How to make returns work for you

Returns can be your biggest nightmare as an online trader. And, the statistics aren’t looking too promising with Statista predicting a returns loss of $550 billion by 2020. A figure that stands at an enormous 75 percent higher than 2016. 

So, why is it so bad? 

The main contributing factor to high returns rates is simply a change in customer behavior. Many people buy products with the intention of returning at least one. Attitudes to returns have changed in line with how the way we shop has changed. Because it’s now easier (and faster) to send and receive, it’s part and parcel of the buying process to try out an item and return it if it’s not quite right. 

That’s great for customers. It gives them freedom and choice without having to step into a bricks-and-mortar shop. However, for eCommerce traders, it can be crippling. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Here’s how to make returns work for your store rather than against it. 

The future is far from bleak 

Broadly speaking, returns are guilty of causing wasted time and money. Not only that but they can be difficult to manage logistically, and inefficient ways of monitoring, checking and storing goods can lead to financial loss. 

But, with a few simple changes, you can change your perception of ‘harmful returns’ and maybe even turn them around to support your growth. After all, returning an item means interacting with your brand. This is your chance to shine and provide exceptional customer service that could help to nurture further, more profitable, purchases. 

In terms of logistics, develop a clear and standard procedure that’s easy to implement. This is where a site platform such as Shopify comes into its element. Many are making the move to migrate to Shopify for the ceaseless benefits that enable easy shipping, deliveries, and returns. Easy to view dashboards and customer tracking are just some of the ways it can make your life easier. Plus is easy to integrate with partners and apps. 

That means you could outsource your returns department, and place the process in someone else’s capable hands. Shipbob and Happy Returns, for example, are companies that deliver great service to support your store, and easily connect with Shopify. 

If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em 

If your returns are a hefty percentage of your business dealings rather than an infrequent inconvenience, it might be worth assessing whether a shift in business model is required. There are those who’ve made a straightforward returns strategy work to create higher profits and better brands. 

Changing up the way you handle returns could help support a more profitable bottom line. Take for example Zappos, a company renowned for leading the way in profitable returns. That’s not by charging a hefty sum for them, but quite the opposite. Zappos has made their returns policy completely free of charge and allow customers a huge 365-day window in which to return anything they didn’t want. The two very things that would seem to annihilate your profit margins. Instead, they helped turn Zappos into one of the most talked-about eCommerce success stories in history. 

Why? It’s all about customer service. Developing trust between you and your customers can support a much stronger business model; it can encourage repeat purchases and get your customers referring and talking about you. (Read more about keeping your existing customers happy). 

There is also a rise in brands such as Stitch Fix, running lucrative returns-models based on a stylist service. Customers subscribe to receive a box of items and are given three days to return the items they don’t want and only pay for those they do. Returns are used as a way of delivering a great experience. The value is in their customer service and bespoke approach. Plus, customers are encouraged to keep all five carefully selected items with a tempting 25 percent discount. 

The combination of a returns deadline, a discount for non-returns, and a personalized service founded in great customer experience with quality products, has led Stitch Fix to become the billion-dollar success story it is today.  

Be clear and open 

Rule number one when it comes to returns – whether that’s a standard policy or making it part of your business model – is to keep it transparent. Whatever your returns policy is, make it obvious the costs and charges your customers may incur. Say you’re offering free returns and shipping, then you’ll want to be shouting about it, but make sure your customers have all the facts. Customer service experience, and especially reviews, is just as powerful as marketing. A bad or undersold experience can be just as damaging to your bottom line as shipping costs. 

Shopify tools to make your returns work harder 

Shopify is one of the most trusted and flexible eCommerce platforms available. If you are looking for a site to help support a great returns system then you might want to consider migrating to Shopify. For example, Shopify Flow is a customer management tool that can help you first identify and segment customer behavior. Very quickly you can identify what kind of customer is returning what kinds of items. You can also use this to curb customers who are returning too many items. 

Not only that but Shopify integrations such as Returnly, Shipbob, Happy Returns, and Loop are all returns systems that can easily be enabled with Shopify to ease the burden and keep your store running smoothly.  

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