The international return process will become increasingly important for cross-border customers in the coming years as more purchases move online. Cross-border e-commerce is expected to grow at double the rate of domestic e-commerce through 2020, and more purchases mean more returns. For international shipments, customers’ primary concern is that their return has been received and is being processed.
For international e-commerce companies, a streamlined return process is a financial necessity. When shoppers can’t touch and try on items like they do in-store, they tend to rely heavily on the return process. E-commerce customers, on average, return twice as many items than people who shop in retail stores (20% versus 8–10%).
The return process can be expensive to manage, from shipping costs to inventory management, even without the added costs of international shipping. Reverse logistics (another name for the return process) eat up 8% of total sales for retailers on average, and that number goes up for international returns.
Without a streamlined international return process, costs can quickly balloon out of control. But the money spent on the return process doesn’t tell the whole story.
Why the Return Process Matters
Thanks to the pressure of e-commerce giants Amazon and Alibaba, even small e-commerce businesses are making fast and free shipping a priority. It’s one of the most important things customers look for when doing business with e-commerce companies.
According to Retail Dive, 91% of consumers said being offered free shipping from a seller would make them more likely to become a repeat customer. Companies have, for the most part, made these expectations a reality: 75% of all e-commerce purchases ship for free.
While companies have figured out shipping, when it comes to returns there remains a big disconnect between customer expectations and reality. 90% of consumers consider free return shipping important or very important when determining whether they’ll be a repeat customer. However, only 11.8% of all e-commerce returns ship back for free.
This disconnect reveals that e-commerce companies often stop thinking about the customer experience once the package arrives. Customers, on the other hand, continue to evaluate their experience when returning purchases.
By failing to focus on the return process, companies miss out on creating the best possible customer experience. E-commerce retailers actually stand to gain an immense amount of insight into their customers by analyzing the circumstances of returns. This data will go a long way in improving the customer experience.
Make the Return Process the Best Part of the Customer Experience
If a customer has to return an item—whether it arrived broken, didn’t fit, or wasn’t needed—a fast and pain-free return process will make the difference between a happy, loyal customer and an angry former customer. Simply asking a customer to pay return postage can turn them against your company: a whopping 69% of shoppers say they won’t buy from a retailer again if they have to pay for return shipping.
Here are some tips to streamline the international return process to improve the customer experience:
Before shipping, confirm you have the correct address on the label. Up to 5% of all packages are returned to sender because of incorrect addresses.
Write a clear and easy-to-find return policy. Avoid legalese; instead use everyday language.
Write your return policy in the common languages your international customers speak.
Provide a printable return shipping label once the international return is processed.
Give your customers the ability to track the return so they know exactly when they’ll get their money back or when a new item will be sent out.
For low-volume retailers, use a shipping consolidator to reduce shipping costs for your customers.
Use the return process as a chance to follow-up with your customer and get feedback via an online survey or email—making them feel valued at this stage will help win loyalty.
Give customers who return items special offers and discounts to keep them coming back.
A better customer experience return process may cost a little more, but in the long run it will pay off. According to PwC, customers are willing to pay 16% more for a better customer experience. Since international orders are often already more expensive, customers undoubtedly expect stellar treatment.
If you’re dealing with Latin American returns, SkyPostal has the shipping experience and network of dedicated couriers to make the international return process a breeze. Contact us today to learn how we can improve your customers’ logistics experience.