Online retailers face an ongoing struggle to reduce the number of returns, and according to Barclaycard shoppers in the United Kingdom alone are returning 7bn GBP of goods each year. Around 60-65% of returned items are linked to poor product information quality, and poor decision-making.
Returns have several negative consequences for both eCommerce stores and consumers. Returns are time consuming, creating a lot of extra work for both the online retailer and customers. In addition, there is also the cost associated with the time and resources it takes to send and process return orders. Of course, there is a negative environmental impact related to returns too. Longer term consequences of a high number of returns for the eCommerce retailer can include negative customer reviews, diminished brand perception, and lower profit margins.
Understandably all eCommerce store owners are looking for ways to improve the customer experience, create long term brand loyalty and reduce the number of returns they receive.
Let’s look in more detail at some of the ways retailers can improve the returns ratio, including using tools like product finders that deliver guided selling.
Effective techniques for reducing returns
There are a few popular ways that eCommerce stores try to reduce returns. Have a look at a few of the techniques listed below and see how many of them you are already using or which ones you could adopt.
- Represent Products Accurately: When you provide detailed descriptions that give consumers a good idea of the product they're buying and what it can do for them it's likely to reduce returns. Photography and videos are also important in providing accurate representation of products. Try to ensure that you provide multiple angles of the product in the photography, so users get a better overall picture of what they are buying.
- Represent Sizing Correctly: Sizing issues are one of the biggest reasons consumers return goods. When you provide accurate sizing details on product pages it helps consumers find the right item for them the first time around.
- Encourage Customer Reviews and Feedback: By enabling customers to leave reviews and feedback on product pages it allows other shoppers to pick up more details on the items in question. This can result in better information and allow customers to make better decisions on the products they buy and result in less dissatisfaction once the goods are received, meaning fewer returns.
- Package Your Items Properly: Another big reason for returns is damaged goods where the received artefact is faulty. While issues could happen in different stages of the item’s production, delivery in inadequate packaging is a simple reason that some items are damaged in transit. This can be easily corrected, and you can reduce returns by ensuring that products reach the destination in great condition.
- Offer Live Chat and Real-Time Support: Live chat provides customers with another way to get the information they need to buy the right product to suit their requirements. It also allows them to ask questions that might otherwise be a block to them completing a purchase. Live chat can also be used to solve issues with products once the consumer receives them. If they are unsure on how to use or care for the product for example, live chat assistance could prevent some returns.
- Adopt a Liberal Returns Policy: Whatever the reason, retailers need to have a process in place to handle returns smoothly and efficiently to avoid a negative customer experience. Large companies like Amazon have set the standard for easy returns and now consumers expect a similar level of service from other retailers.
- Analyze and Improve: If you want to lower returns it is important to collect as much data on your returns as possible. This will allow you to see if certain products or categories have higher than average return rates. For example, a bike accessories eCommerce store that collects returns data and finds out a poor and inaccurate product description is leading to high return rates of a bike seat. They now have information to act on and improve the return rates for that item.
While each of the above steps can all play a part in reducing returns, one of the best ways to have a big impact on reducing returns is by introducing guided selling to your eCommerce store.
Why is guided selling so effective in reducing returns?
The guided selling approach in eCommerce works so well because it gives users a more personalized shopping experience online, replicating the traditional retail shopping experience.
It works by providing guidance on which products meet the shoppers’ criteria. This experience is much like visiting a technology store in real life and searching for a TV. There are so many choices, and the products are technical, so it can be overwhelming. In the physical retail store, a friendly advisor asks you questions and helps to guide you on the right choice giving you information to enable your decision. Guided selling delivered by product finders provides shoppers with a similar experience online. It’s particularly useful in technical categories like electronics. Research from Global Web Index shows that electronics have one of the highest rates of return at 46%.
So how does the guided selling process actually work to reduce returns? Whatever you call product finders – product advisors, quiz wizards, guided selling tools – they are key to solving the pains of both the brand and customer.
The product finder asks the shopper a few questions and based on their input personalizes the product recommendations, to make sure the customer gets all the information they need to facilitate their purchase decision. By narrowing down choices the customer is not paralyzed by too much choice and the struggle to make a decision. After they have answered several questions to narrow down the product options, consumers are much more confident they are making the right choice for them. This not only works really well for increasing purchase rates, but also extends through to the consumer being much happier with what they have bought and reduces return rates too.
For example, imagine a shopper that’s looking for a new tent, unsure of what level of water resistance they need, not understanding the technical specifications on the product page. A product finder would instead ask the shopper questions about what kind of weather conditions are expected, to accommodate their need. As a result of this interaction and the users’ input, only the tents that meet the desired criteria are presented, making the shopping experience faster, more enjoyable, and ultimately more successful for both store owner and the customer.
Dialogtrail is a lightweight product finder that can be designed to fit your brand style with no coding required. Products can be uploaded and connected to the software and then automatically update in real-time as you adjust your inventory.
Our guided selling tool enables brands to deliver more personalized shopping experiences, and complete more sales. Find out more about our product finder software or contact us for a product demo today!