1) Introduction to the Ecommerce Returns Flowchart
As ecommerce becomes increasingly popular, brands need to ensure a smooth and successful ecommerce returns process. From picking the right carrier to planning for potential delays, making sure your customers can easily return items is key to keeping them happy.
That's why we've put together this handy flowchart outlining the basics of how ecommerce returns work. Whether you're brand new to ecommerce or you're looking to improve your current returns process, this guide will be helpful. Keep in mind that every business is different, so consult with your team members to figure out the best way to handle returns for your specific brand.
2) The Different Types of Ecommerce Returns
Before we get into the details of how to initiate a return, let’s discuss the most common reasons customers return items bought online.
- Ordering the wrong item
- Selecting incorrect sizes
- Faulty or damaged products
- Does not match item description
- Delayed delivery
- No longer need the product
- Ordering too many of the same item
Most of the reasons listed above are related to customers' inability to touch, feel or try on the things they buy online. The growth of AI and augmented reality is expected to solve some of these problems.
Still, in the absence of effective reverse logistics, ecommerce companies risk losing hard-earned profits to pesky returns. Another crucial step is informing your customers about your return policy and how to place return requests successfully.
The section below discusses how customers can easily place returns to save them and businesses much trouble.
3) The Process of Returning Online Products (For Customers)
Customers may want to return something they bought online for many different reasons. Luckily, more and more sellers today offer longer return periods and hassle-free returns. Even so, customers sometimes complain about denied return requests, slow refunds, or lengthy exchange processes.
To help you with that, we are here to share the step-by-step process of returning an item.
3.1) Check the Return Policy
Even if you skipped the part about returns while ordering, now is the time to check it out. Return policies tell you everything about which products can be returned/exchanged, how to place the return pickup request, how much money you will get back, whether you will have to pay for shipping, and more. Finding your store’s return policy will help you in the next steps.
3.2) Place a Return/Exchange Request on the Merchant Website
Depending on your store’s policy, you will be asked to place your return request either through a returns portal or directly on the ecommerce website.
Select the item you want to return, the reason for returning, and choose a pickup date. Some sites will also ask whether you have the original packaging with you.
3.3) Ensure the Product is in Mint Condition
Most online companies schedule a quality check for reverse logistics. Therefore, ensuring the product is in its original condition with tags attached increases the chances of successful returns.
3.4) Fill in Your Return Label
Some businesses send return labels with every shipment. For others, you would need to either request a return label or print it online from their website.
Next, fill in all the relevant information in your return label. This includes all the information a shipping carrier needs to identify and send a parcel from one place to another. Stick the return label on top of your package and you’re done.
3.4) Drop-off at your nearest store/point or Await Home Collection
This is the point where the package leaves you. Depending on your choice, you can either drop off the package at your nearest store, post office, or collection booth or wait for a pickup agent to pick it up from your home.
3.5) Track the Status of Your Refund/Exchange
Once your order has been shipped, you will receive a confirmation and a tracking link or ID to monitor your return. The tracking link may take upto 24 hours to be active. This portal should also give you information on your exchange or refund status.
4) Follow This Flowchart to Ensure the Best Ecommerce Returns Flow
5) 5 steps to the Product Returns Process Every Business Needs to Follow
When a customer is unhappy with a product they've received, they naturally want to return it as soon as possible. This process can be daunting for businesses if it's not handled correctly. Returns can be expensive and time-consuming if not done correctly. Here are 5 steps to help make the product returns process easier for your business.
5.1) Verify the return request
The first step to fulfilling a return or exchange is to verify it. Certain items like inner wear, personal care equipment, etc., are outside the scope of return. As soon as a customer asks to give something back, you need to check whether that item is eligible for that.
If you’re managing the process manually, you need to approve or deny return requests at this point. However, if you use a returns management software like ClickPost, you can rest easy and allow the software to accept/reject returns and even create return orders automatically.
5.2) Create a return
To create a return order, businesses scan the order ID and initiate the return based on customer requests. Online websites that use POS (Point of Sale) systems will also need to feed in the return data to payment providers to process refunds.
5.3) Process Payments (Refunds or Exchanges)
The payment process starts after the returned item has reached the seller/warehouse and undergone all quality checks.
Different customers will want their refunds in different ways. However, in most cases, refunds are processed through the original payment method. So, if a buyer has paid online, they will be credited similarly. But if you are dealing with COD (Cash on Delivery) orders, you will need to speak to your logistics partner to pay back in cash.
