Online shoppers often determine which stores to buy from based on their understanding return requirements upfront. According to UPS consumer surveys, “66% of shoppers review a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase. 15% abandon a cart when the return policy is unclear.” Although returns can be costly for companies, making it a seamless and customer-centric process is an important business strategy. As Craig Adkins, VP at Zappos, explains: “Our best customers have the highest return rates, but they are also the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers.”
We believe companies need to focus on how and where they communicate their policies as well as ensure follow through when customer returns occur. Below are best practices to positively impact customer buying experiences and help drive loyalty.
- Make return policies visible on the company website. Do not require shoppers to go on a scavenger hunt to find information. And, if in-store returns are an option, make it clear as some will prefer it instead of shipping packages back.
- Ensure ALL online chat and call center representatives are trained and that they provide consistent information to avoid shopper confusion and distrust.
- Offer extended return deadlines especially during the holidays, and leverage it as a competitive advantage in marketing communications.
- Include a pre-paid return label in the post-purchase fulfillment box. Make it easy for customers, as they will appreciate the time saved by not having to search online and print their label or needing to call a rep for help.
- Follow up with an email to customers after their return is received at the warehouse. Provide details about what was returned, the refund amount and how long it typically takes for credit to be applied. Also, include company contact information, so it is simple to get in touch if there are any questions or concerns.
While these five basic guidelines are intuitive, it is surprising how many companies are not applying them. What’s your opinion? Which companies impress you, and which ones make you turn to a competitor because their policies don’t meet expectations?
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