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E-commerce returns – loyalty levers

The management of returns has become the third most important purchase criterion in e-commerce, after speed of delivery and price. Retailers cannot afford to neglect this stage of the sales process if they wish to retain customers and win new ones. And it all starts with data collection.

"What if the shoes don't fit me?"

E-commerce definitely offers many advantages to consumers: a wider range of products, attractive prices as a result of the possibility of comparing different brands, increasingly fast delivery, etc. But there is a drawback: you cannot try before you buy. To get around this barrier to purchase, online stores now offer the option of returning products. Various studies agree that 66% of internet users consult the company's returns policy before buying. What are they looking for? A clear answer about the process, which should be simple and if possible free of charge. They also expect their retailers to provide a quick refund or exchange.

One in three products purchased online is returned

While the fitting room has moved to the customer's home, online shoppers also want their shopping experience to be as smooth as in a physical store. In fact, one third of products bought on the internet are returned, with an even higher proportion in the clothing sector. 41% of consumers buy several items online, in different sizes for example, knowing that they will return at least some of them after trying them on at home. Over the years, returns management has become the third most important purchasing criterion on the internet, following speed of delivery and price. If everything goes well at every step, the chances that customers will repeat the experience with the same brand increase greatly.

Building customer loyalty with returns

Accenture estimated that retailers who have implemented an effective returns management system have increased their profit per customer by an average of 22-46% over six months. This means that writing the returns policies on your website is not enough to satisfy your customers. These must be accessible, clear and they must be enforced. A consumer can actually boycott a brand after a poor returns experience. As with the first delivery, retailers must therefore ensure that everything goes smoothly at all stages, and communicate at the right time to reassure customers.

The 3 pillars of successful returns management

Orders made in other countries can be a complicated process for e-retailers: different tax and customs regulations, multiple stakeholders involved in the delivery of the goods, particularly in transport and logistics. But customers will still demand the same thing: to be kept informed. To satisfy them, the brand must therefore rely on three pillars: data, data and... data! Data is essential to provide customers with the information they need to print out their return shipping labels, and to inform them when the parcel has been picked up at the depot and then by the carriers. This information will also allow the e-merchant to determine how long the customer can expect to wait for a refund.

To keep up with customer expectations, retailers have no choice but to take care of their returns policy in the same way they take care of their shipments. Yet, according to some studies, only 28% of online shoppers say they are satisfied with the return services offered by retailers. And so, this service must and can be improved!

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