Orders Have Been Made And Shipped… But How Many Are Coming Back?

This year like last year the expectations for a record breaking eCommerce sales crescendo are in the making. Online retailers are smiling from ear to ear as they see their online sales orders increase from Black Friday up and through Christmas day. But with the good also comes the bad. They know they can expect a pretty larger than average return of purchased items that some people either bought the wrong size, color, or purchased the item on a simply “impulse-buy” scenario.

Part of the reason that your PO Box is filled to capacity with returned packages is because of the simple fact that you, as a online store owner, needed to compete with the big box stores, (who are also on line) with a pretty liberal “Return Policy”

While the brick-and-mortar return rate is around 9%, online it’s more than double that at 20%. And, during the holidays, returns surges to 30% or even as high as 50%, depending on the industry.

What can you do?? Well, the first thing is to start thinking like the customer who purchased from you. They might have already had a frustrating time in just receiving their order that they placed on your store. But will all your good intentions, their items could have been delayed or not even have shown up for the holiday they were shopping for in the first place. Now, you did your part right? I mean, you posted your delivery schedules in an easy to find location and then made mention of it again on your checkout page right. Anticipating that this would help do away with any confusion on the buyer’s part. And you provided a good reliable shipping schedule that you received from your own shippers of choice right? And if there were delays that your shippers informed you about, you then updated your store accordingly right? Well, right??

Remember, easy to find return and exchange policies only provide transparency for your customers. And believe it or not, it is sometimes that easy to find information that can turn a potential customer into a valued sale. But you need to be sure your store’s information is correct and that you honor what you say you do. Remember, it’s much easier to keep a satisfied shopper than to try and get a new one. Those satisfied shoppers can swell your client base just through word of mouth and you can’t buy that from some old contact list!

For the past several years of internet retail, January 5th has become the unofficial/official global returns day. It just seems like this day was picked after all the gift-wrapping paper has made its way to the trash and you finally made up your mind that you really don’t want that buttoned down sweater that Aunt Rose gifted you with. It’s just that this day has been chosen by most consumers to contact the stores and make their bid to take advantage of the usually easy return policies.

So what can you do to turn this negative into a positive?

Well, like they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. And using a store return could actually end up boosting your bottom line! Recognize that returns are actually disguised opportunities to showcase your customer service. A friendly experience is almost always something customers hope for and truly appreciate when they receive it. Engaging employees who genuinely want to help a customer, regardless of making a sale or refunding money on a return, will create a strong positive impression. And believe me, stats have shown that a happy customer means a returning customer.

Take a lesson from the legends in retail. Make it easy for the customer to make the return. Online retailer Zappos.com is famous for WOW levels of customer service, and one of the many reasons is because of its easy return policy. They even encourage customers to order extra merchandise with the promise they can return what they don’t want or don’t use. Nordstrom is another retail giant known for its amazing service and easy return policy. What both of these companies are not known for are low prices. But, somehow they compete and thrive in the retail world. Why? You know the answer. While there are other ways these iconic brands make doing business with them easy, their no-hassle return policies create confidence, which turns into sales and long-term loyal customers.

Every interaction you have with a customer is an opportunity for them form an impression. Businesses put so much effort into marketing, creating brand recognition and selling. Recognizing that returns are part of the process, and embracing them for the opportunities they create, is another way to prove to the customer that you are easy to do business with and worth coming back to again.

Bottom line is, returns are part of doing business, maybe more so online as in a brick and mortar shop, as it’s a lot easier to start things with the click of a mouse button, then to get into a car and drive to a retail outlet. So don’t stress the fact that you need to fill and honor those returns. Take it in stride and use this as a learning curve if you missed the mark on some part of your fulfillment that caused the return to take place.

Above all, keep in mind that returns are all part of doing business, just try and keep the ratio in line and take this as the opportunity to make someone’s initially bad experience into a happy resolution!