5 Ways Your Returns Data will Uncover Opportunities
Growth is the goal across the ecommerce industry, and returns are often considered a setback that retailers must overcome. In reality, the most successful merchants know that returns are the source of valuable insights that can guide the way to a more profitable future.
Explore these five opportunities for improvement that begin with the deliberate collection and savvy analysis of your company’s returns data.
#1 – Reveal Unseen Customers with Returns Data
Creating a customer service experience that outperforms the competition is nearly impossible without a thorough understanding of your customers. And while many merchants believe they have a solid grasp of their buyers’ behaviors, returns data isn’t always considered as part of that equation.
The most successful retailers will analyze customer returns behavior using the RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) Model. These merchants can then segment customers into key clusters and form a more personalized marketing strategy, which will ultimately increase the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Advanced automated returns management software companies can create reports like this for retailers, making it easier to identify trends and providing incredible insight that can inform future decisions about return policies and customer outreach.
Incorporate a Product Registration Program
Of course, an effective returns management strategy isn’t limited to capturing customer data as they initiate a return. Launching a product registration program for purchases from third-party retailers can introduce your business to overlooked buyers who want to activate warranty coverage in advance of any issues with the product.
Ecommerce retailers don’t necessarily want to limit themselves to a single direct-to-consumer website. The effort to grow online sales benefits from more channels for greater reach, which is why many instead opt for an omnichannel approach. But utilizing multiple funnels to lead shoppers to your products can result in disparate data collection.
One way to overcome this challenge is by implementing a third-party warranty registration program that collects data from buyers regardless of where they made the purchase. Many shoppers are eager to share this valuable information in exchange for the warranty and product protection coverage that direct buyers receive. Their contact details, demographics, shopping preferences or future warranty claims can now be seamlessly included to build a more comprehensive foundation for retailers and for future marketing strategy and outreach.
#2 – Improve Your Marketing with Returns Data
Product protection registration can also support a retailer’s marketing plan by expanding the contact list of targets for upcoming campaigns. Once these customers have submitted their contact information and product ownership details, you can attempt to build a profitable relationship with them.
In some cases, you may decide to announce new products or upsell accessories that complement past purchases. You can also notify product owners of expiring warranties or invite them to submit a testimonial or online review following a trouble-free experience. Regardless of how you engage them, the additional audience of individuals already familiar with your brand can be incredibly valuable.
Returns data can also be integral to setting appropriate customer expectations through improved product descriptions. Accurate product descriptions build trust with customers and help ecommerce shoppers make informed buying decisions before physically seeing the product. In addition, knowing why buyers are unsatisfied with a product can spur changes that avoid similar disappointment among future shoppers.
Collect Customer Feedback from Returns
With a continuous flow of aggregate data from returns, you can spot the patterns that exist in recurring problems. For example, when an item is constantly being returned for the same reason, it’s a good indicator that there is a discrepancy in that product’s description that needs to be fixed. Maybe the sizing chart is inaccurate, or the color is misinterpreted, or the texture listed for an item is not true to real life.
A robust returns management process can also allow customers to include specific comments about their return reasoning. Using word clouds can help pull out patterns across hundreds or thousands of return comments and quickly indicate shortcomings that can be addressed within the description.
A study of customer complaints may also reveal a problem with the online user experience that can’t be corrected by simply updating a listing or description.
Instead, it may become clear that the website layout results in users making a mistake when ordering on specific devices. Similarly, retailers may find that additional images or charts are the best solutions to limiting confusion and customer churn.
In any case, an improved customer experience can only contribute positively toward the goal of increasing CLV and repeat business.
#3 – Elevate Customer Service with the Help of Returns Data
The traditional return workflow of processing ecommerce returns is full of manual steps and insufficient visibility. As sales grow, the inefficiencies can overwhelm your customer service teams with an influx of messages from shoppers.
We know that keeping your customer service team happy is good and relying on these manual processes leads to disgruntled employees and burnout.
Fortunately, changing your method of returns data collection can turn the tide and give your customer-facing employees the opportunity to salvage sales rather than just approve expensive refunds.
