Optimize return process

Optimize the returns process: How to reduce the returns rate

Nowadays, online retailers are faced with a multitude of challenges. In addition to an optimal shopping experience for customers, the fast and smooth delivery of goods as well as competent customer service, one topic in particular is in the spotlight: returns. The goods are damaged, faulty or you don’t like them? No problem nowadays, because returns are part of both the shipping process and the customer’s buying behaviour. Returns optimization is now one of the most important in the field of shipping processes and at the same time very complex:

On the one hand, the customer’s buying experience does not end with the delivery of the goods, on the other hand, customers expect a fast and uncomplicated returns process. At the same time, the returns process is usually associated with high costs for online retailers. In order to avoid purchase cancellations, retain customers in the long term and reduce costs, there are therefore various ways to optimize the returns processing of your online retail business.

Why should you optimize the returns process?

Many online shoppers already know when they place their order that they will be returning at least some of the goods. For example, they often order several products and sizes to choose from and return the rest. Therefore, an optimal returns process has a great impact on the customer’s purchase decision. And they are becoming more and more demanding and experienced when it comes to online shopping.

The EHI Retail Institute has found out that for about 39 percent of the surveyed online retailers, the efficient handling of returns in their own company is a current focus topic. An optimal returns process can even secure a decisive competitive advantage. For 77 percent of German consumers, uncomplicated returns are an important criterion for choosing a retailer. Customer-friendly returns management ensures that returns are more pleasant for both sides and ultimately also leads to an increase in sales. (Source: EHI study, Shipping and returns management in e-commerce 2021)

🔎 Did you know? According to a study, around 315 million parcels were returned in Germany in 2020. (Returns Management Research Group, Otto Friedrich University Bamberg, 2020)

🙌 Would you like to learn more about successful returns management? Find out all the strategies for the ideal returns process in our whitepaper. Download the whitepaper for free!

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Reasons for an ideal returns process

Returns are time-consuming, for retailers and for customers. How you handle your returns is therefore up to you. This remains the case when you optimise your returns process. You have several options to make returns as easy as possible for your customers. If you take the following measures into account within your returns optimisation, you can make your online business a success through a positive customer experience.

Meet customer expectations: Customer expectations have long gone beyond quality merchandise and free shipping. A smooth returns process should be guaranteed in your online retail. Avoid complicated processing, shipping costs for your customers and a lack of return options.

Increase customer satisfaction: If the returns process is flawless and uncomplicated, satisfied customers tend to make repeat purchases. In addition, peace of mind and trust in your business is increased when shoppers know that a return is not a problem.

Save resources: An optimised returns process also pays off on the online retail side. A smooth returns process avoids many enquiries and follow-up calls to customer service.

Reduce capital commitment: Those who introduce fast returns processes also ensure that the goods do not remain with the customer for too long. This means that they end up back in the warehouse more quickly and can then be resold.

We have waiting lists for many gadgets. When a customer sends back the item he rented, we inform those waiting that a copy is available again. And not just when the return arrives.

Michael Cassau, CEO & Founder, Get Grover

Optimise the returns process: With these tips

Returns can never be completely avoided. But optimising processes and preventing returns will keep the rate as low as possible. That’s why we’ve put together 9 tips for optimising your returns processes.

1. Avoid returns

If you prevent returns right from the start, this will have a positive effect on your returns processes. Because if fewer returns are processed, handling also becomes easier. How do you do this?

  • With the help of a product description that is as accurate as possible, including high-quality pictures. This way, customers can get an exact idea of the product.
  • FAQs and size tables are especially helpful in the textile industry.
  • The opinion of other users is also relevant. Customer reviews, tests, and experience reports are suitable for returns optimization.
  • Offer your customers consultation options.
  • Make sure that the goods are securely packaged and correctly labeled. This ensures that the product reaches the customer undamaged.

Did you know? According to the EHI Retail Institute, avoiding returns is a core issue for 53 percent of online retailers. (Source: EHI study, Shipping and returns management in e-commerce 2021).

The following figure shows the top 10 measures for avoiding returns:

Prevention measures returns

2. Analyse reasons for returns

Why do customers return goods? Which reasons for returns do you have an influence on? Question your returns process and your customers’ reasons for returning goods. In this way, you can check the quality and characteristics of your products, the satisfaction of the ordering process, and the delivery. With this valuable information, processes and quality can be optimized.

