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Reducing Online Store Returns: 5 Ways to Improve Merchandise Return Rates

Merchandise returns are not ideal for any retailer, but online retailers are especially vulnerable. Given that online shoppers can’t pick up and examine merchandise firsthand before making a purchase, there’s a higher risk that customers will receive their purchases and find that they’re not exactly what they wanted.

But there are ways that merchants can reduce such risks. By equipping online shoppers with valuable product knowledge, e-retailers are able to not only make the sale, but also ensure that customers are happy with their purchase. And by lessening the number of returns that need to be processed, online merchants are able to devote their time and resources to other revenue-drivers instead of to returns management.

See our five tips on how to position products on your online store that will make your shoppers well-informed, eager to buy, and ultimately satisfied with their purchases.

1. High Quality Product Images

Since online shoppers can’t physically see and inspect merchandise, images are the closest way for them to see products up-close.

Providing high-resolution photos of the merchandise allows shoppers to view the product better, which means they also have a better understanding of what they will receive if they purchase it. The ability to zoom-in to the image, and the ability to rotate the image 360 degrees so that the shoppers can see front and back, are also important in familiarizing the customer with the product.

Showing product pages that contain high quality photos as well as zoom-in and 360-degree image rotation capabilities offer online shoppers an up-close view of merchandise.

Showing product pages that contain high quality photos as well as zoom-in and 360-degree image rotation capabilities offer online shoppers an up-close view of merchandise.

2. Strong Product Descriptions

As an activity, shopping involves two very important components: the visual component, and the tactile component. Regardless of whether the shopping is taking place in a brick-and-mortar shop or an online store, how well a retail location engages these elements determines how likely a shopper is going to buy merchandise, as well as how likely a shopper will come back.

For an online retail channel, the visual component is fulfilled with great photos of products (see point #1). For the tactile component, product descriptions communicate the details of those photos, which help shoppers understand the feel of a product instead of just how it looks.

When a customer turns to product descriptions for their product research, the want clear, straightforward information – and don’t be afraid to skimp on the details either. Also, it’s crucial that your descriptions are completely honest. Don’t say that the heel on a particular shoe is 3 inches high when it’s really 2 inches high. If product descriptions are false, then you set your customers up with the wrong expectations – which inevitably lead to returned products.

Product descriptions are a valuable source of information for online shoppers. By providing clear, straightforward, and truthful details about your products, you allow shoppers to get a better understanding of the look-and-feel of a particular item.

Product descriptions are a valuable source of information for online shoppers. By providing clear, straightforward, and truthful details about your products, you allow shoppers to get a better understanding of the look-and-feel of a particular item.

3. Product Comparisons

With the various different types of merchandise that a store may offer, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which item is best. For shoppers, being able to compare two products together is a helpful way to identify which item is more suitable, which in turn means they will be more satisfied with the purchase in the long-run.

While customers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores can physically compare two products side by side, e-retailers can also give that experience with product comparison functionality. With online product comparisons, merchants allow shoppers to choose whichever two (or more) items they would like to compare and then lists the selected items’ dimensions, physical characteristics, prices, etc.

Seeing this information all in one place as opposed to visiting each individual product page and manually compiling it, product comparison saves shoppers time and energy, as well as gives them the material they need to make the right purchase.

Product comparison functionality allows online shoppers to evaluate different items all at one time, giving shoppers instant access to the information they need to make a well-informed purchase.

Product comparison functionality allows online shoppers to evaluate different items all at one time, giving shoppers instant access to the information they need to make a well-informed purchase.

4. Product Reviews

Product reviews are important to post on your e-commerce site because they a) signal to shoppers that real people are buying and using your products, and b) they provide helpful user information on the products.

For example, if a customer writes that a particular shirt runs small in a review, a shopper will know to buy the shirt in the next size up from their normal size. Or perhaps a customer writes a review containing tips on how the product best worked for them – a shopper who reads it will in turn understand how to most effectively use the product, and thus get greater value from it.

Product reviews provide worthwhile information that helps guide customers’ purchases, as well as helps adjust customers’ expectations or understanding. When customers know what they’re getting in purchasing an item, and when they know how to get the most value out of that purchase thanks to other customer recommendations, they don’t have a reason to return it.

Product reviews supplied by customers are a great way to offer valuable user information to shoppers. Providing these firsthand insights allow shoppers to better understand both the product and how to get the most value out of that product.

Product reviews supplied by customers are a great way to offer valuable user information to shoppers. Providing these firsthand insights allow shoppers to better understand both the product and how to get the most value out of that product.

5. 24-Hour, Toll-Free Customer Service

Giving your customers access to a customer service agent can make the difference between returned merchandise and retained merchandise. Providing a 24-hour, toll-free phone number, or a customer service email address that is also monitored 24 hours a day, provides crucial touch-points for engaging the customer and troubleshooting issues.

Designating well-trained staff to handle customer queries is vital for this process. We’ve all heard (or have) horror stories about unfriendly or unhelpful customer service representatives. But if your company develops a reputation for pleasant, easy, and useful customer service, more customers will turn to you for help instead of automatically returning items that they’re having issues with.

If you have any questions, or if you would like more information on how to improve your online merchandising processes, please email us at ecommerce@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRMeCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 7 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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