Consider taking a page out of Amazon’s textbook when it comes to creating an effective returns journey for your customers.

Dan Nevin

Dan Nevin, chief revenue officer, global retail, Doddle

Amazon is the leader in ecommerce sales, but observers do not always recognize that it’s also a leader in ecommerce returns.

And by the leader, I don’t mean it has the most returns, although that may be true. Amazon is a returns front-runner because it understands the three most important aspects of a great returns experience.

The three Cs: Cost, communications and convenience

The first aspect is free returns. 66% of consumers in a February 2021 YouGov survey commissioned by Doddle said they desire free returns. Unsurprisingly free returns topped the list of options consumers said they want ecommerce retailers to offer when returning an item.

Not only do shoppers want free returns, but they also find being charged a restocking fee extremely off-putting. 57% of respondents said they would reconsider shopping with a retailer in the future if the retailer took an amount off their refund for sending an item back.

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The next two most-items cited in the survey were “good communications and visibility during the return process (e.g., tracking my parcel, confirmation of receipt, refund information, etc.)” and “convenient locations to return the item(s) to (e.g., local store, post office, etc.),” with half of the respondents or more selecting these options (53% and 50%, respectively).

Consider Amazon’s returns process. It’s free depending upon the reason selected. The company offers convenient drop-off locations as standard. There’s typically no need to print a label to do a return. And consumers can easily see their return and refund status online after dropping off their return for processing.

In addition, there’s no need to contact a customer service agent at all, which 33% of consumers in the survey said is annoying enough to make them reconsider shopping with a retailer. The process is almost entirely digitized.

Going from Cs to D

While this is not a direction you would want to go from a grading or rating perspective, capitalizing on these three Cs requires going D—for digital.

How can retailers replicate Amazon’s successful returns journey? They don’t have to start from scratch. A digital returns platform can offer the automated communications and visibility consumers desire. And those digital platforms that have partnerships with nationwide carriers can provide retailers and their customers with access to potentially thousands of convenient drop-off points.

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Returns don’t necessarily have to be free in this model. That decision will make sense for some retailers more than others and merchants might need to decide on a product-by-product or customer-by-customer basis. But a retailer can start better understanding the actual value and costs of free returns if they have the data to interrogate from a digital platform.

For example, if you trial free returns, are shoppers who make a return more likely to shop with you again than those who paid for a return, and is the difference great enough to make the additional cost worthwhile? Such insights can help retailers to refine their returns policies using tangible data rather than best-guess estimation.

While Amazon offers a fantastic returns model, what could it do better? Presently, Amazon is not leveraging the high-engagement touchpoints of returns communications for marketing, upselling or retention. These are missed opportunities.

Consider taking a page out of Amazon’s textbook when it comes to the returns journey—digital platforms can allow you to provide a similar process for the benefit of your business. But I recommend that you take it even a step further and use the insights and communications empowered by these kinds of platforms to enable your returns model to drive additional conversions and customer loyalty.

Doddle provides returns, collections and ship-from-store technology for retailers.

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