Did you know that as much as 40% of ecommerce purchases end up as returns?
That’s not just an expensive hassle for merchants. It also spells trouble for the environment: About 6 billion pounds of returned products end up in landfills each year.
Often, the merchants can’t resell the products for liability issues, or they’re last season’s products that are easier to simply write off. Whatever the case may be, they’ve just been shipped back to the retailer, wasting carbon on transportation, only to go into a landfill – when the brand could have easily asked the customer to recycle the product.
In order to reduce the amount of waste we’re contributing to the environment, brands need strategies to do better and reduce the number of returns ending up in the garbage.
But blanket return policies make it difficult to anticipate whether it makes sense to accept a return or not – and as a result, retailers end up paying for return shipping on products that will simply end up as garbage once they make it back to the warehouse.
With an automated returns management solution like Loop in place, it’s easy to set up policies to reduce return waste. Let’s take a look at two key features that will help you lower your return rates, and identify alternative strategies for driving customer satisfaction in the post-purchase cycle.
Insights: Learn why a product didn’t work
Loop’s self-service returns management platform provides customers initiating a return with a drop-down menu that gives them options for deciding why an item didn’t work for them. For example, a pair of jeans might be “too large,” “too small,” “wrong color,” “damaged,” or another reason.
From here, you can offer the customer an alternative from your inventory that will likely be a better fit for them based on their given reason: If they ordered a 28-inch waist, suggest a 29-inch. This makes customers more likely to initiate a direct exchange, helping your brand retain the revenue from the product return that would otherwise be lost.
Along with that, Loop’s “Insights” feature provides you with valuable data to help you understand trends in why customers are initiating returns, on a per-product, per-category, and site-wide basis.
For example, if your online apparel shop is seeing a higher than the average number of returns from a single brand, and the most common reason is “too small,” you’ll be aware that the product sizing runs small, and can recommend that customers purchase a size up when buying anything from this brand. This will help you lower the number of returns, and help you manage customer expectations.
If a blanket is frequently being returned with the reason “didn’t match item description,” take another look at your product listing and inspect the item to see why it doesn’t match up, then revamp the product web copy or remove the item from your inventory altogether.
By taking steps to manage customer expectations based on the feedback you receive, you’ll be able to limit the number of returns you need to process in the first place.
Workflows: Set conditions for what to do with an unwanted item
But when the return requests do come in, that’s where Workflows comes into play.
Loop’s Workflows tool lets you set conditional logic for when a product should or shouldn’t be returned for a refund, if the customer has decided it’s not the right fit for them.
With Workflows, you can set rules for how to manage return requests, based on factors including the item category, the cost, and even the specific item.
For example, if the customer has purchased a sweater that you know you can easily resell, you can process a refund or exchange as usual.
However, if their return request is for a set of headbands that cost more to ship back than the item is worth, you might refund the customer their money, but allow them to keep, recycle, or donate the item.
Likewise, for an item that the customer is returning because it’s damaged or stained, it doesn’t make sense to request a return. In this case, you might refund the customer their money, but provide them with a shipping label to send it to a donation center, where the materials can be recycled into other products.
With Workflows, you can set as many custom options as needed, enabling customers to find the right resolution no matter what type of product they’re trying to return, without involving your customer support team. That provides a great customer experience while keeping your labor costs low – and prioritizing sustainability at every turn.
The value of sustainability
Many brands are increasing their commitment to sustainability across the board, by incorporating recycled and eco-friendly materials, using minimal and sustainable packaging materials, and using alternative power sources to reduce their carbon footprint.
By prioritizing sustainability in your returns process as well, your brand will be able to build a holistic path towards supporting environmental initiatives at every phase of the customer lifecycle, including the post-purchase phase.
And that’s not just good for the world – it’s also good for business. Globally, 85% of shoppers say that they’ve shifted their behavior over the last five years towards purchasing more products from companies that prioritize sustainability.
By demonstrating, and standing behind your commitment to environmentalism, with a clear list of goals and transparent data that shows how well you’re doing at meeting them, your brand can do more than pay lip service to sustainability.
For example, with the right processes in place, you’ll be able to showcase the impact you’ve made to reduce the number of returns that end up in landfills – and that’s clear data that will help you drive higher sales, and more brand loyalty from customers who care about the environment.
Want to learn more about how Loop can help your brand move forward with your sustainability goals? Contact us for a demo.