Your initial sales figures look fantastic! The Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns have exceeded all expectations! But now the dreaded returns are starting to come in...
What’s the impact of online returns?
Return rates skyrocket over holiday periods when consumers are shopping around for the best deals. It has been estimated that returns of unwanted items purchased over the 2018 Black Friday weekend will cost UK retailers up to £362m. In the U.S., eCommerce returns increased by 94.8% between 2012 and 2018.
To state the obvious - returns are certainly not good for the retailer. It isn’t just the lost sale, but the not inconsiderable costs linked with overseeing the process. In fact, The Financial Times has reported that the average product return passes through seven pairs of hands before going back on resale.
How to reduce your product return rate
The best way to reduce online product returns is by giving customers as much relevant information as possible at the time of purchase. Unlike in a physical store, shoppers do not normally have an opportunity to try before they buy, so it’s vital to provide the customer with all the tools they need to make an informed decision.
There are the obvious steps that most retailers adhere to, such as giving a clear description of the product, making sure the photography shows the product in detail (from multiple angles), offering clear sizing information and ensuring that the colors are as good a match as possible (something which isn’t always easy). Getting the order shipped as quickly as possible can also have an impact.
An additional method to minimize product returns is social proof. Social proof - also known as social influence - is the social phenomenon where we mimic the actions of others in order to behave correctly. It is therefore an increasingly popular tactic used to drive conversions and engage undecided shoppers. But it is also a great way to give customers more relevant product information before they make a purchase.
There are two types of social proof that can help you reduce online returns:
User Generated Content (UGC)
Encourage happy customers to share photos of themselves wearing or using your products. Promote your social media presence and branded hashtags so that shoppers can easily link this content to your brand. You can then incorporate the UGC into your marketing content in the form of a real-time social media feed in emails or on the website, or by including user product photos on specific product pages.
This gives shoppers the opportunity to see the products in authentic real-life situations, so they can make an informed decision about whether the product will work for them. UGC works particularly well for fashion, where customers would prefer to try on the clothing before making a purchase.
Ratings and reviews
By collecting authentic product ratings and reviews from confirmed purchasers, you generate a wealth of information for future buyers to consult before they make a purchase. Ratings allow shoppers to see your best-performing products at a glance, while reviews give an idea of how products fare in real-life situations. Consider adopting a trusted rating and review platform to collect genuine feedback from your customers.
Include ratings and reviews on your website product pages, and to supplement product recommendation feeds. Consider adding real-time ratings and review sto your customer lifecycle emails to let shoppers hear from their peers what they love about your products.
Increasing customer satisfaction
With the right technology, these changes are easy to implement and manage, but it can make a huge difference to the volume of returns. Of course, it is unlikely that you will ever eliminate returns altogether, but giving customers more information at the time of purchase helps them to select and keep the products that are right for them. This protects customer satisfaction, turning one-off customers into repeat customers.
Learn more about how social proof can boost your revenue and reduce returns: