Happiness is getting returning customers time and again! It is at this time when you really feel satisfied. But to achieve that end, you as the business owner might have gone through several challenges, especially while maintaining your product or service quality.
One of the major factors influencing consumers to make recurring purchases is an excellent return policy offered by the merchant. Many retailers stopped accepting returns or replacements during the COVID-19 situation. This is mostly in response to the risk of spreading the virus, because no one is sure about how long coronavirus can stay on a particular surface.
And the biggest challenge for retailers and e-Commerce stores was to resell the returned products. Some of them even went ahead to isolate the returned items for up to 72 hours before accepting them back on the shelf.
The situation was growing worse not just for the departmental stores, but specifically for the online retailers. This is because online returns happen at much higher rates compared to brick-and-mortar stores. Moreover, online shopping increased across the world during the lockdown periods, since people avoided stepping out of their homes.
However, despite all the hardships, some smart retailers are actually trying to create a positive user experience by taking advantage of the return process. Since the digital-first approach is taking a drastic rise among shoppers since the pandemic outbreak, it’s high time, merchants should start taking return policies as a way to attract consumers.
If you don’t have a return policy, most of your customers won’t even buy from you in the first place! In fact, the return/replacement programs help to drive loyalty significantly. Therefore, you need to think about ways to offer return options more safely. Some of the best ones include –
1. Address the Major Reasons Behind Frequent Returns
The main purpose of a purchase is to make the buyers happy and not expect them to return it ultimately. There might be a grave concern behind such a high return rate seen since the lockdown restrictions worldwide.
Try to figure out the factors and issues giving rise to frequent returns and refunds. Also, analyze the category of products with the highest returns and figure out ways to address them.
The best method to do so is by educating your consumers and explaining how a certain product will help them. Besides, consider placing instructional displays or probably including sanitary and safe trials at the stores (especially in the case of garments).
If we take the example of H&M, the Swedish clothing retail company, they have implemented BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) to enhance customer experiences and reduce the return rates. The live chat tool of the retailer enables its sales reps to engage with their digital customers better.
In fact, through this tool, they can offer more personalized advice and recommendations based on the consumers’ interests and preferences. This approach aims at providing better purchasing suggestions and encouraging buyers to make better shopping decisions.
2. Simplify Your Return Policies
The next most effective strategy is to simplify your return policies and make that clear to your customers. Ensure that they are fully aware of the policy updates, which removes a majority of misunderstandings and will urge the buyers to make better decisions.
Oftentimes, lack of proper awareness is a cause of dissatisfaction among the audience, be it regarding the products they are purchasing or the retailer’s return policies. But you can completely avoid this situation by mentioning your return policies wherever possible – be it at your physical store or on your eCommerce portal, preferably the product pages. Make sure they are visible enough!
At other times, complex return policies or not being aware of them at all give rise to unhappy customers. Try not to confuse the audience or make them reconsider the decision of purchasing the item altogether. Because inconvenient or complex return/refund processes tend to increase cart abandonment rates, another nightmare for online retailers!
3. Use Data and Efficient Software to Manage Your Returns Better
Merchants need to adopt new market trends and cater to their customers’ ever-changing buying patterns and demands. However, to do so, one requires a good deal of data, specifically those related to their customer behaviors, purchase histories, competitors’ strategies, market conditions, etc.
Again, retailers would need to opt for data-driven business software designed to help sales reps figure out how to manage specific product returns. Besides, the system would immediately get detailed information about the product after it is scanned. Some software would actually go a step further to determine whether a particular product is good to go for reselling or should be marked out.
In other words, the software enables retailers to have real-time knowledge and overview of the inventory, thus making in-store fulfillment faster. Other benefits of having a unified view of one’s inventory include activating BOPIS and knowing its advantages, offering contactless checkouts, optimizing returns and managing them effectively, and even providing enhanced curbside deliveries.
4. Train Your Employees on Latest Protocols
You have created an excellent protocol, such as a return policy, that can change the way customers shop and boost conversions. However, such a protocol won’t be of any good unless you propagate that accurately to your consumers using the right tools and resources.
And who can ever do that better than your own team of sales reps? So, whenever you make a new update or a change in your existing protocols, make sure to update that to your employees before anyone else!
And not just update, in fact, you must educate and train your team players well regarding your latest policies, and encourage them to implement those evolving policies in their workflows. Use different training methods apart from the traditional ones.
This way, merchants can upgrade to the latest industry trends, facilitate better onboarding processes, cross-train, and support new services. In simple words, online retailers must really turn to adopt the latest smart technologies in order to survive the fierce market competition, especially after the pandemic outbreak.
Some of those technologies that we are talking about include the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR and AR), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Quantum Computing, Blockchain, and so many more!
All these technologies will undoubtedly improve customer experiences and provide them with a safer and more progressive return policy.