How can eCommerce brands reduce product returns by strengthening customer support?

How can eCommerce brands reduce product returns by strengthening customer support?
  • 07 Nov 2023

Processing an order return is an unpleasant experience for any eCommerce business. Unfortunately, most eCommerce companies need to refund the payment to their customers when a return is booked (read, not a replacement!) 

As per recent statistics, more than 20.08% of all the merchandise that was ordered in 2021 was returned. In terms of monetary value, this percentage accounts for a mammoth $761 billion.

So, what is the reason behind customers returning products after purchase. Poor customer experience is cited as the prime reason for this. Often, customers don’t find the connect with your brand, or do not find the real deal/ value in the purchase or even do not appreciate poor customer support with respect to tracking and replacements.

So, how to combat such a difficult situation. Here we are sharing some effective strategies that would help you reduce instances of product returns and build better personalized experiences for your customers.

Key reasons why customers return products

Regardless of what you sell, it’s practically impossible to root out the possibility of returns. Customers might change their mind even after purchase, irrespective of facing quality issues with the products or not. While some of the reasons for return are beyond our control, we can still address the problems that lie within our ambit.

  •   Customers find a mismatch between the product description and the actual item
  •   The customer doesn’t need the product any longer since it arrived late
  •   Some customers don’t purchase products with the intention to keep them, and therefore return the items
  •   The shipment of a wrong product also accounts for a significant percentage of returns
  •   Shipping a defective or damaged item also prompts customers to return them

Why should eCommerce stores prioritize reducing product returns?

As per the National Retail Federation, customers in the US returned products worth $761 in 2021. Apart from the apparent loss, eCommerce companies also need to factor in the logistics and supply chain charges, which are around $33 per product worth $50.

So, if an eCommerce platform encounters way too many instances of returns, it would find it challenging to control the losses. It makes sense to consider associated costs like shipping, labor charges, and restocking products that have been returned. Therefore, we need to try and strategize means to reduce instances of products being returned.

How to reduce product returns on eCommerce platforms?

Apart from maintaining the quality of your products, you need to focus on other aspects to reduce instances of product returns. Here are some of the recommended strategies that should work for you.

  1. Encourage exchanging products rather than returning them

Motivate your customers to get an alternative product or a substitute if they are not happy with the first purchase. If they settle for a different product, it would reduce your losses significantly. You simply need to bear the additional expenses associated with the return shipping along with labor expenses.

Although exchanging products reduces your profit margins, it still keeps your customers happy. So, you need to come up with your own strategy that encourages exchanges. Some eCommerce stores lure customers with credits. Remember, refusing to accept returns altogether might lead to the loss of customers.

  1. Churn out detailed and comprehensive product descriptions

While purchasing products online, customers don’t get to physically examine them. So, they largely count on the product descriptions you provide along with your merchandise online. Provide in-depth descriptions of your products along with suitable images, so that customers get to know them better.

Particularly, provide detailed information about size, colors, and other specifications of the product. In case you are selling furniture, include relevant information on the dimensions, materials, and warranty. So, when customers go through your product pages, they can make an informed decision.

  1. Upload high-resolution product photos

High-resolution photos of your products cast a realistic impression about the product in the minds of your customers. Try to take these pictures from multiple angles or hire a dedicated product photographer. This way, you will let your customers know what they are paying for.

Also, contextualize these photos while uploading them along with the product descriptions. You may also demonstrate the intended use of your products through a series of photos. Also, take a photo of the product by placing it next to common household items. This will give a better idea about the product dimensions to the customers.

To show your product in action, you can upload relevant videos too. So, when your customers buy it, they won’t regret purchasing it without proper knowledge about it.

  1. Capitalize product reviews and testimonials

In the first place, your products should receive positive reviews and testimonials from existing customers. Now, eCommerce giants like Amazon are strategic with their marketing tactics. They leverage these reviews and project them in a positive light while marketing the product to the next bunch of customers. New customers would be looking for an unbiased review of the product. After evaluating these positive remarks from existing customers, they might proceed to make the purchase.

Product reviews can also provide specific details like how a piece of cloth would fit someone with a particular physique. When customers make informed decisions, they are less likely to return the products.

  1. Enhance shipping accuracy and speed

Delays in delivery happen to be a common reason for product returns. Customers may not be requiring the product any more when you deliver it late. Therefore, optimizing the accuracy of your customers’ addresses and boosting the delivery speed are the needs of the hour.

Successful eCommerce companies even offer same-day shipping to their customers. Partnering with one of the trusted delivery companies ensures timely and speedy shipping.

  1. Take care not to damage products

Customers often return products when they receive damaged items. So, focus on keeping the products secure right from the packaging stage throughout the logistics processes. Amazon has already demonstrated how good-quality packaging materials can reduce the chances of the products sustaining damage. Use additional padding while shipping fragile items. This would reduce the chances of damage during the transit, thereby slashing the return rate.

  1. Deliver a proactive post-purchase experience

To enhance the conversion rate of your eCommerce store, focus on delivering a strong post-purchase experience to your clients. Even if your agents assisted them before selling the product, you need to be proactive with the post-purchase experience.

Even if you don’t hire dedicated customer service agents for proactive post-purchase support, use a bot to commence with fruitful conversations. Besides, you can use these tools to schedule appointments with your customers and talk to them regarding the issues they might be facing. This would drive repeat purchases and reduce return rates.

  1. Identify erratic customers

Most of your return requests may be coming from genuine customers. However, a section of miscreants might be abusing your return policy and happen to be serial returners. Particularly, some of them may be renting apparel or other products for free and then returning them. Identify these customers using smart analytics and simply ban them.

  1. Provide a longer return window

When you provide a limited return window, customers often panic about whether or not the product would suit them. With a longer window available to return the product, they can actually try and test the product. So, they would be making an informed decision while returning the product. If the product suits them, they might keep the same.

  1. Provide loyalty points and gift cards

From time to time, provide incentives to your customers through gift cards and loyalty points. Repeat customers would love this token of appreciation. Even if they had to return some products in the past, they would be happy with your brand. When you roll out exchange policies for your products, they might go for it rather than returning the product altogether to you.

EndNote

All in all, eCommerce platforms should strive to deploy the above strategies and more to reduce their return rates. With these tactics in place, one can combat issues like product returns and boost their revenue.

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