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3 Tips for Converting Online Merchandise Returns into Customer Returns

Merchandise returns – I know the term is enough to make any retailer groan. We’ve already covered in a previous blog article the ways that you can try to prevent merchandise returns from happening, but they are still an unavoidable part of the retailer’s life.

Given that Americans return 9% of all retail purchases each year – which translates to approximately $264 billion worth of goods, according to InvestorPlace – returns are not going anywhere anytime soon.

With such significant numbers of customers heading to the return aisle, it’s important for retailers, especially online retailers, to keep in mind that returns management is another exciting opportunity to wow your customer. And when customers are happy, they keep coming back.

Read our three tips below for optimizing the merchandise returns process, and for giving your customers a reason to visit again.

1. Self-Service Return Capability

Online shoppers are an independent bunch. Equipped with technology that enables them to research or purchase whatever they wish, whenever they wish, customers want the same freedom when it comes to returns – they want to be able to return items whenever they like.

By enabling self-service returns, online retailers give customers crucial power and control over their purchasing decisions. With Ignify eCommerce, customers can easily create new return requests from their My Accounts. While creating new return requests, customers can select a return reason code that can determine the lifecycle and treatment of the return order.

Self-Service Return Capability

By including a selection of return reasons in customers’ return request forms, you gain crucial data regarding their return behavior, which helps you to better market and merchandize accordingly. 

For example, you can set up your return policies in the system so that the reason return code entered by the customer determines the refund amount that the customer will receive. For instance, a “Damaged Merchandise” return reason code could mean that a customer would receive a full refund; or a “Changed Mind” return reason code could provide a partial refund. You also have the ability to configure your e-commerce store so that customers are able to return an entire order, an order line, or just a partial quantity on the order line.

With this flexibility, if a customer orders multiple items but only wants to return one, then he does not need to return the entire order – which means merchants do not have to process multiple returned items, and thus lose out on those revenues, for the sake of one.

2. Visibility on Return Status

Not only has technology made customers want the instant ability to complete whichever action they want (purchasing, returning, etc.), but it has also made them want, and expect, the newest updates.  Just look at social media –– everyone is always connected to their social networking sites, constantly on the lookout for new happenings in their friends’ lives, or posting their own new life events.

By allowing customers to view the status of return orders – such as Being Processed, Item Received, and Return Completed – merchants communicate to customers that their returns have been recognized and are being handled. Essentially, the anxiety and guesswork of a customer returning an item is eliminated.   Customer service representatives also have the ability to see return statuses, providing full visibility should a customer contact them to verify the placement of a return order.

Visibility on Return Status

Providing customers with up-to-date statuses on their returned merchandise gives greater visibility into the process – which helps put their mind at ease that their return is being handled.

3. Customizing Special Offers Based on a Customer’s Return Information

So you’ve given a customer an easy, smooth, and painless item return process – that’s where the return engagement ends, right? Wrong!

Without a doubt, giving customers an outstandingly simple item return process is absolutely crucial. If they don’t have a good experience making a return, then it can make them look at the entire purchasing process in a negative light – which means there’s a definite chance they won’t want to purchase from you again. 

But in addition to providing excellent return service, if you want to really differentiate your business from your competitors in regards to return service, send targeted promotions based on your customer’s returned merchandise, or on their reasons for returning.

For example, if a shopper says that she decided to return a shirt because she simply changed her mind, follow up with an email campaign sharing the cool new sales on all the tops in your store, or on new shirt arrivals, etc.

Or if the reason that a customer returned an item was because it was broken or not working properly, you can send him a small discount coupon to redeem on his next purchase.

By personalizing offers according to customers’ desires and behavior (even for customers in the return line), you convey to your customers that a) you value their business; b) you recognize them as individuals, not just a nameless and faceless mass; and c) you appreciate them spending their time and money on your store. When people feel sincerely valued, then they will feel comfortable visiting and purchasing from you again – even if they had a previous experience where a product didn’t work out.

Merchandise Returns: Another Customer Service Touch Point

It’s important to remember that merchandise returns are another touch point with customers, making it another way for you to build and strengthen those customer relationships. Optimizing every interaction with customers is a way to keep expanding your customer base – which translates to maximizing potential revenues. And what better way to make your store stand out than by creating an exceptional customer experience in the place that customers expect it the least? 

For more information on how you can optimize your e-commerce sales channel, 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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