Tips to Turn Your Product Returns into a Competitive Advantage

eCommerce | December 25, 2020
By Rakesh Jain
Turn product return into an advantage

Does product return in eCommerce mean business failure? Well, not entirely as there is a scope you can turn it into an advantage by applying the right strategies.

What people mostly love about online shopping is that they get the products at their doorstep and they can check and verify and if something is not right, return and get a refund. Unlike in offline shopping, where if the product is faulty customers don’t buy at all, in online it is only when the product is received one can know whether it is proper or defective, therefore, customers today check out for the return and refund policy of an online store more than anything.

As per the survey of Comscore, 85% of customers would not return to a company with a difficult return process which is why retailers are ready to offer free and easy returns to attract customers. In fact, they deserve it because customers shop without having the benefit of touching, tyring-on or experiencing the product the way in-store shoppers would. Easy returns make shoppers buy more as it gives them the advantage of keeping it if everything is alright or return if not.

Although the returns are easy and beneficial for the customers, what does it mean to the retailers? Does it mean their business is a complete failure? Well, don’t lose hope as the eCommerce returns can, in fact, be an opportunity for competitive advantage. How? Let’s understand.

Returns are a critical element of the brand promise for some companies like for example Zappos – an online retailer of shoes and apparel, consider its one year, free-return shipping policy as a key to building customer loyalty. They actually encourage customers to buy two sizes of shoes so that the customers get one pair of a perfect fit. Even though their reverse logistics strategy is driving up return volumes and shipping costs; they are getting regular and more sales overall.

So, first of all, it is up to you to decide whether you want to deal with returns or not and if yes, then what you want to do with the returns as there is a whole lot process behind it. From collecting the return, evaluating and re-packaging, up to deciding whether to transfer it to a different DC or channel, return it to vendor or scrap based on its condition. Now, let’s move to understand some tips to flip your ecommerce returns into a competitive advantage.


1. Define your returns 

All returns are not the same. Your eCommerce might be selling a pin to an aeroplane, and you might not want to waste your time, money and resources behind the return of a pin. What we mean to say is determine for which products you will be offering returns as for a small product, the hassle behind return will cost you more than the value of the product.

2. Make returns easy & convenient

Your return policy must be clear and the process should be easy. Customers prefer the return to be picked up at the doorstep more than sending it all by themselves. Therefore, make it easy and convenient for customers to return the product than asking them to repack and send back to you.

3. Measure and manage returns 

It is very much important to measure your returns to manage them as well as to figure out the cost structure for returns. Think upon what per cent of returns can you salvage? What is the cost per unit handled in the returns process? What is the margin impact? What categories, vendors, customers, etc. have the largest volume of returns? etc., to mitigate the need for returns.

Try to eliminate the problems that are causing the return like provide proper fit information with a chart or diagram in the product description to avoid returns due to sizing. Add some high-quality images of the product with a clear-cut zoom option for customers to explore the product in detail before buying. Ask for customer feedback and reviews so that other customers can look up and buy based on their experience to avoid unnecessary returns. And the most important; deliver what you are showing as a majority of returns happen with a customer complaining that they received nothing like the product description or the displayed image.

4. Practice sustainability

Ensure your original shipping material is used for returns. Ask customers to return the product in the same package they received it as it will reduce the cost of resources used as well as reach back to you quickly.

5. Make navigation of the return process seamless

Customers use multiple platforms to shop and hence giving them a unified experience in all devices and platforms is necessary. Make navigation of the return process easier in both website and mobile app so that customers can opt for a return anytime from anywhere.

6. Consider free returns and other options

Of course, customers expect free returns but, every retailer cannot afford that, therefore; plan out your return policy or other ways like giving the refund but charging return shipping, or waving off return charges but asking them to drop the return at some store or a courier company.

7. Gather information and keep communication clear

First of all, be clear about your return policy and display whether the product is returnable or not as it happens; many of the customers’ shop and complain they had no idea it was non-returnable. Also, gather reason for return. You may add a small questionnaire to fill up what went wrong so that you can work on it. Moreover, keep them informed about when the return will be picked up and provide them with details about their refund so that they stay loyal and continue shopping from you.

Final thoughts

Running an eCommerce store is not a piece of cake. You need to apply strategies so as to survive the competition, and your returns that you think is causing you a downfall can actually be turned into something beneficial if done right. Simply, approach an experiencedeCommerce development company like Mobicommerce which is now in the limelight as one of the best eCommerce solution providers in the Middle Eastto get an effective store developed for you.

Rakesh Jain

Rakesh Jain is the co-founder and CEO of MobiCommerce. When he is not busy taking the company to newer heights, he authors detailed blog posts for leading publications, teaching eCommerce store owners different ways to manage, grow and scale their business. As a seasoned entrepreneur, he is passionate about proactively finding the “next big thing.”

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