We all know that the high returns flow is currently one of the biggest challenges faced by fashion retailers. This can be attributed to issues such as size, fit, quality, and customers ordering multiple sizes of the same product to alleviate previous issues they have faced. In this blog we are going to look at increasing efficiency and the overall customer experience by addressing some of the difficulties, trends, and methods that make your returns policy for you and your customer work.

 

Tip 1: Be upfront, be clear, and make it simple

Rather than looking at returns as a threat, it could be a strategic marketing chance. Research shows that 22% of customers hesitate to make a purchase if the returns procedure is complicated, ambiguous, or expensive. So, a simplified returns procedure will improve the purchasing process, build customer loyalty, and encourage customers to return and send more money when they have had a favourable experience. This has had a positive influence on sales growth and brand loyalty.

 

Make your returns policy customer friendly and show a clear returns procedure for cross-border sales; provide your customer with printed returns labels. This is more convenient than them spending time looking for it on your website or taking up valuable customer service agents time with questions on how to return the item. The more time they spend looking for information, the more annoyed a customer becomes and the more likely they are to give you a bad review and potentially shop somewhere else in future.

 

Tip 2: Allow a longer returns policy

Consumers return products less if they receive a longer return period. Webshops with a 14-day return policy, have an average return percentage of 47%. This number drops to 37% when a retailer extends to a 30-day return period and dramatically decreases to 25% when the customer is allowed to return beyond a month. When there is no rush to decide, customers become more attached to a product if they have more time to return it. In other words, the urgency of returning it is reduced and more abstract (it is something to do some other time) and customers simply forget the product needs to be returned.

 

Tip 3: Consider all con’s and pro’s of free returns

There is currently much debate regarding free returns, due to the large number of returned products and the cost to the fashion industry. It is beneficial to note that currently the number of returned products does not differ much when the returned shipment is free as consumers are purchasing more products in colour and size to try on at home anyway, but on the initial purchase the average order value is reported to be higher when returning is free.

 

Tip 4: Find customer friendly and economical cross border solutions
When selling cross-border, take into consideration the import duties and VAT, make it very clear to customers when there are duties to be paid. It is important to have a cost-effective solution for returning or exchanging items without consumers having to reclaim the already-paid-for import duties and taxes. Creating an easy returns procedure will lead to loyal and returning customers with an increase conversion. Consider a local return address in each country with consolidated returns shipments to send them to your warehouse in the UK. Call us for a quote.

 

Tip 5: Consider trends and how to respond

Take for instance sustainability. There is a considerable movement in the number of consumers considering or expecting a more sustainable purchase environment, with many retailers now looking into advancements in packaging and delivery. Women and generation Z, especially, are more likely to make a sustainable purchase decision. Our research shows that women in particular are prepared to pay a small contribution (approx. 1 Euro) if the C02 emissions of a return shipment can be lowered, with many consumers complaining that the products they purchase are delivered with too much packaging (For example, subscription company Beauty Pie recently acknowledged complaint from their customers regarding their beautifully packaged products and have reduced the amount of paper wrapping and boxes used). With smart packaging a return could be sent back in the same undamaged packaging and resold.

 

Tip 6: Continue to check for and improve on information relevant for customers

Look at the descriptions and how you display your products, does it say enough to sell? Invest in your platform in ways that showcase the sizes, look, and quality of your products. The more information you provide, and the more consumers will get a feel for the quality and fit, the better informed purchase decision they will make (for example, Asos have a detailed description of each product with images from different angles, a zooming capability, and if applicable, a short video of each product. Consumers get a good feel about the quality and how the garment will fit). With a well-designed online returns form or online survey you are awarded the opportunity to gather detailed research into why the customer is returning the garments, giving insight into further production or purchases with data gathered from returns.

 

Tip 7: Reward (or punish) customers to achieve what is important for you

Reward loyal customers that do not return products, this will encourage them to make better purchase decisions and to think twice about returning a product if they are rewarded for their efforts. In May 2019, Amazon changed their returns policy to “punish” return offenders. According to a recent report published by Brightpearl, 45 per cent of retailers, including Asos and Harrods, said they were considering pulling the plug on repeat returners. For retailers worried about blowback from a policy punishing serial returners there’s some good news, only 7% of all respondents say they strongly disagreed with the concept of banning some shoppers, while 11% said they would never shop with a retailer who did so.

 

Tip 8: Make returns profitable

If you have a brick and mortar store, consider allowing customers to return items in-store. Statistics show that there is a higher chance that a customer will buy something else while in-store than they would from an online store during online returns.

 

Finally, just a few trends to consider in the effort to reduce return shipments

 

  1. Webshops are experimenting with lower returns costs by having intermediaries resell returns instead of products coming back to the online store. For example, this can be done by sending clothes to a local franchisee.
  2. Different delivery options continue to become available as carriers respond customer demands and competitive pressure, e.g recently they have invested in environmentally-friendly solutions, such as electric vehicles, cargo bikes, and pick-up service points. So make sure to evaluate your courier and delivery options on a regular basis.
  3. Webshops are looking at innovative solutions to repacking: hassle-free returns. Increasing the methods of return, collection via courier, returning to a locker, and reusable packaging that can be adjusted in size to the quantity that is returned. Increased options created a positive image of your webshop which increases brand loyalty.