Many small-to-medium-sized e-commerce companies are looking for international returns tips, and for good reason. International returns can be incredibly costly for online companies that are competing against local businesses and giants like Amazon who offer free shipping and free return shipping.
To help you tackle this challenge, we share some of our top international returns tips below. Choose the ones that make the most sense for your customers and start winning their loyalty.
Why Getting International Returns Right Matters
Returns are a much bigger deal for e-commerce retailers than for brick-and-mortar shops. According to Shopify, e-commerce return rates are more than double those of brick-and-mortar stores (20% vs. 8-10%). Those return rates go up: (a) during the holidays (30%), and (b) for more expensive items (a whopping 50%). Brick-and-mortar stores also save on return shipping costs because customers are far more likely to bring the product back themselves.
How companies handle international returns can have a big impact on sales. According to the same Shopify research, 83% of customers check return policies before buying, and 80% of them expect free returns. On average, retailers spend 8% of total sales on reverse logistics—that number is likely even higher for international e-commerce.
But companies with miserly return policies may be erasing the returns problem in advance—by preventing customers from purchasing in the first place. While it may be costly, not having a return policy can make e-commerce shoppers 67% less likely to make a purchase.
International Returns Tips
Navigating international returns in a way that wins you loyal customers is often a matter of conducting market research along with trial and error. Think of the following international returns tips like the raw materials from which you can build a winning returns policy.
Have a Clear and Easy-to-Find Returns Policy
The most effective—and basic—thing you can do is provide a clear and simple returns policy. According to BigCommerce, an effective returns policy shouldn’t make customers jump through hoops. Instead, a difficult returns policy suggests to consumers that your company isn’t trustworthy and can lead them to shop elsewhere.
Provide a Pre-Printed Return Label
If you want to make your customers’ lives simple, pre-printed return labels placed right in the box can do just that for international orders. Not only do they simplify the international returns process, they ensure the paperwork is accurate, which helps you manage your inventory.
On the flip side, according to Returnly, pre-printed return labels can make customers more likely to return an item. Plus, customers won’t have to contact your company before making the return, denying your customer service team a chance to rectify the issue. It may be a matter of testing things out to see how customers respond.
Consider a Returns Consolidation Service
If you’re a smaller retailer, it may be more cost-effective to utilize a returns consolidation service. Instead of independently shipping every return, a returns consolidation service groups together returns and ships them back as one unit.
Returns consolidation is a great choice for companies with small goods, as it results in more cost-effective bulk shipments. One downside? You may need to ship out the new exchange item before receiving the returned item.
Make Return Shipping So Great, Customers Won’t Use It
Free return shipping is, as we’ve mentioned, an expected benefit thanks to Amazon. Free international shipping, however, probably isn’t financially feasible for most companies. One way you can be generous is in the amount of time you allow for returns. Popular e-commerce companies like Zappos offer free shipping and a 365-day return window.
The odd thing about the long return window is that the more convenient the return policy, the more people spend overall at the company. Generous returns policies create loyal customers who spend more. They also create opportunities for upselling. This is a win-win for e-commerce companies shipping internationally.
Forgo Returns Altogether
Some companies like Walmart choose to skip returns altogether in certain cases, allowing customers to keep the original item and get their new item after contacting customer service.
While this might not make sense for everyone, it can be a cheaper option in some cases to send a new item instead of paying for shipping two ways. And it gives sellers the opportunity to serve the customer by resolving the issue directly—which is likely to leave a positive impression.
SkyPostal Can Help With International Returns
For more international returns tips, contact a SkyPostal representative today. With decades of experience shipping to international destinations like Latin America, we can help you create the right logistics plan for your customers.