not a big attraction

Most customers want to pay the minimum or return their products for free. 60% said that they would not be willing to pay more for a premium returns service, compared with just 17% who said they definitely would.

Clearly returns policies and processes hold an important role in the competition for revenue and loyalty in eCommerce. Returning or exchanging products purchased online is a regular occurrence for shoppers, and just like with delivery propositions, brands and retailers need to consider returns as a key element of their wider delivery strategy to optimise customer experience. By thinking about the approach to returns from the outset, brands remain competitive within progressive environments becoming closer aligned to evolving shopper demands.

Kees de Vos is chief product and marketing officer for MetaPack.

Image credits: MetaPack and Fotolia

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