Return policies and systems are pivotal to ongoing online success

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Return policies and systems are pivotal to ongoing online success
Online shopping is now having to compete with instore retail again.

With many parts of the country starting to open back up, people are stepping away from their computers and devices to venture outdoors to restaurants and shopping centres. 

Online shopping is expected to take a hit.

Some retailers recorded significant increases in online shopping during the pandemic. In some cases it is up by over 400 percent.

This is a huge rise and one which many businesses will want to continue as online is definitely considered by many to be a more cost effective retail sales channel than maintaining physical stores.

Online shopping is now having to compete with instore retail again. Key things such as return policies and systems will make or break many businesses.

Businesses that moved quickly during the pandemic to overhaul and introduce sound return policies and systems will be well placed to compete with physical retail, continue to grow their customer base online and achieve higher levels of repeat customers.

When repeat customers make up over 50 percent of your online sales, this is considered the holy grail of online retailing. It means you are doing all the right things.

Discounts and offers will only take return customers so far. If a customer purchased an item online and when it arrived, it didn’t fit or wasn’t the right colour and they had a hell of a time trying to return it, then they are unlikely to purchase from the business ever again.

The best return policies and systems are those that provide the easiest and most low cost return experience for the shopper.

Have a return guarantee that creates shopper confidence

Retailers that actively promote a ‘no questions asked’ return guarantee for products generate increased trust and improved buying decisions among shoppers.

In essence return guarantees remove anxiety and resistance in the buying process, which is very important when selling items online. A shopper’s path to purchase can be fickle, so eliminating as much of the friction from the process as possible is key to increasing sales outcomes.

Ensure the returns policies are easy to find

Having good returns policies is one thing, but they need to be findable and highly visible online and where possible, woven into the sales process.

If shoppers have to dig around to find them, this diminishes their buying confidence. Ensure the policies are well placed on your site or app.

Ensure the policies are easy to follow

There is nothing worse than complex and hard to follow returns policies that make shoppers jump through hoops and spend a lot of money to return items.

This is actually the hallmark of poor customer service. While some businesses may take this approach – it is nothing more than churn and burn as once customers experience the bad policies they seldom, if ever, shop with the retailer again.

Ensure returns policies are easy to follow, involve as little effort as possible for the shoppers and do not put them out of pocket.

Engage a good logistics partner to take care of returns

One of the biggest inhibitors to growth for small to medium size businesses is not dealing with online orders in a fast and systematic way that provides customers with full visibility of the order status and parcel location.

Third party logistics partners can not only take care of the pick, pack and post aspect of your business, they can also manage the returns processes as well.

This takes the onerous work off the hands of the business so it can focus on growing and selling, while businesses such as ours, take care of everything else including managing returns.

Managing returns is one of the most important aspects of doing business online.  If a customer has a great experience dealing with a return issue, they will buy again with confidence.

Now more than ever, with online having to compete with offline businesses, return processes will help you win the fight or lose it.

Jam Pathirana is CEO and founder of ecommerce organisation B dynamic.

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