Product returns are one of the biggest contributing factors to loss. If too much product ends up back on your shelves, it can mean that your customers aren’t happy with their interactions with your company or your products. And too many returns create overwhelmed warehouse operations, in addition to losing potential profits.
So, what can you do to reduce your return rate - and right along with it, your profitability? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Double and triple-check the accuracy of each order
It’s alarming how many returns happen because the customer received something different than what they ordered. This miscommunication often happens in the warehouse during processing, and it’s a dealbreaker for the customer.
Take steps to improve your fulfillment accuracy by adding more order verification checkpoints internally. Think about adding these checkpoints when the product leaves the shelf in your warehouse, in the packaging area, and in the shipping area. In the warehouse, make sure the SKU’s align with the product they’re supposed to, and the product is on the right shelf as well. However you do it, be sure the exact product the customer ordered is exactly what they receive.
2. Process, fill, and send orders quickly
The longer it takes for a customer to receive their product after they’ve made a purchase, the greater the chance that by the time they actually receive the package, they won’t want it anymore. Maybe they’ve found a substitute or a replacement product in the meantime. Or worse yet, maybe they’ve forgotten that they bought it in the first place.
Quick processing helps keep your company and product top of mind when your customer receives their package. And, faster processing means hopefully getting the package to your customers quicker and keeping them happy throughout the process.
3. Include a tracking number in all shipping options
Let’s be honest, it’s pretty exciting to get a package in the mail. When your customers are waiting for their package and being constantly updated, it’s always at the top of mind. Both iPhones and Android phones and iPhones notify you when your package is on its way, making it more convenient for the customer than ever. Include package tracking to get your customers excited about your package – or at least so they know when it’s coming and can plan ahead to pick it up.
4. Improve your customer service post-purchase
When your customers feel they can ask you questions about your products before they buy, they can be sure they’re getting the right product. During the checkout process, they can ask you questions to be sure the product is right for them. And after the purchase, think about sending a follow-up email or survey to invite feedback.
High quality service is key to keeping your ecommerce customers happy and reducing returns. Things to think about: Include a link to live chat on your ecommerce website, show your number in prominent high-traffic places on your site, and actively respond to customer questions and feedback on social media.
5. Ship products in the right packaging
If you’re seeing a lot of returns due to damaged product, packaging could be at fault. For example, are glassware, ceramics, or electronics arriving broken? Are clothes arriving wrinkled? In this case, rethinking packaging can be the key to reducing returns.
6. Personalize your packages
Smart, creative, and attractive packaging can be the cherry on top of your customer’s new package. And actually, package personalization is one of the biggest trends in ecommerce fulfillment. Do you include a personalized note with your packages? Think about adding the customer’s name and a little message or coupon. Little things, like thanking your customers for being awesome and inviting them to talk to you if they’re unhappy with their purchase, can lead to big things, like stellar product reviews and buzz on social media. Personalized and clever packaging sends the message that you care about your customers AND your products.
7. Be ready for the unexpected
When returns do happen, it’s important that you handle them in the right way – and that you’re ready for situations that you haven’t thought of yet. For example, if your warehouse is located near a city, sometimes customers will show up at the warehouse instead of shipping it down the street. How would your 3PL partner handle that situation? Would they be nice to your customer and treat them as their own customer? Or, would they turn them away? Having processes in place to handle the unexpected can help you handle returns gracefully when they do happen.
Many times, reducing returns boils down to customer experience and fulfillment accuracy. Guide your customers to choose the right product for them, and make sure they get that product when they expect it – and the product is in tact – and you’ll be on your way to reducing returns.