How can online returns be minimized?
Retailers are grappling with ways to reduce the burden of providing their customers with the free and easy returns that many have grown to expect.
According to a recent survey of 308 retailers in the U.K. from Barclayscard, 60 percent claim to be negatively affected by consumers increasingly returning unwanted items while 31 percent found managing returns are having a negative impact profit margins.
A complementary consumer survey found 58 percent indicating a retailer’s returns policy influences their decision to make a purchase online, while 47 percent would not order an item if they had to pay to return it.
A small group of “serial returners” compounds the problem. Thirty percent deliberately over-buy and subsequently return unwanted items. Past studies have shown that about a third of online buys are returned.
In response, a third of the retailers in the Barclayscard survey that offer free returns offset the costs by charging for the original delivery, while one in five increase the price of items to cover the cost of returns.
The study finds that standardizing sizing and offering virtual dressing rooms may help reduce returns. Almost half of shoppers said standardizing apparel and shoe sizes would save them from having to order multiple items.
Another solution that has been offered to reduce the likelihood of wrong buys is providing ready access to live chat to handle questions.
More accurate product descriptions and enhanced online photography can cut down on surprises. Another recent U.K. study commissioned by Royal Mail found 12 percent returned an online purchase because the merchandise looked different than the online images while 20 percent returned an item because the quality was worse than expected.
In a column for Forbes, Peter Sobotta, CEO of Return Logic, said asking customers for feedback on products can help other shoppers make informed choices while creating “valuable data for retailers to use to modify descriptions and fine-tune future product specs with vendor partners.”
On the back end, retailers could partner more closely with carriers to reduce delivery rates and work to reduce delivery mishaps that lead to returns. Returns to store can also be encouraged.
- Wales’ Online Shoppers Hinder Growth of Businesses When Taking Advantage of Free Returns – Barclayscard
- The rising pressures of online returns: study – Internet Retailing
- The ‘serial returners’ running shops into the ground by exploiting free returns – are you one of them? – Mirrors
- 5 Easy Strategies to Prevent Costly Retail Returns – Entrepreneur
- Embracing Inevitable Returns – Supply & Demand Chain Executive
- More than meets the eye: New research reveals UK’s online shopping returns habits – Royal Mail
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are some of obvious and less obvious ways retailers can reduce the impact of online returns? Can retailers at least break even on the online returns process?