Returns - How To Minimise Your International Returns

28 March, 2019

Returns are a key part of E-commerce logistics and customers have come to expect them. However, many businesses stop short of offering international returns due to the perceived cost and complexity involved. The reality is that it’s not that difficult to set up international returns for your business – and you could be losing customers if you don’t.

Should an E-commerce Business Offer an International Returns Policy?

The global E-commerce market is expanding at an impressive rate – global E-commerce sales will reach $4.5 trillion by 2021. But, as the number of international sales has increased, so too have the returns figures. Clear Returns estimates that returns cost UK retailers alone £20 billion a year in terms of items that are bought online. As more purchases are made online internationally, cross border returns figures too will rise, which is one of the reasons why it’s so crucial for any E-commerce business to have an international returns policy. An international returns policy will also be important as:

  • You can attract more customers. Many cross border shoppers will check for an international returns policy before making a purchase and if you don’t have one they may go elsewhere.
  • Positive returns have a big role to play in customer satisfaction. If you want to build a loyal international customer base then you need to offer those customers the opportunity to make returns.
  • Returns are inevitable. A proportion of your sales will always be rejected – when you’re selling internationally it’s important to have an international returns policy in place to cope with that inevitability.
  • An international returns policy is essential to remain competitive. Most brands shipping internationally will offer returns to suit the customer. For example, in 2015 Amazon made it a requirement for its sellers to provide a local returns address for international purchases, or offer free returns shipping.

Best Practices to reduce your Returns Rate

Although a number of returns is an inevitability, if your business is struggling with its current returns rate there are steps that you can take to help reduce this.

  • Ask for feedback when you get returns. If you want to reduce your existing returns rate then it will be important to understand why returns are being made. Are the products low quality, faulty or arriving damaged? Often you can make changes to what you sell, or how you ship, that could help to drive your returns rate down.
  • Think carefully about free returns. Some analysts have identified the “de-risking” of returns by offering them free as one of the reasons why return rates can be high. It may be more effective to offer a lower cost return than a completely free return.
  • Improve the product information you provide. Inaccurate or inadequate images and descriptions have a lot to answer for when it comes to high return rates. If your sizing charts aren’t accurate, the images don’t look like the product or the product description isn’t accurate then it’s highly likely that your customer will send the item back. As well as strong images, a 360-degree product view and product information, you might want to consider incorporating reviews from other customers to provide extra perspective.
  • Identify high risk customers and products. Use customer segmentation and customer feedback to identify those customers who are at “high risk” of returning items. Combine this with data you collect on which items are most likely to be returned and then integrate this into the customer targeting that your marketing team does.

Small improvements to an E-commerce website, from higher quality images to better descriptions and a 360-degree product view, can all help to reduce your returns rate. While you will never reduce this to 0 there is plenty that you can do to bring it down, including the using range of cross border returns services offered by Asendia.

Sources: Financial Times/Shopify

Optimising your e-commerce business for international returns

In this free e-book, we review how to effectively manage returns for any business in any sector.