Self-serve customer portals can streamline the returns process, cut down on the time your employees spend transferring data from one department to another and keep internal stakeholders and customers updated on the status of a return.
Keep Control with Automated Warranty Returns
For warranty returns, many retailers may believe the downsides of a manual warranty return process are offset by the flexibility and control it offers, but the reality is much different. Building a more efficient workflow doesn’t have to mean that more ineligible warranty claims will be approved or that your ability to review customer complaints will end.
Through automating returns and warranty returns, your customer service team will have the time to provide a top-notch experience to more customers. And they’ll have accurate, real-time data to support those conversations. Often, this alone can increase satisfaction, reduce returns and build buyer loyalty.
These benefits materialize when a shopper calls or emails in and the customer service team can see all returns data to provide a more personalized experience. It’s not uncommon to find that a customer who returns the most is also among your most profitable buyers. Having access to the complete customer profile can help your team know when to offer free returns, shipping promos, or other perks to these high-volume shoppers.
#4 – Improve Product Quality with Returns Data Analysis
We already discussed how analyzing the reasons for returns can help companies update product descriptions to improve customer satisfaction. But what if the problem is deeper than a buyer’s misunderstanding or an inaccurate sizing chart?
Sometimes returns are the result of an actual deficiency. As you might expect, a strong returns management strategy can capitalize on returns data to identify these types of problems with a product sooner.
The extensive amount of data available from returns, combined with the tools to analyze all of it continuously, can be a powerful aspect of quality control. Reviewing disposition data and processing metrics can isolate weaknesses, whether they originate from a manufacturer, supplier, or internal process.
For example, average RMA completion times can be looked at to discover any discrepancies in the reverse supply chain and RMA reports can be used to find times of the year when returns are being processed more slowly. It could also identify if returned products are being held up at a particular step of the reverse supply chain.
Or you could discover that your company needs to update how it develops packaging standards, adjust the tests used to determine a product’s resilience before launch or find a more reliable supplier.
Regardless, as you take steps to improve your quality control, you can monitor these benchmarks to evaluate your progress. Optimizing the supply chain, both forward and reverse, allows you to more easily meet your company’s improvement goals and ensure that your products fulfill your brand’s promise to buyers.
#5 – The More You Know About Your Returns, The Less They’ll Cost You
Returns are expensive for retailers. But you’ll never be able to eliminate them entirely. While it can be easy to blame the shopper when they return a purchase, we all understand that it can be hard to shop without the tactile advantages of in-store shopping. This is particularly the case in fashion and other verticals that are heavily reliant on aspects like fit and feel.
The good news is that using returns data strategically can reduce their negative impact on your bottom line. That’s because, if you haven’t already noticed, all of the advantages we’ve mentioned above can help to reduce return rates or open the door to less expensive solutions than a simple refund.
The more you know about your buyers, the better positioned you are to offer an exchange or upgrade that better meets their needs. In addition, segmenting customers can allow retailers to customize return policies to reward the most profitable ones while minimizing the costs from serial returners. As we mentioned, knowing who your most valuable customers mean your customer service teams can go the extra mile to keep them loyal to your brand.
Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Customers
Similarly, a well-developed relationship and skilled customer service team with effective tools can minimize refunds and salvage sales. Customers requesting a refund can be encouraged to make an exchange or accept store credit instead. And, of course, aligning customer expectations and product quality is one of the best ways to avoid unnecessary returns altogether.
The cost savings that result from these strategies can allow merchants to shift resources away from manual returns management and create new opportunities for growth. With the confidence to automate and handle returns more efficiently and at a reduced expense, it’s much easier to expand sales channels without overwhelming staff.
Unlock the Benefits of Return Data with ReturnLogic
ReturnLogic can help your company navigate a path to fewer returns, happier customers and more profits. Our automated returns management system ends the data silos to reveal the actionable insights you’ve overlooked.
Take the first step to reaping the rewards of your returns data and schedule your free ecommerce returns audit today.