E-commerce retailers know that returns are a part of life. Without the opportunity to touch, hold or try on merchandise they buy online, it's inevitable that customers will return a large proportion of it. According to one report, an average of 30 percent of all e-commerce purchases are returned, compared to about 9 percent of brick-and-mortar purchases.
During the holiday shopping season especially, the cost and time involved in handling excess returns can add to your stress — and cut into your profits. Fortunately, there are five simple steps you can take to minimize returns now and all year long.
1. Maintain high quality standards. Poor product quality is a common reason why products bought online get returned. Regularly inspect your inventory to make sure your suppliers are maintaining the level of quality you expect.
2. Package products carefully. If items are damaged or broken during shipping because they weren't properly packaged, you're going to get returns. Provide adequate protection for fragile products and mark packages for special handling when needed.
3. Provide detailed product descriptions. When a product description is sparse, shoppers have to take a chance and order an item without knowing its dimensions, fabric content, etc. When the product isn’t as expected, it gets returned. The more detail you can provide on your site, the better the decisions customers can make. Here’s some of the information you should provide:
- Dimensions (including both product dimensions and shipping dimensions, if relevant)
- Weight (including both item weight and shipping package weight, if relevant)
- Materials, composition or fabric
- Size charts (for apparel or shoes). Different manufacturers may size clothing differently, so it's important to include details for each manufacturer.
- Product warranties or guarantees
- Instructions for using or assembling the product
4. Include plenty of images. Online shoppers expect more than just one blurry photo of a product. Be sure to:
- Show the product from multiple angles, either with multiple photos or a 360 degree rotation tool.
- Enable zoom so product details such as fabric weave can be seen.
- Include other items or people to show scale when necessary.
- Include a video of the product in use or being worn.
- If something comes in multiple colors, show all views of the item in all of the colors, rather than just showing a color swatch.
5. Add customer reviews. When a product's description is lacking, shoppers can use customer reviews to get more details about the item. For instance, reviews can inform others if apparel or shoes run small or large, alert them to quality issues, or point out when pictured colors don't match the item.
Looking for some examples of how to do product descriptions, images, and reviews right?
- Check out this product description of a steel shelving unit on the Home Depot website. In addition to multiple photos and a video, there’s general information about the product, a product spec sheet, and additional information and guidance on assembly.
- Zappos does a great job of providing details about shoes, including materials, sizing, and images, as well as reviews.
- Handbag and accessories retailer Rebecca Minkoff’s “Size Me Up” feature lets shoppers visualize how a particular handbag will look on a person their height and weight; how many common items (wallet, smartphone, etc.) can fit in the handbag; and what the scale of the bag is.
Let's face it: Returns will always be part of e-commerce — and often, those frequent returners are some of your most loyal customers. But by taking the steps above, you can ensure your customers are more likely to be satisfied with their purchases, and that you'll have fewer returns to handle.