What makes a good e-commerce returns experience in 2022?
Published on: May 8, 2022
Updated: August 29, 2023
E-commerce returns have had a bad reputation for years. For customers and brands alike, returns processes are known for being costly, ineffective and confusing. But now, new management tools are reimaging the returns processes for brands around the world. In this blog, we explore the key characteristics of a great returns experience in 2022. Let’s explore how can brands stand out for the right reasons.
With customers now buying a wider range of products online, more brands than ever are having to rethink how returns are managed. Globalization has further complicated returns for e-commerce retailers, who have historically left the process up to third parties, such as carriers or 3PLs, to manage.
Customers now buy and return like-for-like products online, so the experience that they receive has become a contributing factor to buying motivation. Why shop with one brand that charges for returns when another does not, for example. With this in mind, we have seen a rise of brands taking back control of the returns experience, to stay connected to customers and win back their business. So, what factors create a good returns experience in 2022?
Easy access to updates
One of the biggest complaints people have when returning an order is the lack of insight into its progress and when they can expect to receive their refund or exchanged items. Because third party logistics suppliers often manage the shipping portion of the e-commerce returns process, and warehouse systems are not always connected, brands are not always equipped to monitor the order itself. As a result, brands are unable to keep customers updated. Often, they rely on a third party to communicate updates, but cannot control the quality, quantity or accuracy of the information sent.
However, there is a solution. A brand that uses an e-commerce returns portal, also known as a returns platform, can host a dedicated page on its site where customers can check the progress of their return in real-time. Because it is on the brand’s website, the returns page is easy to find, so customers have easy access to updates. For the brand, this means a drop in customer inquiries and a boost in engaged traffic.
Flexible returns options
There are many reasons why a person may wish to return an item. It may have arrived late, not fit, or be damaged for example. However, a customer may still be open to making another purchase. After all, they clearly need or want the item that they bought.
Providing customers with flexible options, such as exchange, in-store or drop-off returns helps to make the returns experience as convenient as possible. This flexibility facilitates revenue recovery because it provides a more satisfying experience, making customers more willing to shop again.
Proactive, personalized notifications
“Where is my return?” “When will I receive a refund?” Returns are often considered so stressful because of the lack of transparency throughout the process. This uncertainty leads to a spike in customer inquiries. It also damages the customers’ perception of the brand. If a return order is lengthy, complicated and confusing, people will associate this experience with the brand itself.
A self-service returns platform page is a great way of managing customer expectations. But best practice is to provide complementary real-time updates during returns. Not only can a customer check their dedicated page for the latest information about their order whenever they would like, but noteworthy events (ie. A return has been collected, or arrived at the warehouse, or a refund is processed etc) will be proactively communicated automatically. This helps reduce customers’ anxiety towards returns. Instead, the journey becomes seamless and carefree.
Different people like to be communicated with in different ways. For example, some people may prefer receiving emails, while others prefer text messages (SMS) or chatbots via social media. By providing a range of contact channels, brands can ensure that people receive updates to the most convenient and relevant device.
Understanding this information helps brands to maximize open rates of important messages and prolong customer engagement. After all, there’s no point in perfecting the touch points you deliver if no one is going to read them.
A white label returns platform enables brands to use its customer data to deliver the most personalized experience possible. For example, when a customer visits the returns portal, recommended products – based on the individual’s search and purchase history, can be displayed.
Similarly, related content, like product reviews or relevant articles, can be automatically displayed within customer touch points, such as emails or the returns page. This makes the experience more engaging and valuable for the customer.
A commitment to sustainability
A good returns experience should be representative of each individual brand and its values. There should be a seamless transition to the returns portal. It should feel like an extension of the brand journey, rather than a standardized add-on that could belong to any number of retailers.
Ensure that every touch point within your returns journey matches your brand identity, from tone of voice to color scheme and style. This will make the experience more familiar and memorable. And don’t forget to show off your brand values within your returns portal. For example, celebrate that your digital returns process saves paper, stickers and paper clips. Highlight sustainable alternative to shipping by offering QR code, no box/no label drop off points to reduce packaging waste and fuel consumption. This will help you to differentiate your experience from others.
Deliver the best possible returns experience
If your brand wants to improve the returns experience you deliver customers in 2022, a returns portal will help you to achieve your goals. When researching the best returns platform for your brand, remember to ask these key questions.
parcelLab is more than just a returns solution. As the leading Operations Experience Management (OXM) platform, we enable brands to manage the entire experience that they deliver to customers, including warehousing, delivery, returns and beyond. Our platform will handle your complex, operational data, so you are free to deliver an experience of your own design, within your own ecosystem. Schedule a demo to see our returns platform in action.