The e-commerce industry is continuing to grow in the UK, as customers turn away from the high street.
The 20% year on year growth has sped up due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, people rely even more on online shopping. As shopping habits move online, one of the biggest bugbears for online retailers is the returns process. The lack of visibility and operational headache of returns means that businesses often focus on trying to avoid them all together. However, returns are becoming more and more important for customers with 35% of shoppers deliberately over ordering to try on items or see them in person*. So how can retailers overcome the difficult process and gives customers the first class experience they expect.
Returns: An Operational Headache
Customer returns can be an operational headache for warehouses and have a huge impact on the bottom line. Retailers often don’t know if a product will be returned, the condition it will be in, when it will arrive, or the cost of delivery until it has already happened. This means it’s impossible to plan or manage the process which leaves them playing catch up. It results in delays that mean re-saleable goods take longer to get back into stock and retailers lose opportunities for sales. When selling internationally, there is a further barrier of duties and taxes. Duties are paid when the product goes to the customer but shouldn’t be paid for a return. Retailers need to ensure they have the right documentation, or they risk charges and fines.
All of this creates an operational nightmare and a drain on resources. It costs retailers a whopping £60bn a year in the UK and causes a huge strain on the bottom line when stocks become tied up and handling costs are high. Sellers must find a way to balance the cost and operational impact of returns with the customer experience.
Is your Customer Returns Policy Fit For Purpose?
Where the online sales journey and delivery process are a key part of the customer experience, an effective returns strategy is also essential.
Most e-commerce customers return items. In fact, 42% of consumers returned something in the last 6 months*, so it can’t be ignored. But it’s not just something to be dealt with after delivery, as three quarters of customers check a website returns policy before deciding whether to make a purchase.* When buying something they haven’t seen or touched, consumers need confidence. A good returns policy that is clear and simple can give them that confidence, whereas leaving your customers unsure over the policy will make them less likely to take the risk and may buy from a competitor. When selling internationally, the sense of risk is even more heightened, with longer waiting times and extra duties and taxes to pay. Hence, your returns policy is even more important in international sales.
So what do customers want from a returns policy? They want to know how long they have to return the item, what options they will have, how much it will cost, whether they will be able to exchange it, and how long it will take to get their refund. Covering all this in the returns policy helps give your customers the confidence to buy so that if they want to return it, they can do so easily.
What is the Key to a Seamless Returns Process?
Customers want a returns process that gives them multiple options of how to make a return, enabling them to choose one that fits around their lives. They also say clear tracking and receipt of return is an important aspect of the returns process.^ It provides assurance that their return is in transit and clarity when they will get their refund. A returns process that covers these aspects means the customer is more likely to have a positive experience, and therefore more likely to buy again.
When selling internationally however, it’s not a case of one size fits all when it comes to returns. Some countries, such as Germany, have more of a returns culture, which means that the returns strategy in these countries is even more important. Different countries also have preferences of how they would like to make a return. In China, parcel lockers are the most popular choice, whereas in France they prefer a drop off location. Understanding the different markets and tailoring your policy to them is important for getting global returns right.
Smooth Returns; Return Customers
92% of shoppers who have received a good returns experience make repeat purchases.^
Today’s online shopper has high expectations of their returns policy. Indeed, retailers need to offer choice, flexibility, convenience, speed and visibility. That’s why GFS have launched a new returns platform, GFS Global Returns Pro. It’s a simple and affordable solution for retailers, that gives them visibility over the whole process. Not only does it help with customs documentation, but also access to a global network of 200+ returns services. For customers, they can return an item in under a minute, more returns options and get notifications throughout the return. By partnering with a delivery and returns expert like GFS, they can alleviate the struggle of operational management. As a result, it means low costs for small and large retailers alike.
Cloud Commerce Pro integrates with GFS, find out more here.
* GFS/IMRG Consumer Home Delivery Report 2019/20
^ IMRG Returns Review 2020