Saturday, 14 June 2014

Why offering customers free returns it not so insane



 Offering free returns completes
the full circle of trust.
(It's not the sale).
In short, as reputable sellers whom want to be respected online, we should  aim to keep returns to a minimum by being genuine, never over selling on promise, and then convert unavoidable returns into surprising customers with a hassle free service which they reward the seller with an increased level of trust.


"The true score is made when a customer is given a hassle free returns experience, they will feel safe to order more next time. In many ways, it's your returns experience which "seals the deal" and not the sale itself. - You want continued custom, not a one-time hit."


Paying for returns- the rationale
A seven year (American) study  found that the 'wrong size' was the number one reason for returns (Dr. Petersen et al 2009). However, it's misguided to look at returns as a bad thing when we look at the full circle for the customer. It found 13% returns is the sweet spot for increased follow-up orders because they come to trust the retailer more. 

-This makes sense dons't it? If you know you've got the freedom to return, hassle & cost free, your going to be more comfortable buying more. The study affirms this. 




It's about building the trust, according to psychologist & retail consultant Kit Yarrow, observes that Women especially see their relationship with on-line retailers as a very personal one, and feel violated when not treated as a 'friend' or trusted member. Being a 'happy customer' doesn't stop when the item arrives. 

It's alarmingly true,  think about the last time you returned something to an on-line store which didn't go to plan. After being treated badly, how to you feel shopping there again. Did they factor in your previous spends with the company? 

The true score is made when a customer is given a hassle free returns experience, they will feel safe to order more next time. In many ways, it's the returns experience which "seals the deal" and not the sale itself. The deal is the relationship with the customer, trusting us to buy again, despite our faults. A sale is a small part of that continuing relationship. 
Reality- when returns are hitting the bottom line
Of course, if a significant number of returns start to happen, it tells us something's not right with the offer being presented. It's not an indication to penalise customers further an unfriendly returns policy. Poor product descriptions this is the third top reason for returns on-line (Dr. Petersen et al 2009).


Your product descriptions – online or in print – should be as accurate as possible.  A great deal of effort should go into crafting detailed product descriptions that answer just about any question a customer might have – especially online.  Extra effort should be put into proofing these same descriptions for accuracy before they’re released to consumers.   Generally, customers buy because they like what they see.  If they don’t get what they see, they start thinking that maybe you’ve pulled the old “bait and switch” – leading to returns that could have been easily avoided.
- J. Andrew Petersen study

What the customers are saying (or shouting!)

Missguided.co.uk (a random example) sells is a typical on-line retail store, they're generally badly reviewed on-line- but primarily for their returns. It's very easy to find positive review, however, commending the quality of the products vs their low price. So what's the problem?

One customer points out "Charging for returns says one thing to me, and that's that they get so many they can't afford to cover it themselves and remain sufficiently profitable" the review.

Square pegs round holes.
Isn't it it's the worst kept secret people buy feelings not things? Truth is people do buy more once they come to trust the retailer they're buying from and retailers can partly build that relationship with returns. 


For a detailed discussion on retailing on-line, the panel "Britain's Retail Empire 2013" interview with mywardrobe.com and others comes highly recommended.

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