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5 Ways to Improve Your Omnichannel Returns Process

Build brand loyalty through positive customer experience.

Woman doing an omnichannel return in-store
A good returns experience has the power to turn a disappointed customer into a loyal fan.

By Veronika Birnkammer

Jan 12, 2019

Consumers aren’t always entitled to a return if they simply change their mind or find a product cheaper elsewhere. However, many retailers recognize that a customer friendly omnichannel returns policy helps to build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

This can turn a small, potentially negative interaction into a longer, more satisfying and profitable customer relationship. Here’s how.

1. Highlight your omnichannel returns policy

It’s vital your returns policies are clearly stated and posted visibly online, included in shipped packages and in-store. Offer a variety of options for customers to return items on their own with minimal effort. It also helps to lay out clearly defined policies that address several types of omnichannel returns situations.

In addition to having a sign at checkout detailing how you handle returns, you may also want to print your policy on your receipts. In some cases, employees should also be instructed to verbally communicate your return policies. For instance, if you don’t accept returns for sale items, have your staff remind shoppers of this when they see that a customer has purchased an item from the clearance rack. This will help prevent any potential frustration further down the line.

2. Provide a great customer experience across all platforms

The line between bricks-and-mortar stores and your online storefront should be unnoticeable to customers. Ensuring consistency across the customer journey is so important, whether customers are visiting your store, website or mobile app. It will build an experience of frictionless and easy interaction for your customers, which increases their loyalty to your brand.

For retailers that don’t have physical locations available in every area of the country it’s important to provide easy-to-find return labels and policies around postage. This way, customers who do not wish to visit a physical store are provided with a pain-free way to return their products.

Likewise, shipped products should include clear instructions about in-store return policies. If you have popular products that frequently sell out, offering ship-to-store options can keep customers coming back. The knowledge that any product is available, no matter its current location, will drive in-store visits and maintain customer satisfaction.

3. Have a consistent returns processing policy company-wide

Ask your staff to entice customers by reminding (in a non-pushy way) of the great products or gift cards they can get in exchange for the item that they’re returning. Hopefully, this will get them to at least explore your shop to see what they can get using their store credit. For example, if a customer has bought a shirt online that doesn’t fit properly and has come into the store to return it, use the opportunity to offer a different size or brand that might suit their requirements better.

When it comes to return policies, everyone should be on the same page. Discuss your policies with employees when you train them and make sure they understand how to process returns, avoiding the need for lengthy discussions or questioning with the customer present

4. Analyze data from returns to gather insights

Returns can give you insights about your products, your customers, and even your marketing strategy. So make it a point to gather feedback every time you process a return or exchange. Always ask why a customer is returning the product. Were they not satisfied? Did they find a better alternative somewhere else? Was the item damaged? Or did it not fit?

Technology is your friend when it comes to data analysis. Good retail software should tell you which products get returned, how quickly, and via which routes. This way you can assess the cost of returns in terms of time and profit, and correct any negative trends early. It may be an issue with a product. Or,  with your marketing. What messages are you putting out there? Are your product descriptions detailed enough? Do they clearly communicate who the product is for (and who it’s not for)? Does your marketing attract the wrong types of customers?

5. Eliminate headaches & create a hassle-free return policy

Don’t make people jump through hoops just to return a product. Offer a generous return time period and state clearly and visibly what this is. Further, free return shipping will help offset the disappointment of a return. And let your customers return items via parcel pick up points as well as in-store.

When you eliminate the risk and hassles of returns, you build goodwill and loyalty with your shoppers. When your customers see how gracious you are, they’ll like and trust you more because the relationship becomes personal—it’s not just a business interaction. This means they’ll be more likely to purchase from you in the future and more inclined to share their positive experience with their friends and family.

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