Returns opportunities for retailers

22 April, 2024
Returns opportunities for Retailers


Returns are an inevitable part of e-commerce, and while they might be viewed as a cost and operational challenge, savvy retailers recognize the untapped potential within the process.

It’s true that customers who return items may be unhappy. But, if your brand's returns process is a positive experience, you can actually build loyalty.


Show you care

It’s useful to start by understanding the customer's perspective. Returns can be frustrating for online shoppers, but they also present a crucial touchpoint for brands to showcase exceptional customer service. Over 60% of individuals1 will examine the return policy before purchasing. A swift and seamless return experience can convert a disappointed customer into a loyal one. 

Therefore, retailers should empathise with customers, and view returns as a chance to build trust and strengthen the customer-brand relationship. For cross-border customers, being honest about timelines for returns processing is particularly important, making sure local expectations are met. Asendia’s recent Shipping and Returns survey of 18,000 respondents in 18 countries found 22% said they’d be more likely to buy cross-border if the brand’s website clearly sets out its returns policy.

Be aware that, country-by-country, attitudes to paying for returns differ. Our survey found that 44% of shoppers in India, and 42% of shoppers in China and Mexico would pay a membership fee that includes free returns, whereas only 14% of German shoppers would. So it pays to tailor your returns fee policies to local market expectations.


Streamlining the return process

Implementing an easy and user-friendly return system demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction. Simplify the steps, provide clear instructions, and consider offering pre-paid return labels, or a label-free service, to alleviate any financial burden on the customer. 

A generous return policy can be a powerful marketing tool. Customers are more likely to make a purchase if they know they can easily return the product if it doesn't meet their expectations. However, while lenient return policies can boost sales and customer loyalty, many retailers are beginning to charge as a way to combat the high cost of returns management. If charges are introduced, they should be competitive, with the benefits clearly explained. One option is to offer customers free returns as part of a loyalty scheme, or subscription ‘club’. Our survey found that 32% of Gen Z shoppers would pay a membership fee that includes free returns, compared to only 22% of Baby Boomers. 

Asendia’s e-PAQ Returns solution has been designed to help retailers optimize returns handling. From easy-to-follow return instructions to automated processing, we ensure a hassle-free experience at every step. A cost-effective approach also minimises overheads while maximizing resource utilization, leading to significant savings.

Embrace the latest returns portal technology

Today it’s possible to implement a user-friendly online portal where customers can initiate returns, track the status, and receive real-time updates. Often these dedicated returns portals also provide retailers with data to enable analytics to identify patterns in returns. With rich insights, underlying issues such poor fit and delivery problems can be flagged. 

With Asendia’s e-PAQ Returns solution, retailers can choose between different levels of return centre functionality: Lite, Level 1, and Level 2 (which includes an item grading service). Our integrated portal means we have the ability to provide information to the retailer about each return, validating the contents and condition. It allows the retailer to issue a reimbursement prior to the item being shipped back to the retailer's country. This is appealing to shoppers, who are delighted to have their refund processed quickly. It's a great way to encourage repeat purchases and build brand loyalty.

By improving product offerings and reacting to problems, online retailers can begin to see returns numbers decline, while polishing customer service at the same time. 

Logistics technology is also driving a wider opportunity around consolidation of returns. Shipping companies are investing in the latest IT systems and pick-up infrastructure to enable consolidation, visual inspection, and in certain locations, carry out operations at scale, such as repacking, and distributing unwanted returned inventory to charities. 

Smart communication

Returns present a great opportunity to showcase a brand's commitment to customer satisfaction. Proactive brands use social media, email newsletters, and their website to highlight hassle-free return experiences. Positive customer testimonials and success stories can reassure potential customers and build brand credibility.

Conversion opportunities also arise from returns. During the returns process, businesses can strategically present alternative products, suggest exchanges, or offer discounts on future purchases. This way, the return process becomes an opportunity to convert a return into another sale.

Returns management doesn't have to be retail’s biggest headache – it can be transformed into opportunities for growth, customer loyalty, and enhanced brand reputation. By prioritizing customer satisfaction, streamlining processes, and leveraging technology, online retailers can begin to view returns as more of a friend than a foe. 





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