Business, Technology

Why You Should Make Use of Returns as a Customer Experience

March 1, 2023

Read time 3 min

As the world grapples with recession and consumers are buying significantly less, improving every aspect of customer experience can be a factor of differentiation and a major competitive advantage for retailers. Most brands are already optimizing website workflows to lead to greater conversion with a focus on selling more, but more often than not neglecting the other side — returns.

In this article, I’ll discuss how treating online returns as a customer experience can help retailers cut costs, make their processes more efficient, and ultimately improve customer loyalty across the board.

Not to mention the ecological benefits reducing returns will also have!

Why Returns as a Customer Experience

Especially in times of economic hardship, consumers need to know they are making the right purchasing decision. Being able to serve your customers, and give them a top-notch experience also at the end of the buying process, will make you stand out from the crowd. Retailers have been gathering data from returns since forever, yet very few have put that data to legitimately good use.

Most brands go about the issue of returns entirely wrong. The answer to reducing returns is not to make the return process more difficult and clunky for your shopper – it should be the exact opposite. Difficult returns will greatly reduce customer satisfaction and lead to no additional insight into why shoppers are returning your products in the first place.

Returns should be seamless, the process streamlined, and feel like a good customer experience. Each return should bring you an understanding of what went amiss, with the next step being to think about how you can reduce the number of returns you get.

Getting Started: Better CX, Fewer Returns

The solution to minimizing returns is to use returns data to refine customer experience and product development. This creates a virtuous cycle: the more you know why your shoppers are returning your products, the better the customer experience you can build to serve them. These insights can help you improve the product itself as well. By extension, you’ll see fewer returns.

Some questions to ask yourself include whether you are gathering all the data you could be. Is it being used? In a way that it affects the actual production of the product? How could you do more or better communications around a product to minimize the risk of it being the wrong fit and maximize fit for purpose?

Ways to do this include making it easier for online shoppers to find the right fit, for example, through greater visualization and more accurate descriptions of the products on the site. Brands should add more photos and videos to product pages, as well as explanations on how the product fit matches that of other brands: denotations such as “fits true to size” or “fit is larger than usual” can work wonders.

In Practice, Everyone Wins

A perhaps unique and good example of this is Adidas Outdoor’s Product Finder. The idea was to develop a new, guided digital journey for finding the perfect outdoor workout gear. The tool’s objective was to help customers discover the exact product and fit they were looking for, maximizing fit for purpose. This enabled Adidas to have a conversation with shoppers, leading to fewer abandoned sharpening carts, higher conversion rates, and lower returns.

Other ways in which we’ve seen our clients optimize return workflows include personalized flows for each return reason (once the reason is indicated by the customer on the website), offering changes instead of returns (as processing payments can be challenging), or asking customers to give further context on, for example, how the size was the wrong fit to improve experience and communication in the future.

If (and when) there are returns, what’s crucial for CX is making sure that the return process for customers is simple and easy. But it’s a self-feeding loop: getting returns allows you to take care of your most loyal customers, collect the data on why these returns are being made, and use this information to improve customer experience and therefore reduce returns.

Everyone wins. The environment included!

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