How to Avoid Returns
In this guest post, Tony Kyberd, COO of Volo Commerce, a partner of Studioworx, shares some best practices for minimising your returns.
Returns can kill your profitability. After all your work to get your item found, bought and delivered, it comes back to you to be sorted out at your expense. Your seemingly profitable transaction now becomes a refund, a credit note, or a replacement sent out. Best case, you get a decent review about how you worked hard to please the customer; worst case, you get a poor review and a disappointed customer likely not to return.
In a few cases a buyer might be someone who wants to harm your business by ordering and returning items just because they can. In some cases it’s culturally acceptable for people to order a bunch of items, knowing full well they will always return at least some of them. Apart from these cases, there are 3 general reasons why your buyer returns the item or items: they ordered the wrong item; they were delivered a broken item; when they got it the item wasn’t what they were expecting.
They Ordered the Wrong Item
They ordered one product and you delivered another product. Perhaps it was a slight error, let’s say the wrong size or colour, for example. Perhaps you delivered the wrong item completely. Regardless, it’s still going to be returned.
If this is the reason, then the mistake probably happened in the pick, pack and dispatch process. It was wrongly picked, the error wasn’t spotted during the checking and packing process, or perhaps it wasn’t packed or packed with the wrong order. Perhaps you need to review and tighten up your sales order processing and operational efficiency if this is a regular occurrence.
They Got a Broken Item
If you’ve processed the order correctly, the customer discovers that the item they ordered is broken or damaged when they get it. Perhaps they could tell before they opened the package, especially if they ordered glassware, or perhaps they discover the problem when they open their delivery. Either way, it’s returned to you.
Of course, you're going to get the odd spoiled delivery, regardless of how thoroughly you pack your item. You’re trusting your carrier to get the order through their various hops and into your customer’s hands. While you often have to absorb the cost of shipping to stay competitive in ecommerce, it pays to go with the good couriers over the less thorough ones who might be inclined throw a package over the side gate if your customer’s not home.
It Wasn’t What They Were Expecting
It happens that sometimes your customer opens their delivery, looks at the item and it’s not ‘in line with their expectations’, shall we say. If it’s too out of line, then they’re going to return it to you. There’s always a chance they ordered the wrong item by mistake, but let’s assume they thought they ordered the right item.
Your listing process encapsulates all the things you can do to avoid issues happening a few weeks later. The visual element is so important, so use as many photos as you’re allowed on the marketplace or your web store. It’s up to 12 photos on eBay, for example. Show different angles and the various parts or sections of the product if you can.
Make your descriptions as clear as you can too. Could you improve the installation or assembly instructions, for example? Some of our customers selling high value, popular and heavy (therefore costly to send and return) items go one step further and produce a short video on their youtube or vimeo channel showing how to install or assemble them. One further suggestion: to mitigate a high rate of return on a specific item, write a rule within your system to put a stop on the order until customer service has contacted your customer to confirm the order.
Study Your Returns Data
Finally, we recommend you regularly analyse your returns reports to pinpoint often-returned products and see if these correlate with specific suppliers, internal processes, shippers or destinations. That way you can zero in on the root cause of the problem and fix it sooner rather than later.