How to Optimize Your Return Process? Tips for Increased Revenue, Higher Customer Satisfaction, and Fewer Returns

A significant number of online entrepreneurs face a surge of returns in January due to the previous peak season. Incorrectly purchased Christmas gifts, party dresses that didn’t fit as expected – you name it. Do you notice that the return process within your online business could use some improvement? Or is it already doing well, but you still want to learn more about the opportunities that lie ahead, so you can optimize these processes in the future? Keep reading.

In the e-commerce sector, a well-optimized return process can not only increase efficiency but also contribute to more revenue and customer satisfaction. This process, although sometimes complex, offers a unique opportunity to strengthen customer relationships and encourage repeat purchases. Investing in a smooth return process for both the webshop and the consumer is a crucial step for every online entrepreneur!

Introduction to Return Process Optimization

According to the EHI Retail Institute, about 39% of online retailers consider efficient handling of returns as a current focus in their business, while 92% of all consumers find an easy return process crucial for making a repeat purchase. We assume you are now convinced to take customer-friendly return management seriously. With these tips, you can ensure you’re not falling behind.

1. Analyze Customer Expectations and Return Policy

Recent research by invesp reveals that at least 30% of all online ordered products are returned (this figure rises to around 40% for fashion), which is significantly higher than the 8.89% seen in physical stores. This highlights the importance of a customer-oriented return policy.

A crucial aspect of a good return policy is the ease with which customers can return products. Recent UPS research shows that 67% of online shoppers first check the return page before making a purchase to see how this process is handled by the webshop. Therefore, provide clear and easily readable shipping and return policies. Place this information not only in a prominent section on your website but also disseminate it on product pages and through customer service.

But what about the costs? In the past year, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of webshops choosing to pass the entire return amount or a portion of it on to the consumer. This shift also reflects public opinion; whereas last year, people expected free return options, the majority of consumers now accept paying a (small) fee to use the return process. Of course, the less cost for the consumer, the higher the customer satisfaction. One solution is to discreetly include return costs in the item price, allowing you to continue offering ‘free’ return costs to your customers. But as an online entrepreneur, you’d prefer to have as few returns as possible. Aside from the processing costs of returns, they simply decrease your revenue. There are several ways to reduce returns and return processing costs. Let’s delve deeper into this.

2. Minimize Returns and Reduce Return Costs

Returns are an inevitable part of the business model, but minimizing returns and return costs is essential for profitability. What can you do concretely to reduce returns and return costs?

  • Provide comprehensive product information on the website: Think of photos, videos, information about the material, and product reviews, and consider using AI as a smart shopping assistant to help consumers understand what they need.
  • Clear communication about the status of return items: Inform customers about the impact of not returning or packaging products carefully. Good instructions can reduce customer frustration and lower return costs for you as an online entrepreneur.
  • Reward desired behavior: Encourage customers to return products neatly. Consider offering a discount on a future purchase to customers who haven’t returned items.
  • Easy returns: Ensure easy-to-open and resealable packaging. This helps to get products back in good condition and minimizes the chance of damage during the return shipment.
  • Exchange for a different size or color: Every return comes with costs, but you can still turn a return into a subsequent purchase! Make it easy for customers to exchange a product for a different size or color using a return module like Monta’s RMA module. This turns returns into new orders, increasing customer satisfaction. Win-win!

Monta’s RMA in action: Making exchanges easy for the consumer and providing transparency for the online entrepreneur.

3. Utilize Technology for Return Logistics

The use of technology is crucial for reducing returns and improving return logistics in e-commerce. Here are some ways:

  • Automated RMA Systems: What does a return module like Monta’s offer exactly? A return module includes more than just the ability to easily exchange an item. Using a return module can significantly streamline the entire return process. The structured return process that you can offer with a return module provides more clarity and efficiency for both your webshop and the consumer. Additionally, you can, for example, set the return costs you charge to the consumer yourself (per carrier), and the consumer can easily initiate the return (including the reason for the return) and generate a shipping label. It also provides valuable data insights into return patterns and reasons for you. By analyzing on the SKU level which products are returned more often and for what reasons, you can identify specific issues. For example, if a particular sweater is often too large or if a pair of pants is different in reality than in the photos. By addressing these issues, you can significantly reduce return rates and optimize your product offerings.
  • Virtual Fitting Rooms: Innovations like virtual fitting rooms can help reduce the number of returned items by assisting customers in making the right choices.
  • AI and Machine Learning: New technologies like AI and machine learning offer interesting possibilities for analyzing and predicting return behavior. This can lead to, for example, better size advice to the consumer. Several webshops already provide size recommendations based on past purchases.
  • Digital Return Labels: Providing digital return labels makes it easier for customers to return products, simplifying the process and reducing the chance of errors.

4. Integrate Sustainability into the Return Process

Integrating sustainability into the return process is a crucial step for any conscious retailer and an essential part of your webshop’s sustainability strategy. Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Return at a nearby drop-off point: It not only increases customer satisfaction but is also better for the environment when consumers can return the item at a drop-off point near their home. Using a return module like Monta’s, you can clearly indicate on a mobile or laptop map card the shortest distance to a drop-off point where the item can be returned.
  • Reusable Packaging: The use of sustainable, reusable packaging for shipping and returns can significantly reduce environmental impact. This not only reduces waste but also encourages customers to act more environmentally friendly.
  • Recycling Returned Items: Developing an effective process for recycling or reusing returned items can further reduce the environmental impact. This can range from repairing lightly damaged goods to donating unsellable items to charities.

Monta: The Key to Efficient and Customer-Friendly Return Management

Do you now realize that you have much to gain in terms of return processing? Take action and ensure higher customer satisfaction, fewer returns, and lower return costs. Monta can help you with this. Whether you’re interested in Monta’s RMA or in fully outsourcing your returns to Monta, we’d love to discuss how we can elevate your return management to the next level.

Contact us today or request a demo to discover how Monta can optimize your return strategy and help you grow. Give your return policy the boost it deserves!

Martien Verhaar
Martien Verhaar

I keep a keen eye on the ever-changing world of fulfilment solutions, integrations and analysis. I am passionate about sharing tips and insights that can help you streamline your e-commerce operations and boost your growth. Let's navigate the complexities of online retail together and turn them into opportunities for your business success

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