Online retail spending continues to grow, reaching $53.2 billion for the 3rd quarter of 2013; marking the sixteenth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and twelfth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. (comScore). One of the important steps to developing an effective ecommerce solution is identifying your return policy. Whether your policy is “all sales are final” or “100% money back guarantee”, your primary goal should be to prevent refund request. Listed below are a few ideas for reducing your return rates:
A study performed by the E-Tailing Group reveals that 79% of online shoppers “rarely or never” purchase a product without complete product information.
1. Show the product in context.
You should always provide item details such as weight, color, and dimensions in a designated (consistent) and easily identifiable area. However, sometimes it’s not enough to simply list product dimensions; make it easy for customers to understand the product size by placing a photo of the product next to a person or another commonly used item. This will help the customer understand the “scale” of the product and reduce returns based on the customer’s expectation that the product was “bigger” … or “smaller”.
2. Provide an enlarged view.
Using zoomable/resizable photos of your products will allow online shoppers to review the product closely. The use of enlarged images may be more effective than simply describing the product. Many consumers are reluctant to purchase online due to the need to touch or see the item closer and in person.
3. Provide alternative views.
Photograph items from multiple angles to allow the customer to obtain a complete view. This will improve their ability to make the purchase, as it reduces the number of unknowns (ex: “I wish I could see the back of the item”). Using well written copy, along with enlarged images and alternate views are very effective methods for enhancing your product descriptions.
4. Clearly indicate other options such as colors, sizes and textures
Another reason that customers return items is because the color was not what they expected. Always include color swatches of available colors & patterns. Ensure that the color swatch is accurate and matches the actual color of the item (or very close to it).
5. Use video to display product usage.
Video is a very effective tool for product demonstrations. To reduce returns due to customer confusion on how to use the item, use video to demonstrate usage and to answer commonly asked questions.
6. Offer samples and trials
This is particularly useful for digital products and goods. Allow the customer to view a sample or receive a trial. This is a great way to improve customer satisfaction and reduce return rates, as it effectively manages the customer’s expectations and increases the customer’s knowledge about the product before purchase.
7. Provide User Support Early
Make it easy for customers to obtain the relevant User Guides, Maintenance and Warranty Information. Perhaps upon purchasing the product, you may want to include this information on the customer’s receipt. Provide customer support upon purchase, as opposed to waiting for complaints due to usage confusion.
8. Develop a customer-friendly exchange policy.
If the customer returns an item and there’s another item available that would meet their needs, offer the customer a quick exchange. Be sure that you can quickly identify an alternate product and develop an exchange process that doesn’t make the transaction burdensome.
9. Include a customer review and rating system.
Customer reviews are important for a number reasons. Not only do great reviews improve your sales, but many times the details provided in the review allows future customers to determine if the product will work FOR THEM. For example, if the customer is interested in purchasing a pair of shoes, a customer review may help them determine if the shoe is comfortable to walk in for long periods of time. Perhaps they will decide to select a more comfortable shoe, as opposed to ordering a less comfortable shoe and then returning it due to discomfort. You want the customer to be pleased with their purchase, so make it easy for them to learn as much about the product as possible; what better way to do this than to display a review from someone that has already used it?
Updated Information: Statistics and data sources (January 2014)