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Reduce return costs – With average return rates at around 20% for e-commerce retailers, return shipping is a major expense. Are you looking for some inventive ways to reduce your return costs as an online retailer? Try incorporating some of our best practices below into your return shipping strategy.

1. Reduce return costs by understanding the total cost of returns

It’s important to remember that return shipping costs are a lot more than just the costs you pay for the shipping itself.

For every minute your customer support and logistics teams spend handling a return, your costs increase—and your margins shrink even more.

And every return that a customer goes through has a big influence on whether they’ll come back to make another purchase in the future. 

In short, there’s a lot riding on every return, so it has to be handled as efficiently as possible. Remember to keep the big picture in mind when designing your return shipping policy.

Just because you find a cheaper shipping service doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lower the total cost of your returns. If that cheap service winds up causing more work for your team and less satisfaction for your customers, you’ll lose money in the long term.

2. Define a consistent return shipping policy to reduce returns

Handling returns on a case-by-case basis is time-consuming, expensive and ultimately frustrating for your customers.

To operate efficiently, you’ll need a clear set of rules in place for how you want to handle every return. Take time to write a clear return policy and actively communicate it to your customers before they make a purchase.

According to our latest research report, more than half of your customers insist on checking your returns policy before making a purchase anyway.

So, by having clear rules in place, you manage expectations. You also set the scene for a smooth return in case the customer decides they want to send something back.

3. Provide rich product descriptions and information

There are plenty of tactics you can use to reduce the likelihood that a customer will return a product in the first place.

Most returns happen because the product does not meet the customer’s expectations. So, make sure that your product pages show your customers exactly what they can expect.

Use detailed product descriptions, including text, images, videos and even 3D simulations. These are all great ways to give your customers a crystal-clear picture of what your product is, so they can be sure they’re ordering exactly what they want.

For fashion retailers, offering a size guide is a must. Provide exact measurements and use photos with models to show how the clothes fit. Don’t forget to specify the model’s height and which size they’re wearing.

Also, display customer reviews. This helps your customers understand your products even better, so they can make the right choice and avoid being disappointed.

4. Reduce return costs by automating your returns process

Every return-related email or phone call your customer support team has to answer adds to the overall cost of your company’s returns.

To reduce unnecessary contacts, offer a convenient, easy online portal for your customers to self-service their own returns.

With Sendcloud, your customer logs in to their account on your site and there they can create a return shipping label in just a few clicks. The return shipping is then handled automatically and in accordance with your predetermined policy.

The customer receives all the information and instructions they need, and then they’re ready to return the product without ever having to contact your customer support.

Another option is to enclose return shipping labels in the parcel when shipping out products in the first place. This enables your customers to conveniently return unwanted items without having to call for help.

5. Communicate proactively throughout the returns process

When a customer decides to return a product, this is your chance to impress them with good service so they’ll be more likely to make another order in the future.

Proactive communication is essential. Use automated tracking updates that inform the customer at every stage of the return shipping process. It’s especially important to keep customers informed of the status of any refund or exchange.

Offering as much information as possible reduces the number of queries your support team receives, which saves you money.

It also keeps your customers happy, which is crucial to the success of your returns procedure—and your business as a whole.