Our 4 tips for a smart and responsible return policy

Our 4 tips for a smart and responsible return policy
Published on: Jun 20, 2021
Updated: Aug 18, 2022

The health crisis has undoubtedly contributed to a new boom in e-commerce. According to Fevad, online sales have increased by 8.5% last year to reach 112 billion euros in France in 2020. But an increase in sales undeniably leads to an increase in returns, and they are not always well managed by e-tailers both from a logistical and ecological point of view. As retail expert Frank Rosenthal points out: "More than ever it's time to take an interest in responsible delivery or else bad habits will take hold or persist" and that's what we're going to do now.

Returns: a major customer satisfaction issue but an environmental impact not negligible

As we found in our study on the expectations of the French when it comes to e-commerce, nearly 1 in 2 consumers say that a simplified return policy is an important criterion when shopping online. Returns have therefore become a major issue in customer satisfaction. The e-commerce giants have understood this and are being inventive to make it easier for customers to return their packages. Among the most common initiatives, we find longer withdrawal periods, return labels included in the package, or "try before you buy" where the customer pays only after a possible return.

Beyond customer satisfaction, it is also the responsibility of companies to control their environmental impact and review their return policies to be more responsible. According to the World Economic Forum, CO2 emissions related to deliveries will increase by 32% by 2030, so there is no need to add to them with additional trips caused by returns. In France, one out of every four products purchased online is returned, so it's high time to address the problem and think about how we can have a positive impact.

Consumer Awareness

There is a real educational work to be done in terms of delivery, especially by teaching consumers to not only look at the cost and the delays but also the ecological impact of the delivery.

As mentioned in the introduction, the simplified return policy is an important criterion when shopping online. These policies are therefore carefully scrutinized by customers, so it would be interesting to indicate the carbon footprint of a return so that the consumer realizes the environmental impact of it.

Getting notifications customers

According to a study conducted by Bazaarvoice in October 2020, products with more than 50 reviews have a return rate nearly 135% lower than products with no, or few, reviews. Therefore, e-retailers are well advised to ask their customers for product reviews after delivery, this will help them improve the online experience and limit returns.

Optimize the pages product ofu website

Offering more details about a product helps limit returns. In the fashion industry, for example, the majority of returns are due to a size error or because the product does not conform to the customer's perception. Offering virtual fitting rooms like Asos or videos with the measurements of the mannequin allows the customer to project himself more easily and make the right choices.

Act on transportation

When the return is unavoidable, offering the customer the option of returning to the store (if the retailer has physical stores) is a first initiative. From a logistical point of view, it will be easier to manage, and it allows customers in large cities, to go there on foot or by public transport, which will limit the environmental impact. If the e-merchant does not have a physical store, green means such as bicycles, electric vans or even carpooling of parcels can be ecological alternatives.

Finally, it is sometimes less expensive for the e-merchant to refund the product and allow the customer to keep the item, but this can quickly become a dangerous game...

In conclusion...

The environmental impact of e-commerce continues to grow and the pandemic has further accentuated this trend. E-retailers and consumers must mobilize to change their habits and become more responsible.

To end on a positive note, it is necessary to underline that a collective awareness is being born, and this is reflected in particular by the rise of the second hand. Products that no longer appeal are now finding their place on platforms such as Vinted, Le Bon Coin or even on repackaging sites such as Back Market.

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