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Editorial blog

Overcoming The Returns Challenge

06 Jan 2021

As the UK faces its second national lockdown, online retail sales are booming. This is only set to continue too with some predicting that within the next decade, customers are likely to shop online more than they do in stores. In order for retailers to cope with this surge in demand, streamlining operations and focusing on consumer satisfaction has never been more important.

Yet the biggest challenge for retailers is the very same service consumers are prioritising: Returns. Considering that returns can cost retailers up £60bn per year and nearly a quarter of all orders on average produce a return*, it is no surprise that many retailers are seeing their margins negatively impacted by the cost of managing returns.

With online sales only predicted to grow in the future, getting your returns right has never been more important.

Neglecting Your Returns Strategy May Be Preventing Sales

There is no denying that returns are crucial to shoppers. In fact, 78% of consumers now check the returns policy before making a purchase, and many agree that returns are a normal part of shopping today.* Despite this, only 11% of shoppers say that they are very satisfied with their overall returns and delivery services.* This is a troubling statistic for retailers who want to build a loyal customer base.

So why the gap in consumer satisfaction?

Historically, pre-returns intervention has been the favourable approach. This makes sense, as improving product quality and descriptions as well as using reviews are all great practises for encouraging sales. Yet no matter how good the pre-returns strategy, the ability to physically see and handle products can’t be replicated. As a result, up to 35% of shoppers now deliberately over-order items in order that they can view them in person before returning the ones they don’t want.

More reliance on returns means customers are increasingly looking for convenience, speed and better communication. This is especially important for buyers of arts and craft supplies, many of whom run their own small businesses and operate on tight margins. Providing these shoppers with a range of convenient returns options and swiftly handing refunds could help encourage them to shop with you. 92% of customers who receive a good returns experience make repeat purchases.* Considering many retailers have neglected their returns strategy, getting yours right could lead to more sales over a competitor.

How Simplifying Your Returns Operations Can Save You Time and Money

One of the biggest hurdles for retailers is the lack of visibility surrounding returns. Being left in the dark over what condition the items are in, or why they are being returned can make it impossible to ensure a swift turn around of stock. At any time, 10% of re-sellable inventory is within the returns process, unable to be resold*, meaning many businesses are losing out on sales. These delays also mean customers are waiting longer for refunds or exchanges. Any dissatisfaction with the service could make them less likely to make a repeat purchase.

Improving tracking visibility will help you get better control over your returns process. Being able to anticipate and categorise stock in advance not only means a quicker turnaround for you and the consumer, making the customer experience better and operations easier.

Tackling the Challenges of International Returns

Considering that a quarter of all UK orders travel to international destinations,* it is reasonable to expect that some of these will produce returns. Yet the challenges of cross-border logistics means that international consumer demands can be overlooked. The fact that consumer expectations vary from country to country is one of the main challenges for retailers. More than half of consumers in France, for example, prefer to drop a return at a designated Drop Off location, whereas in China, parcel lockers are more popular than in any other country.*

Ensure you give international customers the reassurance they need with a good returns policy, and streamlining the entire process is important to increasing international sales.

Streamlining Your Returns Services and Getting the Support Where You Need It

As long as online sales continue to grow, returns are here to stay. Finding an affordable returns solution is vital for businesses who wish to compete and offer consumers the flexibility and convenience they want.

Partnering with a multicarrier expert could help alleviate the burden of returns. Returns solutions like GFS Global Returns Pro help you simplify your warehouse operations by offering you a comprehensive view of returns and where they are in the process. It also gives your customers a fully branded, omni channel experience where they can request returns in seconds. This means they will receive faster refunds with a wide choice of return options.

In an unpredictable and ever changing retail landscape, providing stability and certainty is important for growing sales and building customer loyalty. A frictionless returns service which empowers you and your customers is an important first step towards providing a market-leading online experience.

*IMRG Returns Review 2020

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