We’ve just finished up with the holidays, which means three things for online retail: sales spikes, surging returns, and and finally getting all those Disney Frozen products from backorder. While stocking your virtual shelves with popular products (see the last item in the previous list) may have increased sales, there’s another tactic all retail businesses can implement to increase sales, hot inventory aside – have an easy returns process.
It may feel counterintuitive, but an effective return policy can encourage sales and even drive conversions after a return is made. Of the 60% of online shoppers that make at least one return or exchange per year, 95% will make another purchase if the return experience was positive.
Here are five actionable ways to deliver an eCommerce return policy that catapults sales.
1. Make it so simple, a kindergartener can understand.
Your return policy should be approachable, easy to understand and contain no hidden disclaimers. Clearly outline the rules regarding returns. Share what you’ll provide (like return postage, for example), how to proceed with returns, and whether you accept returns in-store (if you have a brick and mortar location).
Zappos.com is king at making returns pain-free for their customers. Their process and policy is completely free, clearly outlined, and contains contact numbers for customers who need extra assistance. The more seamless the process, the better your odds and getting buyers to come back again. In fact, Zappos has found that its best customers have the highest return rates, and still they come back for more. These shoppers are “the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers,” says Craig Adkins, Zappos VP of services and operations.
2. Make it obvious and easy to find.
Your return policy should be easy to find on your site. A clearly marked return policy is particularly important in ecommerce, where buyers cannot try on or test out your products beforehand, like they might in a brick and mortar store. Giving them an “out” will give customers peace of mind and establish buyer trust. Remember, 95% of shoppers that make returns will come back, if they feel you made the process easy for them. Quickly let shoppers know you have an easy return policy, and drive more purchases with better consumer trust.
3. Make returns free (yeah, we mean that).
It won’t be free for you, obviously. Some costs are involved with offering free shipping both ways, but the investment is a worthy one. Adkins shared that people buying the most expensive shoes on Zappos have a 50% return rate. While that number may initially scare you off from implementing free returns, consider this: a two-second search on Zappos.com for Women’s heels, priced High to Low, revealed a lengthy page of shoes priced well into the thousands – the first option coming in at $2,795.
Let’s say it costs around $6 to ship a pair of strappy heels – which, based on an Amazon search, is around what it would cost to ship these shoes with standard shipping (that is, if I really wanted to buy a pair of women’s heels). So using the data Zappos shared, if two customers bought the nearly $3k shoes, and one of them returned the pair, Zappos is eating likely under $20 in shipping costs. $20 dollars for a thousand-dollar sale is not bad – especially when the customer who made the return is 95% likely to buy from Zappos again.
4. Show it off on social media.
You should consider – certainly during the high volume holiday season – bringing the policy to them. Connect with your customers where they are most active, whether that be on Facebook, email, Twitter or otherwise, and give them a brief run-down of what your return policy looks like. Create a quick graphic on free sites like Canva and share it to your best performing social channels.
By bringing your return policy to customers, you illustrate that, yes, you realize they are purchasing gifts that potentially aren’t on their loved one’s wish list and, yes, you will accept their return, if necessary. And, you’ll make it easy on them. As Zappos’ Marketing Chief puts it, “Customer service is the new marketing.”
A 10-year study found that brands that could evoke a strong emotional response from customers can sell more, drive customer loyalty,and successfully charge 20% to 200% more than competitors. By sharing how customer-centric your return policy is, you communicate a level of sincerity and care to your buyers – and that can translate to dollars.
5. Ship it with their items.
Insert a note in your packages that reiterates your return policy and process, as well as the best way to reach your support team, should an issue arise. Some retailers may feel uneasy about sending return instructions with the package, and want to bury the return policy on their website to deter customers. Don’t do that.
The more transparent eRetailers are with their return policy, the more effectively you can establish trust with your buyers. If shoppers are handed instructions for returns, they’ll know you “have their back” in the event of a return, and will feel comfortable shopping from you again. Buyer trust is how online shops can steward repeat customers. Don’t underestimate the power of transparency.
A better return policy will yield greater buyer trust, better sales, and a fatter wallet in your back pocket. Put your improved return policy into effect now, and win more sales even after the holiday season.
Have you had success with a straightforward return policy? Noticed anything that’s helped drive sales? Let us know in the comments!