Ecommerce Advice: How to Avoid Getting Wrecked by Returns


If you’re running an online business then it’s important to think about how you handle customer returns. You might think you can get away with not accepting any returns but in a lot of countries it’s a legal requirement to allow faulty returns and also “change of mind”. So, how do you manage these returns and minimise their cost to your fledgeling business?

Ecommerce Advice: How to Avoid Getting Wrecked by Returns
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The policy of “free returns, no questions asked” is being called into question. Earlier this year, L.L. Bean announced it was changing its generous return policy due to abuse. Other companies are too, after experiencing more and more unreasonable demands. If this is taking a toll on established, profitable companies, imagine how hard it is for emerging ecommerce stores. Running your own business means keeping customers happy. It also means knowing when to say enough is enough. Here are a few tips on how to avoid getting wrecked by returns no matter what size your business.

Help Minimize Returns by Improving Accurate Product Representations

Most returns are legitimate. A product that doesn’t fit its description is not the customer’s fault. A prodTct that wasn’t displayed properly is not the customer’s fault. Thus, the onus for these errors justifiably land on the proprietor.

The good news is this is easy enough to fix. Accurate and detailed product descriptions will minimize returns. Making sure your products are photographed well helps too. When your customers have an accurate idea of what they’re buying, they’re happy with what they receive.

Approach Returns Differently

There are always new trends emerging in the world of ecommerce. With the changing attitudes toward returns, some companies are scrapping the old model for a new way of doing things.

Here’s an example: Instead of including a return label in the initial package, consider having a return management portal instead. This gives you a chance to review a return before it’s processed. Handing someone a prepaid label with their order makes frivolous returns too easy. A return management portal makes a customer think twice about the process they’re about to put in motion. It asks them to give a reason for the return, instead of just giving them a blank check.

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Limit What Can Be Returned

This may not apply to all businesses and depends heavily on what you’re selling. Items of a personal or intimate nature already have return restrictions for health and sanitation reasons. Then again, a site that sells electronics may always need a liberal return policy due to malfunctioning products.

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Look at your inventory and make note of what can and can’t be returned. Include this information in your product descriptions. It’s not unreasonable to lay down some ground rules for your customers. An item not working correctly can be replaced because that’s on the business. A customer just changing their mind— well, that should bear a bit of additional scrutiny.

Double Check Orders and Make Sure You’re Sending the Right Items

Not all returns are customers being fickle or broken products. Sometimes they happen because the customer didn’t get what they ordered. The cost and hassle of this falls to the business, naturally.

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Rather than having to eat your mistakes, put systems in place to limit them, such as quality control inspectors for the shipping process. Nobody’s perfect, so yes there’s always going to be a few issues. The goal is to keep that number as low as possible, which makes you and your customers happy.

Returns are going to be a fact of life for any business. This goes doubly so for online stores. As a customer, it can be hard to make an informed purchase, when all you have for guidance is a few pictures and a product description.

By the way, finding ways to reduce returns makes your life easier and helps improve your customer satisfaction rating. They don’t want to spend time waiting for a product to arrive, then returning it because of a disappointment. Help yourself by helping them and avoid the hassle of unnecessary returns altogether.

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