The Ultimate Guide to Reduce Ecommerce and Online Returns

It’s no secret that crippling return rates are a part and parcel of the ecommerce and online retail space. Dictated by consumer expectations, flexible return policies have become the given standard of any online shopping experience.

That said, rising return rates are no longer a mild side effect of conducting business-as-usual. for most brands and e-retailers, massive return rates stands to be a big problem– especially considering the damaging impact on profit margins and overall bottom lines. Not to mention, the investment that goes into setting up return logistics, hiring for inventory management, ramping up warehouse space and so on.

So what can online brands and retailers do to curb the damaging impact of returns? Well, returns are the new normal but with the right approach and enabling technologies, one can drastically reduce returns and achieve sustained profitability.

In this article, we look at six ways you can radically reduce your online returns:

How to Reduce Ecommerce Returns

Even for the savviest decision makers and brand strategists, limiting return rates has been a priority quarter over quarter. With the following ways, we are certain you’ll be able to do exactly that.

1. Think beyond a 30-day return window

You might have come across brands that levy shipping charges for initiating returns. Those are the same brands that report low conversion and retention rates. After all, there’s no room for unwanted friction when crafting a return policy. Even if you want less people to return your products, your policy still needs to go above and beyond to be customer-centric.

Instead of trying to cover return costs, consider increasing your return window by 3 or 4 times of your current window. Doing so might seem counterintuitive at first, but there’s a reason why long return windows of 90 days and above are proving to be quite effective.

When customers need to return products within 30 days or less, there’s a sense of urgency that gets triggered- putting them on a clock to initiate a return quickly.

Did you know that brands like IKEA, Bloomingdale’s, Target, Nordstorm and more offer return timelines of up to 365 days!

Yes, that’s a whole year.

A longer return window on the other hand completely removes that urgency giving them the time to change their mind or get attached to it. Unless of course, the product itself is damaged or defected which brings us to the next two strategies.

2. Choose the right packaging and delivery partner

Receiving a damaged or defected product is hands down one of the biggest silent killers of online sales. In fact, an average of 20% of returns take place due to receiving damaged or broken goods.

As a general course of action, it’s best to map out the journey a product makes from your warehouse to the customers hands. Depending on how sturdy or fragile the products you sell are, pay attention to packaging for a rough journey. Double or triple lined packaging and bubble wrap can be extremely handy here.

choosing-a-delivery-partner

Once you’re a 100% certain that your packaging is on point, it becomes that much easier to track whether the fault is with you or your delivery partner. It gives you the option to evaluate whether your partner is mishandling your products and thus, choose a more reliable partner.

3. Fix ‘wrong or incorrect item delivered’ issue

Yet another major cause of high return rates, wrong or incorrect orders can be hard to fix, especially if it is a frequent reason behind your huge returns. This issue mainly highlights a gap in your pick-pack-dispatch process.

Now your process might involve several employees locating stock in a warehouse, manually matching invoices and entering data into your system, printing and placing labels on respective products and finally handing it over to your courier partner.

Having some sort of structure in place can definitely help minimise typical human errors that do happen in these processes. Starting with an inventory and order management software that is essential if you receive anywhere from 50-1000 orders a day. You want to choose a robust system that can automate the process of matching order invoices with your stock. Add to that the capability of locating inventory within your warehouse based on product id numbers and allocate to warehouse employees accordingly.

On Your Product Pages

4. Incorporate 3D and 360° product views

Considering that wrong depiction of products account fo 23% of overall product returns, detailed visuals are key to set the right customer expectations.

Incorporating 3D and 360 degree product views can be one of the simplest, most surefire ways to overcome this challenge. 3D views allow online shoppers to zoom in as well as rotate and examine your products with a fine tooth comb.

3d-and-360degree-views-to-reduce returns

In doing so, shoppers can gauge the material, texture and finer details of your products from every angle- resulting in them buying with more confidence and reducing the odds of them returning it.

5. Enable AR that powers virtual try-ons

When it comes to online shopping, the biggest pitfall is hands down the fact that shoppers can’t actually see, touch and experience your products like they would do in-store. Naturally, it comes as no surprise that:

  • 25% of returns are due to products not matching customer expectations
  • 17% of returns are due to product not fitting properly 

By offering accurate and realistic AR try-ons, brands give online shoppers the option to virtually try on products before buying them- directly on the website or app, with their own smartphones.

As shoppers try products like apparel, footwear, makeup, eyewear on themselves or place items like furniture and appliances in their own space, the chances of wrong expectations or mismatch are completely removed. Key consumer questions like- what size will fit me? how will these shoes look on me? will this sofa fit and match my room?- are all answered while they are shopping as opposed to waiting till the product arrives.

The best part? Augmented reality is no longer an obscure and highly expensive solution, currently it’s widely available and thanks to the validation by countless brands and their customers, AR is all set to become the new standard in online shopping.

Editor’s Note: Designhubz is an end-to-end 3D & AR solution for brands and retailers to offer immersive try-before-you-buy experiences that have proven to boost conversions and reduce returns. If you’re curious to unleash the power of 3D & AR, schedule a quick demo to learn more.

6. Provide accurate and detailed size guides

Another way to remove size inaccuracies is to provide detailed size guides. This might seem obvious but when we talk about size guides, they’re more than just a chart of numbers. Of course you need sizes (like XS, S, M, L,XL) to be mapped to real physical measurements (in cms or inches), but think about going a step further and:

i) Showing the height of the models wearing your products and the corresponding size of the particular item

ii) Including indicators like ‘fits just right’ or ‘one size smaller fits perfectly’

iii) Implementing a ‘find your size’ feature which has been made popular by brands like Zara

 

size-guide-example-to-reduce-returns

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, all of these strategies are only as good as the data and feedback you collect to analyse the cause of your returns. Putting a feedback collection loop in place will help you identify the gaps in your ecommerce experience and take the necessary measures.

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