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GUEST COMMENT Top tips to ease returns woes

Retailers are increasingly looking at how to improve their returns process

The rise of ’omnicommerce’ in recent years has had a huge impact on returns management. Retailers are increasingly looking at how to improve their returns process as customers now expect the same levels of convenience and flexibility when shopping online as in store.

More than ever we’re seeing consumers move to a culture of returning, with people often choosing to buy a variety of items in different styles and sizes, with the intention of returning them at a later date. But this shift in shopping habits has quickly become one of the biggest headaches for online retailers.

While there’s no holy grail in the current returns landscape, there are ways retailers can stay on top of their ecosystem, operations and local market to offer the right policies that actually improve overall sales, particularly during peak periods.

With this in mind, here are my top tips to help merchants overcome the obstacles in the returns process, and make the refund policy part of the brand appeal, rather than a detractor.

Make it smooth sailing

Simplicity and convenience are taking over as the most important things when deciding which retailer to buy from, with 63% of consumers more likely to shop with retailers who have a no-quibbles returns policy . By providing packaging for returns in the initial delivery or offering options like “return in store”, retailers can make it seamless for shoppers to get the right product and enjoy the process more. There is a huge opportunity for brands to turn this additional level of face-to-face interaction to their advantage, setting the scene for future buys and brand ambassadorship, as well as cross-selling on additional items.

Stretch out – just enough

In customer satisfaction, return policy duration is a significant factor, and offering a longer, more flexible policy helps increase loyalty among shoppers. Whether customers send a product back, forget to return the item, decide they love it or gift it on, in the end, cutting the stress on the return timeline benefits the brand. But before extending your return policy, make sure you’re checking capabilities at all ends of your retail process – from shop stock, to fulfilment and logistics capabilities, to payment operations. Don’t overstretch straight away – and test, test, test!

Bring your products to life

It’s true what they say; prevention is better than cure. The percentage of returns for products bought online is three times higher than that of those purchased in-store, costing retailers up to 20% a year in profit loss. Lack of information on the product is one of the key reasons for this. One way to reduce returns is to add images with 360-degree views and short product videos, so that customers are better informed about their purchases before they click to buy.

Be sociable

Recent research by Gartner revealed online shopping returns reached 40% of online sales – a 30% increase in 18 months. Social media can help reduce this figure through use of its two areas of excellence: the use of imagery and the sharing of impartial reviews. Get these two right with a healthy dose of quick quality customer service and you’re set for a win.

Author: Maria Prados, vice president Vertical Growth, Global Retail, Worldpay

Image credit: Fotolia

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