For any business, online or offline, item returns can be annoying to deal with, but it’s a necessary risk. Whether due to customer dissatisfaction, item defect, or mass recall, returns will be something that any retailer will encounter at some point in their business operations.
It has become so embedded in our purchasing habits that it’s reasonable to always expect it, in some industries more than others. For example, people will often order the same garment online in different sizes and return all the ones that don’t fit. It’s an extremely efficient and clever way to avoid buyer’s remorse, but it’s still a troublesome thing that the retailer needs to deal with.
There are several ways to deal with this issue, but the two most common areas that you can work on will be product flow and return handling. Successfully optimizing these processes can allow you to deal with item returns easily, as well as opening new marketing opportunities.
Returns handling is a more straightforward way of dealing with the item return issue: making sure that there are processes in place (like warranty management systems) that can accurately take care of concerns arising from product returns. As much as possible, you should make returns easy on your purchases, or have a plan in place if returns can be a little more difficult to pull off.
A big part of returns handling also relies on customer feedback and satisfaction, as they will inherently approach your brand with a negative outlook due to the need to return a product. If handled properly, you avoid a net loss and gain consumer satisfaction. For this reason, it’s important to have a special way to fast-track returns (because if you are processing more than one return, it’s safe to say that your product needs a mass recall.)
On the other hand, product flow is a more systemic way of dealing with item returns, by making sure that the internal processes for both shipping, handling, and (in some cases) quality assurance is optimized for easy return. While it may be a little unreasonable to expect that you can efficiently handle item returns all the time, working on product flow can provide you with some breathing room to maneuver yourself in case you have to deal with one.
Some places you can start with can include order handling and the schedule of which you receive and refresh products. Allowing for some buffer time for the few factory defects to be returned and replaced with new ones is an easy and reliable way to handle demands for item returns; and even if you operate on a seasonal basis for your offerings, it’s best to just keep a few stocks on hand just in case.
Item returns are a necessary risk that every retail company needs to face, but it’s a process that can be made somewhat easier with the correct systems in place to prepare for such an eventuality. Handled correctly, it’s an opportunity to both grow your brand in terms of consumer satisfaction and acquire more business by selling better alternatives.