When businessmen enter the eCommerce space, their spectrum broadens. They are no longer limited to catering to the needs of customers who walk into their stores. Instead, they have to pay close attention to their online buyers too.
Now, since the number of online customers can often be significantly high as compared to physical customers, eCommerce business owners are expected to watch over the tiniest of things to determine whether or not they are aiming at their consumers’ satisfaction. Even a slight glitch can lead to huge losses.
Typically, ensuring a great customer experience includes having a seamless logistics channel, flawless customer interaction, and timely service. But despite ensuring all of this in place, many eCommerce owners fail to satisfy their customers, and there is one very simple reason for this - poor eCommerce returns in India workflow.
Agreed that no business owner wants their customers to return their products, but keeping the common buyer psychology in mind, providing the option to return products hassle-freely is what every online seller must do to retain its customers for the long run.
If you have been neglecting eCommerce product returns in India and are struggling to meet customer expectations, do read this article for some helpful insights.
2) What are eCommerce returns?
In simple terms, eCommerce returns is the name given to the workflow that includes all operations which take place when customers return products bought from eCommerce websites or apps in India. This can happen for a number of reasons which are discussed in the next section.
Though returns are common in every business, they are worrisome for online sellers because they not only have to let go of the revenue they earned from that sale, but also pay additional money to get the product back to their warehouse. Additionally, sellers have to pay warehouse charges till the product sits there, and if the customer demands an exchange, they have to bear the cost of delivering the correct product to their doorsteps.
But despite that lengthy reverse shipment process, sellers can’t restrict offering the option for eCommerce returns in India to their customers, because as mentioned earlier, it’s all about ensuring a great buyer’s journey for their customers.
And now, let us discuss the most common reasons why customers return products.
3) Common reasons behind eCommerce returns in India
Knowing your customers is the most important aspect of every business. Understanding what motivates them to make purchases could help build a better and long-lasting relationship with them while ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction.
Similarly, finding out why customers aren't satisfied with your products and are returning them is equally crucial. It can help you improve your offerings, and in turn, reduce your business's return rate.
Here are some potential reasons why your customers might be returning your products.
3.1) Customer purchased the wrong item or changed their mind
It's tough to predict when a person will change their mind. Often while looking for a product, people get swayed by the offers or attractive looks of things and purchase them. But only after spending their money do they realize that they didn't even need that product or bought the wrong size/style. This often results in them returning the products.
Though you can't stop them from doing so, you can ensure updating accurate information about each product along with clear images and honest customer reviews.
3.2) Customer received the product late or change in need of the customer
Many times, people order things to suit a particular occasion or to celebrate a specific event. Once that moment has passed, they start feeling they no longer need the product. Alternatively, if the order delivery is running late or is delivered after the fulfillment of a customer's requirement, they would naturally not feel the need for it anymore.
Both these scenarios trigger eCommerce product returns in India. To avoid such a situation, sellers should provide real-time shipping information to buyers, so that they can get to know exactly when they will receive the ordered products. Sellers should pay attention to the estimated delivery dates and constantly update the customers about delays in delivery if any.
3.3) Customer received damaged or defective product
No seller is perfect, regardless of how many years they’ve been running their business. There are times when online sellers make mistakes in packaging and end up delivering a damaged product to the customer. For example, when there are items lying idle for long periods in the warehouse, they can expire. Alternatively, incorrect packaging can lead to leakages.
If the eCommerce owner doesn't keep track of such things, they can end up shipping defective items to their customers, leading to returns, and in the long run, business losses.
In the past decade, wardrobing has become a serious issue for many eCommerce owners in India. Seeing lenient return policies, often customers misuse them by using the product and then filing for a return. While they don’t see a harm with it, this causes losses for sellers.
This issue generally arises with apparel and footwear, but it could also involve electronics, kitchen equipment, or any other item that can be used and easily returned. Thus, while having return policies in place is recommended for sellers, they should include time limit clauses or return windows for products, stating that customers can’t return the product after the said window is closed.
3.5) Seller sent the wrong product
When eCommerce sellers receive a huge demand for certain products, sometimes they make mistakes by packing and shipping the incorrect products to the customer. This can not only lead to eCommerce returns in India, but also customer grievance.
Sellers should be cautious of these issues and make sure the packaging and shipment is handled appropriately.
4) eCommerce Returns in India: Facts
India is a hub of eCommerce startups and unicorns. With so many businesses coming up, customers get more options to choose from, but at the same time, there's increased competition both in terms of products and features offered.
As per Statista, in 2019, Indian eCommerce product returns on COD stood at 27%, and returns on prepaid orders were 12%. In 2020, the return on COD came down by 7%, whereas the return on prepaid orders decreased by a mere 1%. Instamojo says that currently, returns in India are fixed between 25-40%. But the quintessential question is, what is governing those returns?
