This is the second in a two-part series about a retailer’s biggest pains: cart abandonment and returns. In part one, Jack from marketing experts SaleCycle tells you all you need to know about fixing abandonments.

In part two: Reevoo’s head of product marketing, Hannah Murray-Sykes, talks about retail’s second scourge: returns.


Part 2: How to reduce returns

Returns are a double-edged sword: they’re an incentive for customers and a pain for retailers.

They may encourage customers to make purchases but they also cost time and resource. Some brands (ASOS comes to mind) have built their business on generous return policies. Yours, however, might not be in such a position.

Refunds, return shipping, reshelving, and inventory management are not something businesses would normally choose to do.

So, if it means bad news for retailers and there’s not much that can be done to make the process easier, what’s the best way to deal to reduce returns?

Well, if you can, stop them from happening in the first place.

There are three things retailers can do to reduce returns – and they’re backed by three simple, human truths.

1. People want to know what they’re buying

Most returns happen because a product doesn’t look, fit, work, or perform like the customer expected.

Reviews give customers a chance to look for the specific information they need, the magic little bit of clarification they still require. - Highlight to share -

New digital retail technologies are cutting down on this, but most leave a lot to be desired.

Online fitting rooms, for example, were thought to be a game changer. But it just didn’t happen.

In the article linked above, Sophie Glover, head of technical services at online fashion juggernaut ASOS talks about the constant stream of companies trying to sell online fitting room software:

“Asos is regularly presented with new technology designed to support more accurate sizing choices and reduce returns related to this area of purchase, but so many of them are not practical in what they require the customer to do.”

Asos’ attitude is to keep the dressing room physical – without stores, it just requires a little creativity. Glover explains:

Some customers treat our free shipping service as part of their changing room experience, except it’s at home in their bedroom.

And what about industries other than fashion? And what about products that change over time? The solution needs to be a little broader.

2. People trust other people

Today, over three-quarters of consumers actively seek out customer reviews before making their purchase. “Customer reviews” don’t mean marketing copy, and they don’t mean celebrity endorsement. People want the real scoop, directly from other real people like them.

59% of consumers have recommended a company or product to a friend in the last twelve months. Additionally, a full 78% of consumers report they trust friends and family to tell them the truth about a product.

That last part is the kicker; even the best, most truthful and accurate information about a product will not be believed by over two-thirds of new customers – see all the figures in Edelman’s trust barometer report.

Even more interesting? Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers would rate “a person like themselves” extremely or very credible.

3. Reviews help people know what they’re buying

Enter reviews, the magic bullet of trust.

Reviews displayed directly on product pages give consumers several valuable pieces of information.

First, they convey just how satisfied buyers usually are with the purchase – whether in its quality or in how well it matches the description.

A product that’s not suitable won’t find its way into customers’ carts and will inevitably be returned less frequently. Also, it’s worth noting that over-enthusiastic reviews (which are often incentivised) also lead to more returns.

While a product page may only have a paragraph or two of description, reviews expand that into potentially pages and pages of specific details, observations, concerns, and discussions. - Highlight to share -

But more than that, reviews give customers a chance to look for the specific information they need, the magic little bit of clarification they still require.

While a product page may only have a paragraph or two of description, reviews expand that into potentially pages and pages of specific details, observations, concerns, and discussions.

We recommend using reviews in tandem with a peer-to-peer Q&A engine like our Conversations product. That way, if people don’t find exactly what they’re after in the reviews, they can ask a genuine customer.

This is especially helpful with products that can be difficult to describe concisely. If the car you are selling has a billion features, chances are you may not have listed them all. However, you can bet someone has a question about it – and a customer has the answer.

Give the power back to the people. Let them decide which features other buyers need to know about. After all, who knows your buyers better than your buyers?

So how do you reduce returns? Make sure the product your customers buy is exactly what they expect and then there’s no reason to send it back.

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How to reduce returns