From the rising costs of logistics to the revenue loss of unsellable and liquidated goods, returns drive enormous costs for retailers. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that for the holiday season alone, returns cost retailers some $101 billion in 2020.
The reverse supply chain has grown even more complicated since COVID-19, and the demand for online shopping and eCommerce goods skyrocketed alongside it. This influx in online purchasing also drove up returns, which are estimated to account for up to 40% of online purchases. So why are customers returning products? And what can retailers do to solve the issues?
At present, returns appear to be a necessary burden that must be carried by the retailer because of the attitudes of the consumer. There is little the retailer can do about logistics costs or shipping efficiencies for returned goods, as these factors are based on changing market conditions that are out of their control. However, there are a few things retailers can do to improve their return rates to begin with, while still offering a liberal return policy that meets customer expectations.
There are four general reasons consumers return products:
While eCommerce returns are at an all-time high, the good news is that each of these risks can be mitigated either in operations or within the customer experience itself. Content and UX are at the heart of the customer experience. Focusing on this critical path to conversion will improve all aspects of the customer journey, which will in turn improve return rates and boost customer loyalty.
Here are 4 things you can do starting today to improve your eCommerce return rate using your own content.
SEO can get people to your products, but that’s only the beginning of their buying journey. Once they arrive, it is your responsibility to clearly communicate the value of your product, and this means leaning into the details and the benefits. Materials, quality, craftsmanship. How is it used? How is it stored? What makes it special? Get specific and lay it all out there.
This not only improves your chance of conversion, but also prevents buyer’s remorse by reminding them of all the value they will gain from your product. It also gets the shopper thinking more critically about end use, which helps prevent returns for wrong sizing and spacing issues.
Like product messaging, product imagery is another powerful tool to sell your products. It should be excellent. Creating high quality images with a professional photography team can require some upfront costs, but this investment delivers big eCommerce value.
Successful DTC brands like Allbirds do a tremendous job with product pages and imagery, specifically. Every Allbirds product page features multiple hi-res images and a video of the product as it’s worn. This intricate detailing, smooth customer experience, and high-quality messaging and marketing around sustainability helped the company grow to over $1 billion in value in just five years of operations.
Thoughtfully designed content helps improve the customer experience and sets accurate expectations, both of which can limit unhappy experiences that lead to returned items.
When it comes to eCommerce — especially for DTC brands, which are responsible for driving the entire experience online — conversion is not the last step. The end goal is to transform shoppers into loyal patrons. Many factors drive loyalty, but the top one is trust.
Ironically, a generous return policy is something that can drive trust. But there are plenty of things you can do post-purchase to limit the likelihood of a return. A post-purchase email, for example, can reiterate some of those key product benefits, reminding your shopper of the value your product promises to deliver. SMS and social media can also be used for engagement, conducting short surveys, or requesting a review. The more engaged your customer is, the more trust you build. The more trust you build, the more loyal your customers are.
Knowing exactly why your items are returned can help you reverse engineer a solution. Is one SKU continuously being returned for damage? Perhaps there is a warehousing or packaging issue. Either way, it’s something to investigate. Is wrong sizing a consistent culprit? Consider instituting a dynamic sizing chart. Maybe it’s more of a buyer’s remorse issue. In this case, you need to fix your customer experience. Once you know what is wrong, you can begin correcting the issue.
Most of us understand that content drives customer experience, and that it will determine conversion rates. But it’s important to understand it can also determine return rates. Optimizing your content with smart messaging, thoughtful design and strategic engagement tactics will serve to improve both.
If you want to talk about your eCommerce strategy, we’re here for it. Reach out any time.
Featured image by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.
Zlata is a full-time publicist, part-time writer, and round-the-clock ambassador to wit and humor. As a publicist for over 15 years, she helps launch products with creative ideas and garner press coverage that drives reputation and sales. She also contributes to a variety of lifestyle publications in the areas of food, parenting, health, beauty, marketing, travel, and home. When she’s not crafting kitchen concoctions for her food blog @lifeandthymez, Zlata can be found spending time with her family, having #zlatathoughts, and fantasizing about being a Real Housewife of New Jersey.