💡 Tip: If you have enough information, you can act. For example, through direct contact with the customer. Motivate your customer to order goods again by sending a personal voucher code or a different size.

An online shop benefits by controlling the returns process. Success sets in when returns are effectively reduced.

3. Communicate return conditions

Those who communicate the return conditions in their online shop clearly and transparently stand out from the competition. A convenient returns process, for example with an extended return period or more comprehensive service, will encourage customers to buy from you instead of the competition.

💡 Tip: Formulate the return conditions as simply as possible and make sure they are easy to find.

4. Make the return slip accessible

No returns without a returns slip – that much is clear. But for a return and a pleasant returns process, as an online retailer, you can choose between several variants. Here’s how you can make the returns note accessible to your customers:

Return note as a package insert: Customers benefit most from a return note as an insert in the package. The slip is directly available and partly pre-filled, which saves time, effort, and printing. The disadvantage of the return label already enclosed in the parcel is that it can act as a prompt to return the goods. If the label is accidentally disposed of by the customer, this sometimes means not only more effort for you but also unnecessary costs.

📦 Want to know more? Take a look into our Return feature! Connect frontend and backend return processes into one return solution.

Returns processing on demand:
In some cases, the customer has to request the returns label for the return by calling or emailing the online retailer. Upon request, the returns label is usually sent to the customer by email, which must then be printed out in order to return the goods. Due to the lack of automation and the manual workload, this type of returns processing is very cumbersome and time-consuming for both you and your consumers.

5. Provide a returns portal

The ideal solution for reducing costs and optimizing returns processes in the long term is your own returns portal. In the event of a return, your customer can process the return independently via your returns portal. In this way, you reduce support requests and at the same time offer your customers complete flexibility. For example in the

  • Selection and quantity of items to be returned
  • Specification of the reasons for return
  • Selection of the preferred carrier
  • Selection of the desired format of the return label, e.g. as a QR code or PDF.

In addition, information on the return as well as its tracking can easily be offered within this portal. This way, online retailers and customers have all the information at a glance at all times.

Tip: With Shipcloud, you can provide your customers with their own returns portal and thus flexibly set up the returns process according to your needs. Not only benefit from the above-mentioned advantages but also design the returns portal in your brand colors and logo. Get a better overview of your returns and their shipping status.

6. Benefit from multi-carrier shipping

By connecting different carriers, the customer is not only flexible when receiving the goods. Decide which carriers should be available for returns processing and let your customers choose their favorite parcel service themselves. This makes returns more flexible and tailored to the customer’s wishes.

📦 Want to know more? In our article “Multi-carrier shipping” we highlight the advantages of connecting to multiple carriers to increase the added value of your online shop.

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7. Offer transparent tracking

Customers who shop online want to be able to track the shipment of their goods. The same applies to returns. Inform your customers about the processing status of returns. This creates trust and security and thus a positive customer experience.

Tip: With Shipcloud you can send automated tracking emails and forward your customers to your own individual tracking page in your own brand look. Decide for yourself which status updates on returns your customers should be informed about.

8. Sustainable returns optimisation

Sustainability is an important topic that cannot be ignored – this also applies to returns processing. As an online retailer, you can take advantage of the issue of sustainability and raise awareness of it at the same time. If you present yourself as a sustainable company and address the appropriate target group, make your message clear, and encourage customers to order responsibly and consciously, you can reduce the number of returns many times over. If the return cannot be avoided, it can also be sent via sustainable services of the parcel services.

Did you know? It is important to us to help introduce and raise awareness of green and sustainable technologies at Shipcloud. That’s why, since 22 April 2021, we have been providing all DHL shipments sent under Shipcloud conditions with the DHL GoGreen service and paying the surcharge for you.

9. Design quick contact options

Customer service should be quick and, above all, easy to reach, not only for advice on a product but also for questions about returns. A customer hotline, a live chat, or the contact option via social media offer quick help with queries about the returns process.

Shipcloud, the shipping service provider, has a solution for each of your shipping processes.

Are you interested in returns optimization with Shipcloud? Or do you still have questions about one of these tips for your returns optimization or would you like to know what the technical solution for this is? We would be happy to support you in optimizing your returns processes. Contact us!

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