The Framework for a Quality, Convenient Returns Process

preparing item for return

Returns are an inevitable part of online retailing. When consumers buy items online without seeing them in person first, there’s always a chance they’ll end up unsatisfied. In fact, e-retailers in categories like clothing and shoes can experience up to a 30 percent return rate.

High return rates can hurt a retailer’s profitability and customer loyalty. Returns can be a hassle for customers, and costly for retailers — particularly those that rely heavily on drop-shipping, which is a tactic that involves brands and suppliers shipping products directly to retail customers.

Fortunately, there are ways for e-retailers to reduce return rates and at the same time make the returns process as easy as possible. A quality and convenient return process can generate customer repeat purchases and higher order value, and minimize operational costs for your business.

Common returns options for online retailers

Most retailers use a combination of three different structures for facilitating returns: return to store, ship to product returns center or ship direct to vendor. Each option has its pros and cons that retailers must weigh given their product categories and customer habits.

Pure play e-retailers have no choice but to offer one of the last two options, which means they miss out on the opportunity to sell customers additional items in-store. Some online retailers give shoppers the option to use the return as a credit to buy something new on the site, or motivate customers to buy more online by providing free returns. In fact, according to CNBC, retailers that offer free returns can increase sales by up to 357 percent.

Tips for handling and facilitating returns

Even with the right processes in place for customers to make returns, retailers need to implement best practices to make the process as easy as possible and motivate customers to make more purchases and remain loyal. According to ComScore, about two-thirds of customers (63 percent) check a retailer’s returns process before making a purchase.

Additionally, following best practices ensures that you minimize the costs associated with facilitating returns and maximize profit in the long run. Some tips for retailers looking to streamline the returns process for customers include:

Managing returns processes can be tricky, especially if you’re a retailer within a high returns product category, like clothing and apparel, or if you rely heavily on drop-shipping partners. The right strategy can drastically reduce errors, streamline processes for the customer and cut costs for you. Learn more about CommerceHub’s offerings for retailers today.