Online selling, Online shipping

Marco Pericci /

E-commerce returns management: how to do it effectively

For a digital store, managing returns represents without a doubt an excellent promotional strategy as well as an inviting incentive for purchases to be dangled in front of the eyes of the undecided buyer. But, however, with returns come complexities. In fact, returns management involves numerous considerations and evaluations by those who work with e-commerce.

E-commerce returns management: how to do it effectively

illustration of Francesco Zorzi

If you own an online store, on the one hand, you will have to keep in mind the numerous advantages from the customer loyalty point of view; on the other hand, though, you must not forget that managing the returning of goods will inevitably complicate the logistics of your e-commerce. 

If you are not ready to deal with managing returns of your e-commerce, know that in this small guide, you will find an overview of everything that, for better or for worse, involves the implementation of this strategy. Additionally, we’ll give you some tips so the processes to be activated run as smooth as oil and you can only reap the benefits.

E-commerce returns management: advantages and disadvantages

Why should an e-commerce user want to return a product? There are various reasons behind this choice. The product may arrive damaged at the time of delivery, or, as is the case in the clothing sector, it may not be the right size. 

Returns management in the fashion field is especially crucial: the tranquility of being able to return a garment that does not fit allows the user to forget that they are buying sight unseen, or rather without having the classic dressing room available to try on clothes.

This is why many e-commerce owners are focusing on returns management to increase sales, improve customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty. However, a process of this type comes with advantages and disadvantages for store owners; let’s see both cases.

Tips to effectively handle customer return requests 

Let’s take a look at the data. According to a study conducted in 2017 by Narvar, for 74% of users, returns costs represent a deterrent to purchases, while 22% of respondents say that they would never buy something if there was no possibility to return it. On the other hand, other data show that 95% of users satisfied with returns management policies will come back to purchase from the same e-commerce channel.

Managing returns therefore seems to represent an excellent antidote to cart abandonment during the purchase stage, as reported by a survey by the Baymard Institute, occurs in 69% of cases.

I’m sure you can understand how essential it is to implement a well-defined returns management process for the growth of your online store and, aboveall, that it translates into rapid and precise interventions to avoid disappointments and setbacks. 

Another advantage is that users will perceive your business as particularly “customer-oriented” for the sole fact that they have the ability to return goods that don’t satisfy them.

In summary, efficient and appropriate returns management will only improve the users’ shopping experience, encouraging them to return to your website and spread the word.

How much does it really cost to manage the returns of an online store: transport, carriers, warehouse, Customer care

So far only positive aspects have emerged. But in reality, managing returns also involves costs for the store owner. For example, let’s only think about the transport of products or repairs in case of breakdowns. Specifically, we’ll summarize the individual expenses related to returning goods as follows:

  • The transport of goods making the same trip twice; furthermore, often, before returning to the sender, the products have to pass through the repair center, which further lengthens the journey.
  • The repairs of goods returned because they are damaged, therefore adding costs that were not initially budgeted for.
  • Customer care, because if the buyer has decided to return a product, it means something has gone wrong. Therefore, the assistance service must do their best to support the customer in the return management phase, understand why he/she has decided to return the product and possibly solve the problem.
  • The warehouse, because the returned goods occupy a space that they had already vacated, causing consequent reorganization interventions.

E-commerce returns: our advice 

Regardless of the costs, however, a returns strategy helps e-commerce owners expand its user base and increase sales. But how can you manage the return of goods in a linear and transparent way so the user perceives the process as an added value and feels fully satisfied?
Here are our tips.

Convince users

Keep in mind that not everyone trusts making certain purchases online. Especially when it comes to clothing and fashion accessories, the possibility that the products purchased “at a distance” do not work is even higher. So, before dealing with returns management, you must make a serious effort to convince users of the excellent quality of goods in your catalog and your reliability as a reseller/business owner.

Only after being fully convinced of these two things will the customer start shopping on your website. In a word, you must be credible in the customer’s eyes. So if you want someone to invest in you, all your seriousness, professionalism and competence must be portrayed effectively through your e-commerce channel. When your customer trusts you, returns can be experienced as a serene and not stressful opportunity.

Improve Customer Care

An assistance service that’s ready to provide all the necessary information and dispel any of the customer’s doubts that arose during the purchase process will allow you to reduce the chances that that same purchase will soon turn into a return. With the same goal, you’ll minimize the chance that users will have to ask themselves many questions about the characteristics of a product or its function, and therefore feel too undecided whether or not to follow through with the purchase.

For each of the products in the catalog, create a detailed product sheet, complete with technical descriptions, instructions for use, and explanatory images and videos. Basically, provide your potential customer with all the information they might need to complete the purchase. This way, they will not feel the need to ask too many questions or contact the call center, allowing them to proceed in a calm and satisfied way. 

Be clear from the start on how returns management works

As shown by the Baymard study we cited earlier, the uncertainty about returns management and any costs to be incurred are among the main causes of cart abandonment.   

An uncertainty that you can easily deal with by explaining to your customers in a clear and transparent way how your return policy works.

The information concerning returns management and your return policy must be highlighted in several parts of your website: for example in the pages of the individual products, in the FAQ and in the footer. There must not be even the slightest chance that the user has not read them or does not know where to look for them.

Within the policy, everything must then be explained properly: in particular, you will have to indicate, for example, which products may be returned and the circumstances when products cannot be returned, within what amount of time the goods must be returned, if the return includes the fees to be paid by the customer, which forms they will have to fill in, and so on.

This way, the customer will not panic or feel abandoned, and will continue to do everything independently and easily; things will be easier for you to manage too because logistics will suffer less.

Password: ease!

If the return of goods promises to be cumbersome, long and complex, the user could feel discouraged from both buying and sending back goods that didn’t work, leaving them dissatisfied as a result. Remember that if you implement a returns policy, you will do it above all to improve the customer experience, so complicating their lives doesn’t make sense.

Instead, make sure they can handle the return of goods easily, independently, and with just a few steps. For example, along with the product, you could already provide the appropriate label to fill in, or make arrangements with the carriers to instruct them on what to do.

E-commerce returns and selection of express carrier for your e-commerce

The appropriate returns management is another reason why it is necessary to rely on a competent, precise and professional carrier. Not only because the collection, delivery and movement of the goods must be punctual and happen quickly, but also because it’s essential to avoid products arriving at their destination damaged or deteriorated due to transport.

Therefore, when choosing your express carriers, do not let yourself be guided exclusively by economic criteria: it’s better to use less advantageous rates than having to manage many returns due to carrier neglect. You don’t want to risk deeply disappointing your customer’s expectations.

Reliability and reputation must be among the main criteria to guide you in choosing the right carrier for your shipments.

Marco Pericci

Written by:

Marco Pericci

Head of Growth

User explorer. I dream of a world where automation makes humankind happy.

Illustration of:

Francesco Zorzi

Illustrator, Visual Designer, Creative Director

Illustrator, visual designer, creative director with a multidisciplinary background in architecture and graphics divides his time between Florence and New York. His works are published in newspapers and magazines such as The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, AdAge, La Stampa among others. He is the creative director of isendu, for which he oversaw the redesign project.

Francesco Zorzi