Building Brand Lessons: The Returns Cycle

As online shopping continues to become more popular, ecommerce businesses should look to their returns policy to ensure that they are not only meeting the need for convenience, but that they are being environmentally conscious. Nate Burke, CEO & founder of ecommerce specialists Diginius, discusses why demand for an improved returns process should be top priority for retailers.


The Struggles of Returns for Ecommerce Businesses


Brands right now are doing everything they can to cater to the concerns of consumers in turbulent times, such as increasing returns windows. However, this can create logistical and financial difficulties, particularly given ever-rising return rates, with estimates placing this at 20% for ecommerce businesses.

Brands are also having to cater to evolving shopper practices, particularly with clothing, with multiple ‘options’ often bought so that customers can pick and return items that are least preferential.

It’s about finding a balance between nurturing consumer relationships with fast, simple and reliable returns processes, while ensuring business operations do not directly suffer as a result.


Introducing Sustainability into Returns Processes


Of course, it’s also imperative for brands to seek more sustainable practices when it comes to managing online orders and returns. With more online orders comes more returns, increasing carbon footprints as parcels are exchanged across the country.

To combat this, consumers should be offered sustainable returns processes, such as the option to combine multiple returns within one parcel, or be provided with returns packaging that is made from recyclable materials.

ASOS is a fine example of a brand that ditched traditional paper returns forms and instead, dedicated an entire portal to returns on their app, allowing consumers to not only make returns quickly and easily for free, but also without the use of excess paper, directly catering to the sustainability-focused consumer.

Both sustainability and ecommerce come hand in hand. Businesses need to monitor all reasons for returns and resolve issues at the core, such as quality issues, product descriptions on the website, packaging problems, photography, better fitting guides, consistent measurements and phone support.

While customers always want free returns, sometimes putting in a charge for returns can help optimise return rates, although there is still a need to monitor the impact on sales.

With everyone working towards carbon reduction goals, combined with the regulatory pressures and customers becoming more keenly aware, it’s imperative that brands ensure their returns are ethical.


How Can Paid-For Returns Still Be Used?


For smaller, boutique businesses, it isn’t always feasible to offer free returns, and it can pose a serious drain on business resources.

However, there are ways that smaller retailers can provide paid-for returns without losing customers.

For example, brands could offer a realistic discount on the consumers next shop, or even invite loyal customers to exclusive events to demonstrate your thanks and appreciation for their custom.

Luckily, with around 54% of Gen Z shoppers willing to pay more for sustainable products over mass-produced items, stores that cater to these demands may be more likely to get away with a paid-for returns model than others.

No longer can returns simply be regarded to as an “extra” – instead, they should be integrated into business practices from both a general and sustainability point of view to allow brands to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive digital landscape.