Online shopping has become a preferred option with a majority of consumers in large part because of the convenience it offers. However, in a somewhat incongruous way, the convenience of online shopping also seems to highlight the aspects of it that can be a headache - such as returns. That is, we’ve come to expect quick, seamless experiences when we buy goods and services online, and when a hitch does come up, such as having to set up a return and seek a refund, it almost seems particularly aggravating, because it’s interrupting an otherwise remarkably smooth process.
If you’re operating your own platform that sells goods online, it is your responsibility to make sure that situations like these don’t come up and bother your customers. More specifically, you would do well to simplify the return process as much as possible, and thereby make shopping on your platform that much more appealing. It’s difficult, and requires real strategic thought and effort, but we have some suggestions as to how to make it happen.
1. Set Up Free Shipping For Returns
This is the most basic step you can take, yet also the most important one. Free shipping on returns is a huge deal for your customers, and can make a big impact on whether or not they make purchases in the first place, or on return visits. Making it clear in advance that returns won’t be a financial burden makes a purchase feel safer to the consumer; additionally, handling a return without any shipping contests if and when the issue comes up will leave the consumer with a feeling of satisfaction, and potentially make it more likely that he or she uses your service a second time. Naturally you’ll have to budget in these shipping costs, but most would argue (and your numbers will likely indicate over time) that this is a worthwhile, and ultimately offset cost.
2. Make Your Return Policy Visible
We just noted regarding offering free shipping that you should make it clear in advance that returns won’t be costly. This means making your full return policy visible. Consumers today,
who are used to extensive online shopping, are very sensitive to tricky fine print or obscure policies. Simply put, many consumers are annoyed by these things. Because of this, you would do well to make sure that your return policy is visible, not in a distracting or overbearing way, but in a manner that gives each customer a clear chance to read over it before finalizing a purchase. This gives the customer more knowledge and control, and will likely save you from receiving complaints.
3. Educate Yourself on PayPal For Returns
There are a few clear, universal reasons that sites often use PayPal. Retail sites set up PayPal Checkout so that customers can make easy, one-click purchases without having to input credit card information. Online gaming sites accept PayPal for deposits and withdrawals so that players will feel more secure in gaming with real money on the line. The examples go on and on, but outside of retail- and gaming-specific benefits and the clear perks of convenience and security, PayPal also carries its own return mechanisms. Essentially, a component of the processor called PayPal Refunded Returns allows customers who paid on your service with PayPal to refund shipping costs on returns and charge them instead to the seller (in this case, you). It’s a good idea to educate yourself on these services if in fact you use PayPal.
4. Provide Activity Reports For Return Shoppers
Credit Karma published an interesting article about return policies last year, in which it revealed that some stores are actually punishing customers who make returns too frequently. This can mean either not accepting returns or, potentially, charging for shipping. The article also recommended that concerned customers request their reports (meaning, essentially, their purchasing and return histories), which raises the idea that you should consider tracking activity and logging data. Granted, you can avoid needing this data by simply choosing not to penalize frequent returners. However, full transparency is always appreciated by customers anyway, so it certainly can’t hurt to keep activity reports in the event that any of them ever curious.
5. Offer Credits Where Returns Aren't Possible
This depends largely on the type of business you run, and what if any products you sell. But if you do sell something that for whatever reason can’t be returned once received, opened, or used, you would do well to consider offering a store credit for an unsatisfied customer. There is always some potential that you can get exploited with offerings like these, given that it’s possible a customer could be perfectly happy with an item and complain to seek a credit anyway. This is unlikely to occur often, however (and your activity reports can help you to recognize it if it does), and ultimately, you’ll be providing good customer service. The idea, ultimately, is to make customers feel happy about a purchase even when they’re seeking returns, and under certain circumstances a store credit can be the best way to accomplish this goal.