Best Practices for Parcel Returns

You may have the best product on the online market, but how can you entice shoppers to buy it? It's no longer enough to offer a competitive price and convenient shipping. For 61% of online consumers, whether you offer a consumer-friendly return policy can be the deciding factor on where they spend their money. And 73% of consumers consider their returns experience before deciding whether to shop again at that store.

A positive returns experience is a major consideration for business sales, too: 43% of small businesses are more likely to make a purchase at online stores that have a better return policy.

Using parcel returns to your business advantage
Some online companies use their return policy as a competitive edge. Following the theory that customers who are freer to make returns are inclined to make additional purchases, the companies encourage shoppers to buy multiple items for comparison.

Returns and exchanges also provide another customer touchpoint. Offering suggestions for a replacement item can create additional sales. You might personalize exchanges by including a thank-you note in the outbound package. In cases of shopping cart abandonment, promoting the company's return policy in a cart recovery email may successfully change a shopper's mind.

On the flip side, you may gain product insight with every returned item. If a customer was unhappy with color options or how something fit, or if it was defective or of poor quality, you can take the feedback into consideration during product development. After all, the greater the customers' satisfaction, the fewer the returns.

Effective policies for parcel returns
Now, here's the million-dollar question: How can you offer an effective returns policy without breaking the bank? According to a recent study, 42% of online shoppers want free return shipping. But someone has to pay for it. Here's a list of some creative options used by online companies:

  • Include the shipping cost in the price of the product. If your product is exclusive or your store has a good following, customers may be willing to pay higher prices. There's a tipping point, though, where customers will leave your site if prices are too high. You can test that amount over time and adjust your prices accordingly.
  • Limit free returns within a specific timeframe. Many physical stores have a time limit on returns so putting one in your policy shouldn't come as a surprise. It can make for more manageable accounting when you know returns have a finite period.
  • Offer free returns only to loyalty customers. Rewarding loyal customers with a free returns policy can help build business by turning casual shoppers into loyal customers.
  • Offer discounted returns. Some customers might be OK sharing the cost of a return; however, paying even a portion of the return can be a turnoff for shoppers.
  • Offer free returns for certain items. Limiting free returns to items that fall below a certain weight can help keep your shipping costs down.
  • Use ground shipping for your return service. Using the same concept as for low-weight shipments, offering free returns for economic shipping can save on shipping costs.
  • Limit free shipping to damaged items. Unless the damaged product is valuable or requires environment-regulated disposal, it may be less costly to ship the replacement item and let the customer keep the damaged item.
  • Offer free returns for exchanges or a store credit. You'll be guaranteed the money stays with your store; however, you could lose customers who aren't comfortable with not receiving a reimbursement to their credit/debit card.
  • Negotiate return rates with one carrier. Take advantage of price negotiations you may have with your carrier so you're not paying the full cost of a customer's return shipment.
  • Use a flat fee for returns, no matter the shipment's weight and size. The flat fee allows you to spread the cost of shipping across all returns.
  • Offer free returns but limit them to a set number within a certain timeframe. This is to discourage customers from making excessive returns. You may want to include a timeframe for when the slate is wiped clean or you could lose a repeat customer.
  • Keep it domestic. Avoid the cost for international shipments by keeping free shipping to only domestic returns.

Once you have a strategy in place, ensure customers can easily get a return label – it's what 21% of shoppers look for in a good returns experience. You can make it happen by using SpeedShip® for convenient label creation:

  • Print a return label to include in an outbound shipment, or provide a label to your customer separately
  • Have UPS® e-mail a return label to your customer
  • Arrange for UPS to mail a return label to your customer

Move forward with parcel returns
Offering a simple and convenient returns policy is almost a requirement when it comes to customer acquisition and retention and is much more critical to your bottom line than you may have realized.

We can help. As the largest non-retail Authorized Reseller of UPS ground and express shipping services, Worldwide Express can guide you on how to implement and support an effective returns policy. And UPS has convenient solutions for parcel returns to keep your customers satisfied at prices that fit your budget.

You can be certain the Worldwide Express and UPS alliance is the right one for your customers and your budget.

UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper, 2019.