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How to excel in returns processing

Returns can happen for all sorts of reasons, and your brand needs to be ready to handle these instances seamlessly.

No matter how high quality and impressive your product line, instances will still come up when customers need to make a return. Whether shoppers are looking to exchange for a different size or color, or the item simply didn't live up to expectations, you as the retailer should have a streamlined process for these returns.

Unfortunately, most retailers don't put as much time and energy into their returns processing as they should. Even after a customer's transaction has been processed and their order fulfilled, your work isn't done yet – returns are still a part of the shopping experience, and any issues here can make or break the chances that clients will shop with you again.

There are a few key issues that you should look to avoid with your returns processing to ensure that your brand can handle these instances smoothly, and that the experience actually contributes to customer loyalty. Here are a few ways you can excel in returns processing.

Understand the impact

First and foremost, it's imperative that retail, supply chain and order fulfillment stakeholders have a clear idea of the impact that the returns process can have on the overall brand:

  • According to ComScore, 85% of customers said they wouldn't give repeat business to a brand if their returns process was inconvenient.
  • On the other hand, 95% of shoppers said they would remain loyal to a company that supported smooth returns.
  • Today, 86% of consumers check out the returns policy during their lifecycle, making it a key part of the shopper experience.

In this way, clunky or confusing returns requirements can lead to missed opportunities, reduced customer loyalty and potentially lower revenues for your brand and supply chain.

"A returns experience can be advantageous for customers."

Identify gaps in the returns experience

Once stakeholders understand how a beneficial returns experience can be advantageous to their customers and their brand, it's important to take a look at the current process and pinpoint any areas that need improvement.

For instance, if the details shared with customers about the returns policy aren't clear, or use confusing language, it's time to update this content. Use simple and clear wording, and it can be particularly helpful to break the process into easy-to-follow steps.

Consider expanding conditions to make returns easier

A simple returns process can encourage repeat businesses and even word-of-mouth recommendations – 37% of consumers said they'd recommend a brand that made returning merchandise easy.

Simplicity here is key, and it's worth investing in more flexible returns requirements to provide a better experience for customers. In this spirit, consider expanding what your brand allows for:

  • Timeframe: Some retailers put a strict timetable in place for returns. While it's certainly understandable to disallow returns for merchandise that's now outdated, it can be helpful for customers to have a bit of wiggle room here. 
  • Reasons for return: Of course, certain conditions – like requiring that tags not be removed, or safety seals remain intact – should be adhered to. Expanding the applicable reasons for returns can also help boost customer satisfaction.
  • Return fees: As Econsultancy pointed out, free returns can be a considerable differentiator for brands. Consider waiving return fees where possible, and if your brand is able to support free returns, make sure your customer audience knows.

To find out more about streamlining your returns processing, and how your order management system can be beneficial here, connect with us at SFG today.

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