Take These Steps Right Now to Reduce Holiday Ecommerce Returns

The holidays are just around the corner, and it’s an exciting time for ecommerce store owners. While the holiday season represents the peak sales period, it’s also the time when ecommerce returns hit a new pitch.

If you’re not careful, you could find yourself losing money and spending way too much time handling returns. This is a dangerous game, as it can quickly harm profitability and the customer experience.

With that in mind, it’s critical to take steps now to reduce holiday ecommerce returns. This is a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and taking a moment to prepare on the front end can save you lots of time and hassle down the road.

Here’s what you need to know:

Returns, by the Numbers

Before you can start preparing for a flood of ecommerce returns, it’s critical to understand what people actually return and what they don’t. As the ecommerce industry has grown (all the way up to an impressive $327 billion by the end of 2016), so has the rate of ecommerce returns.

Here’s a breakdown of the average return rate, according to ecommerce product type:

  • Hard goods, gifts – 1%-5%
  • Home décor – 5%-9%
  • Shoes – 10%-25%
  • Casual apparel – 10%-20%
  • Electronics/computers -15%-20%
  • Fitted apparel – 20%-30%
  • High fashion – 25%-40%

As a general rule, returns lag behind the order shipment curve by about 2-3 weeks. This is a critical consideration and can help you plan more effectively to reduce returns, starting right now.

3 Ways to Reduce Holiday Returns

No matter what kind of business you’re running, these three tips can help reduce ecommerce holiday return rates and keep you in the green throughout the holiday season:

1. Rewrite Product Descriptions

When people shop online, they’re relying heavily on your product descriptions to help them make a decision. This means that, if your descriptions are lackluster or missing information, your customers are more likely to purchase products they’ll later regret. This is especially true in the world of ecommerce fashion. Of the 30-40% of fashion ecommerce returns that vendors absorb, most are the result of sizing and fit concerns.

In a blog post on the topic, we discuss how ASOS, one of the leading fashion ecommerce retailers on the web experiences and prevents this. The company sells more than 60,000 products online. To reduce their return rates on those products, ASOS has adopted a policy of free shipping worldwide with free returns, and no restocking fees. That alone has reduced the return rate by 50%. Beyond that, though, ASOS also offers incredibly detailed product descriptions, including information about pictured models’ heights and the fabric of their products:

This helps customers make informed decisions and cuts down on returns.

Take a note out of ASOS’s book and revamp your product descriptions so they offer all the information your customers could need. This will ensure products stay where they belong – in the hands and closets of your customers.

While you’re at it, be sure to add high-resolution images that show your products in all their glorious detail and finery.

2. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

By now, this seems like an obvious point. At the same time, though, it’s never been more important. By the end of 2017, more than two billion mobile phone and tablet users had made some form of online commerce transaction. What’s more, 95% of mobile users turn to their phones to look up store information or hours, and mobile devices currently account for about 19% of all ecommerce sales in the U.S.

Because of this, it’s critical to plan for mobile.

Take House of Fraser, for example. A UK-based online retailer, House of Fraser makes more than 50% of its purchases to customers using mobile devices. In light of this, the company has developed a mobile-friendly sizing app it calls True Fit.

To use the app, shoppers enter some details about their measurements, height, and weight, and the app automatically recommends the best size of the brand’s apparel. The app then moves the information over to any nested page the shopper might visit, making for a streamlined and seamless shopping experience.

This is a genius example of taking mobile-friendliness to the next level. While we all know your buttons should be easy for shoppers to press, you’ll land more sales and enjoy fewer returns this holiday season if you commit to integrating the mobile experience into everything you do. It should be the center of your ecommerce shopping experience, and mobile customers should have all the same autofill, information, and browsing advantages as desktop customers.

3. Automate Returns

Does it sound counterintuitive to integrate a returns processing system to reduce returns? Maybe, but it works. Here’s why: a whopping 95% of customers say that a positive returns experience promotes loyalty. Loyalty, of course, is good for everything else your brand does. Not only will it help you make more sales down the road, but it will enhance the sales you’re already making.

Beyond this, customers are actually reading your return policy, and seeing that you’ve got a simple, hassle-free structure in place boosts their confidence in your brand. This allows them to shop with confidence and select products they are less likely to return.

When customers see you offer an automated returns processing system, they know they can place returns from your website. This is simple for them and offers the benefit of allowing you to retarget them during or after the return, which, in turn, boosts your chances of making another sale down the road.

Reduce Returns & Pocket More Cash

Ecommerce returns are a fact of life, but they don’t have the be the factor that dictates your company’s bottom line. If you’re looking for a way to reduce ecommerce returns and keep your sales strong this holiday season, these tips are a great place to start. Designed to make your holiday sales more customer-facing and streamlined, these three tips are simple enough to implement now and hefty enough to keep you going strong all holiday season. The jury is out: easy returns equal more sales. With plenty of time left until the holiday rush, you can implement a better return policy right now and reap the rewards from it.

Need some tips on how to craft the perfect return policy? We’ve got you covered in this infographic.

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