Well, here are some facts that'll help bring out the truth behind eCommerce returns in India.
4.1) Fact 1 - Apparel leads the returned products list
Most customers buying apparel are uncertain about their fit, size, and choice of color. They order products to check what suits them best and return the rest. Similarly, buyers who scroll through websites late at night for some retail therapy don’t really require the products that they impulsively order. The end result is that they place a return order as soon as it shows up on their doorstep.
This itself is a sign that eCommerce business owners in India dealing in apparel should have a better return policy, a more evolved reverse shipment process, and better channels. Electronics and footwear industry should also work on this.
4.2) Fact 2 - Poor return policy can reduce profits by 25%
Shopping from high-end brands often gives customers a 30-60 days return window. But smaller brands can't afford the same. Since there are a lot of costs like logistics, reselling, damaged goods write-off, defective goods repair, etc., involved with every return in India, smaller brands can't process all of them. And in most cases, it eventually takes their revenue to as low as 25%.
4.3) Fact 3 - Rise in reverse logistics
A driving force for customer purchases in India is the flexibility to return products. On top of that, since most sellers offer free shipping and eCommerce product returns, customers don't have to think twice before adding products to their cart. Even smaller brands offer returns by asking customers to post the product from their nearby post office.
All of this fuels more reverse logistics tools and promotes eCommerce shopping in India.
5) Ways to reduce eCommerce returns in India
Reducing eCommerce product returns is essential for every business, especially if you want to last in the long run. It can be done by following three simple steps.
5.1) Step 1 - Uploading quality images and videos of the product
Indian customers give high priority to standards. If a product differs from what is shown on the website, they'll immediately place a return order. Therefore, you should be very careful with uploading pictures and videos.
If you're sticking to pictures only, take them from different angles and don't edit them too much. The closer match the pictures are to the actual product, the more customers will be certain about buying it.
5.2) Step 2 - Be vocal about your return policies
When you're doing business with someone, you need to make them aware of your norms and policies. What rights do they get as customers, whom should they dial in case of any discrepancy, how much would returns or exchange charge or if they're free-of-cost, and all other doubts should be cleared beforehand.
5.3) Step 3 - Have simple and to-the-point product descriptions
Customer satisfaction is a must in every business, and it can only be achieved by staying true to your customers. By adding clear descriptions, you're giving a reason for customers to trust your products and know what they're ordering for themselves or their loved ones.
6) Top 5 solutions for eCommerce returns
With an increase in eCommerce product returns in India, many logistics companies are creating platforms that provide seamless shipping and return channels. Today we'll enlighten you about five such companies.
An eCommerce logistics intelligence software, ClickPost offers customers an improved post-purchase experience that ensures the highest levels of customer satisfaction. It serves as a multi-carrier integration system, a courier tracking system, and a complete logistics solution.
The company has been active for quite some years now and deals with some of the biggest eCommerce giants. Its key services include:
a) Better carrier selection
b) Single API integration to manage all manifestation
c) Helps in identifying SLA breaches
d) Gives access to automated NDR management
There are a lot more services offered by ClickPost. However, if you want some other alternatives, take a look at the solutions given below.
6.2) Return Magic
A return management platform, Return Magic integrates with more than 50 carriers to make sure sellers get access to more pick-up points for a quick reverse shipment process. It offers branded tracking pages to all customers along with auto-generated return labels and customized emails that represent the brand in the market.
Founded in 2016 by Francesco and Lorenzo, ShippyPro aims to become a universal shipping technology that caters to the needs of any kind of eCommerce company. Currently, ShippyPro works with over 160 carriers along more than 70 channels and helps sellers coordinate with huge online marketplaces like Amazon, Shopify, Magneto, etc.
6.4) Loop Returns
Unlike its counterparts, Loop Returns aims to convert returns into exchanges. This American startup allows online retailers and eCommerce businesses to have full control over their reverse shipment process. This means that sellers can decide which channel or container their product will travel through.
Since the company works on converting returns to exchanges, it saves sellers from refunding and also forces customers to return to the website for more.
Optoro is an eCommerce returns specialist that allows merchants to integrate with multiple online marketplaces and process return requests directly. It gives both customers and sellers access to monitor the product returning to the warehouse and closely watching its movement from there onwards. The company works with more than 500 million clients worldwide and aims at processing faster returns to reduce the cost of return.
Soon there will be more eCommerce companies operating in India. There will be an increase in purchases, and the returns will rise too. But as owners, you can manage how you'll deal with these eCommerce returns.
Whether or not you look at the core problem and tackle it or first serve the customers requesting a return is completely your choice. On top of that, identifying if it's a genuine return or a fraudulent activity needs to be addressed with the common goal of customer satisfaction without exceeding the budget.
Only when you have taken care of these things will you be able to take your business to great heights and witness smooth operations within the organization.