For exchanges, ecommerce companies will now start preparing the exchange item for delivery.
5.4) Return Item to Inventory
Restocking returned items to inventory is a crucial step of reverse logistics. The sooner you update your inventory, the faster you recover losses from a missed sale.
In some cases, returned items cannot go back online due to severe wear and tear. Businesses must then work quickly to register such items on the secondary market to retrieve some of its value.
5.5) Ship the Product back to the Customer (Exchange only)
We are back to square one. This is the last step of the return process flow for exchanges. Now that you have your returned shipment, it’s time to send out the new order to your customer with a new tracking link.
6) How to Ensure a Smooth Return Process for Your Online Business
Return logistics can be infinitely tricky if you don’t know its basics. We think returns don’t have to be painful if a business and its customers understand each other. Research shows that the highest returns come from regular, loyal customers. Here are a few tips to keep your ecommerce returns process direct and simple.
6.1) Draft a foolproof return policy
While a generous return policy can be a major selling point for customers, it's important to ensure your policy is well-drafted and easy to follow. Your customers should know exactly what they need to do to return an item and what kind of refund they can expect.
The more complicated your policy is, the more likely customers will give up and go elsewhere. Include return windows, items available for return, shipping fees, refund processing time, and more.
6.2) Make your return policy visible to customers in places with maximum traffic
The return policy is one of the most critical aspects of the customer experience. After all, customers are more likely to make a purchase if they know they can easily return the item if it doesn't meet their expectations. That's why it's so important for ecommerce brands to display their return policy on their website prominently. Think in headers, footers, product pages and checkout.
6.3) Include return labels within the package
One way to enhance the post-purchase customer experience is by including return labels within a shipment. This makes it easier for customers to return items if they need to. Plus, it saves them time and hassle.
6.4) Add Return Guidelines to the Order Confirmation Email
When an ecommerce order is complete, the brand sends a confirmation email to the customer. This email should include all the information the customer needs to track their purchase and confirm its arrival. It's also an excellent opportunity to provide some return instructions in case the item needs to be sent back.
6.5) Provide Real-Time Return Order Tracking
Offering live order tracking is vital for forward and reverse logistics. Customers who send back their purchase are equally worried about its whereabouts and want to know when their refunds will be processed. Which happens only when their orders reach the warehouse. Sending order tracking updates to customer emails and phones is also appreciated.
6.6) Enable omnichannel features
Online stores must try to provide omnichannel services like BORIS (Buy Online Return in Store) that allow customers the freedom to return their order at their nearest store. Since flexibility is key to customer satisfaction, we suggest accepting store returns if you have a physical store. It would also mean lower logistics and shipping costs for your business.
6.7) Provide Free Returns, if possible
Returns can be a hassle for customers, so offering them without any extra cost makes them more likely to shop with you again in the future. In addition, free returns can encourage customers who may have been on the fence about making a purchase to take the plunge. If you're not currently offering free returns, it's something worth considering.
6.8) Automate returns with the best reverse logistics software
Returns can be costly and time-consuming if not handled properly. The best reverse logistics software can automate the process of return acceptance/rejection, order creation, shipping, and real-time order tracking. Store owners can filter orders based on location, order status, and more through their dashboard.
Returns management software like ClickPost also provides a branded self-serve returns portal where customers can place returns and state the reason for exchanging or returning an item.
6.9) Collect Customer Feedback
Figure out a way of collecting customer feedback. Including return KPIs, customer feedback provides a treasure trove of information about what changes your returns game needs. Identifying product issues or systemic obstacles will aid in streamlining the process.
Returns are a necessary part of doing business. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be a hassle for you or your customers. Hopefully, this flowchart and tips will help make returning products simpler for everyone involved. And remember, if you ever need assistance with returns or any other aspect of ecommerce strategy, we’re here to help. Reducing the number of returns is one more way to increase your bottom line – so strategize accordingly!
8.1) The difference between a store credit and a refund?
In store credit, your refund is collected as store points to be used in a future purchase. In a refund, you get back the entire or partial amount of the money you paid for an item or items. Store credit can only be used to purchase something from that particular store.
8.2) What do you need to include in your return package?
Your return package should include the product with all tags attached, a return label, and any documentation. Some sellers even require the product to be sent in its original packaging.