The consumers’ right to return goods for any reason and be offered a full refund is one of the key drivers of success behind the online shopping phenomenon. This “right” does not exist on the high street and, as such, has helped shape the perception of trust, security and convenience between online sellers and their customers.
There are few online sellers who would disagree with such a positive returns policy (most of us are online shoppers ourselves and enjoy the protection it offers) but returns can be an expensive business and (especially at this time of the year) can really take the shine off a busy sales period.
Note: Online sellers wishing to brush up on Distance Selling Regulations and their legal responsibilities regarding returns and refunds should check out this easy-to-follow guide (https://www.gov.uk/accepting-returns-and-giving-refunds) from the UK Government.
Reduce Risk of Returns
While we all have to comply with the rules regarding distance selling, it doesn’t mean we cannot take steps to reduce the logistic and financial burden of returns.
The good news is, as many of these “steps” are basic online selling “best practices”, your investment in the time taken to implement them will very likely lead to an increase in sales as well as a reduction in the number of returns you have to deal with.
Six Steps to Reduce Returns and Improve Your Levels of Customer Service
- Better Quality Images: A picture is worth a thousand words and the better quality your images are the greater the understanding your customer will have of what they are actually buying in terms of quality and finish. Try and show as much detail as possible, offering all available angles and close-ups of specific details where possible. It is always preferable to invest in your own photography than rely on “stock images” provided by manufacturers or suppliers.
- Video: One step better than still images. Why not show your product actually being used? This could feature a runway model, a technical demonstration or simple product review or unboxing. Don’t forget, if you are investing in video for your product pages, this also makes great marketing collateral for your social media output or YouTube channel.
- Enhanced Product Descriptions: The more you tell, the more you sell. Any additional information you share beyond the standard texts provided by the manufacturer or supplier will help your customer make a more informed choice about whether this is the right or wrong product for them. Remember, you don’t want to sell an item to someone who is most likely to return it. Enhanced product descriptions may also significantly help with your SEO efforts.
- Customer Q&A: Enabling your customers to ask questions about specific products and then publishing them along with a detailed answer will enable you to expand on your product descriptions even further. Remember, solve a problem for one customer and you may solve a problem for many others.
- Customer and Expert Reviews: Never be afraid to include reviews on your product pages. Even a negative review can help sell a product if it highlights an issue another customer is not so concerned about. For example: A poor camera on a low-cost smartphone might not be an issue for someone buying the device for an elderly relative if other factors (cost, ease of use, etc.) are addressed.
- Better Communications: Make it as easy as possible for customers to contact you and ask questions before purchasing. This could be via online chat, email or phone. Remember to take a note of any conversations and consider how this information could be used to improve your product descriptions. Remember, the cost of engaging with a customer prior to a purchase will always be cheaper than handling a return and the investment will be returned with the opportunities that come with an improved reputation for customer service.
Remember: You’ll never be able to eradicate customer returns, but any reduction will almost certainly improve your profit margins and enable you to handle any returns you do have in a more timely and courteous manner – which will again add to your credibility and reputation as an honest and reliable online retailer.
Make the Change Now
If you are struggling with returns following the festive period, now is the time to invest in better product pages and customer service to ensure you reduce your exposure to the risk next year and ensure the cycle doesn’t repeat itself. What could you do differently?