If you’re a retailer, for sure you’ve done the math, at least once in your life, with returns.
They’re a great marketing practice and customer loyalty, a real customer satisfaction, they have a real corporate must-have to be chosen by the consumers and they’re one of the greatest points of parity between the competitors.

Despite the positive aspects, with a major satisfaction of the consumer, they had economic positive sides and negative environmental sides, not indifferent ones that involve high costs for a company, supply chain and logistic functions, in terms of waste and loss of turnover.

With this article we want to collect some useful advice to handle better your returns on e-commerce and to improve your business in an efficient and sustainable way.

Understand the problem

Let’s analyze 2021: consumers have returned a fifth of the purchases made and according to a Nielsen research, they give up if the maximum time to make the return it’s less than 30 days.

Here are the reasons why customers make this 20% of e-commerce returns:

  • 23% of the people have received a different item than the one purchased.
  • 22% of cases the article looks different than the one purchased.
  • 20% of the products are broken when it arrives at the destination.
  • 35% is attributable to other reasons

With such worrying data it’s normal to think that the company points first of all to handle more possible practices in less time at all.
Handling the daily returns is a real condition to survive on the market.

  • If you have a company you should ask yourself what are the causes that land someone to use their right of withdrawal, try to collect feedback using social media, customer service and every tool you have at your disposal.
  • Ask and investigate to understand if it’s about a sudden wear of the products, from factory defects or attempts of the clients to use it for a limited period and then get rid of it.

Based on the nature of the problem you can put in place one or more plans of action to reduce the percentage.
In the first two cases your brand might exercise more controls on the productive functions, of assembly and of distribution and shipment to verify eventual errors in the productive and/or shipment processes. In this way a lot of final products will present less problems and the consumers will be satisfied: win-win!

If it’s due to consumers’ unfair practices, it might be the case to review your return policy to protect yourself a little more, sometimes you need to use the iron fist.

Just like Zara did, started charging for returns online, keeping only those in physical stores free.

Efficient handling of packaging

The packaging theme has a direct impact on the costs and on the environment. The waste is evident even to the eyes of the less experts: you only need to look at the disproportionate packaging of simple  products like highlighters or a cover for your smartphone, that are conveniently delivered to us at home.

Retailers are thinking of efficient solutions to reduce the material used to propose reusable packaging or easily recyclable, so to solve the cost side problem, environmental side or both slopes.

For example, you could:

  • reduce the thickness of the cardboard or the material used for the padding
  • choose packaging with some use functionalities and adequately describe it to the consumer to explain a value added. Some packaging can be used for a second end, giving them a new life!

Give the right information

The user experience has to be always a present aspect in the mind of a retailer. Improving the online experience of the users might be a winning move to reduce the returns, thanks to:

  • more accurate descriptions, of easy interpretation, giving a guide for the sizes.
  • more realistics and precise images
  • adequate indications of the occasions for using the product

Of course, quantity and type of information may vary depending on the products, so the UX experts have to know perfectly the functional and aesthetic characteristics and every possible detail on the buyer personas and customer journey, to avoid the consumer having any kind of doubt during his trip through the funnel.

If you have resources to invest in technology, one of the new practices on the digital slope is to introduce virtual try on functions, to consent the users to try virtually the product and to verify before the buying, if this is fit for their physical requests, to avoid a future return.

Educate retailer and consumers

The road to a world completely sustainable is still long, but saving on costs and reducing the environmental impact, the company still has some chances.

You could:

  • incentivize consumers to return physically the products in the shop, if there is one
  • organize a pick-up point or lockers in the city where the consumers can go independently and pick up their stuff without activating the reverse logistics at home by the courier.

For the retailer side, as we said earlier, a more efficient design of the packaging could reduce at the same time the incidence of costs and the environmental impact, positive impact even for the consumer that will have more ease during the recycle step, the disposal or in the reuse of the packaging with different functions.

Happy Tips

Some time ago we made a survey on Instagram; here are the results:
At the question “How often you do a return?“, “never” and “seldom” were selected on a tie at 43%.
Asking “Why do you usually do a return?“, was answered at 80% for the wrong size, 20% due to an afterthought, 0% because they received a different product.

We advise you to analyze in detail every aspect of your company, from the concept to the final products, going through the philosophy and the executive departments. Listen carefully to the feedback that comes from the market giving relevance to the customer care to react promptly to any request of help and think of some proactive solutions to improve your business.