Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Web Hints – Returns and Biting the Bullet

chris black and white for blog One of the things that most puts people off from buying online (or from catalogues for that matter), is the thought of having to send something back. 

You may say ‘but surely we’re all used to that now’ but I’m afraid that it is still the case and will undoubtedly remain so.  The harder you make it for customers to return goods to you, the less likely they will be to buy from you.  Having been in fashion both in catalogue and online retailing for many years I know this only too well.

The two things you can do to make returns easier for your customers (and thereby increase your conversion rate) are:

Offer free returns or use a courier pick-up service (same result)
Send out orders in returns-friendly packaging (smaller items only, of course).

I know there’s a collective gasp and moan on reading this but if you are not in a highly priced competitive market, in other words selling something where a couple of £s difference will lose you a sale, you should test free returns and if your conversion rate rises then build an element for returns into your prices.  Few people mind paying an extra few pounds for something they really want.  Everyone hates to pay for returns.  This is not a risk and testing makes total sense.  And with more and more of the online ‘big boys’ offering free returns it is becoming a competitive necessity.

Always include a pre-printed returns label with your orders, sticky if possible, an easy to complete returns form as well, and unless you’re selling something very valuable do not make your customers call you up, or have to get a returns authorisation number before sending goods back to you.

I fully understand needing to give advance information if I’m returning a Calvin Klein dress (and no, I didn’t) or a piece of jewellery (ditto) because a) the online retailer will not have bought very much stock, b) will want to know that it is fully insured on it’s way back and c) will probably want to have re-sold it before it gets back to them -  however for a pair of sports shoes?  Sorry, I don’t get that one.

Make it as easy as possible for your customers to send things back and they will order more from you, it’s as simple as that.

Tomorrow is d-day for my press article about online shopping so I’m biting my nails hoping that nothing happens to stop publication, having been in this business a while (understatement) I know that something can right at the last minute and I have on occasion been at the station to get an early copy of the relevant newspaper to discover that I’ve been left out because something far more important has needed the space.  At least now I can check online.

Today has also been a great day for website review requests for some reason.  If you’d like your site reviewed for www.thesiteguide.com click here for more info.

I am now far later than normal for packing for my trip next week (I’ve been known to pack a month in advance) and I’m still considering what to take to two completely different places – Idaho and Santa Fe, one totally relaxed and the other much more dressy but also ‘undressy’ as it includes poolside.  And I can only take one bag.  And I only have an hour and a half to change planes in Chicago so will have to have some things in my carry-on.  Oh dear!  And now the daughter has ordered me to get her some real cowboy boots so I will have to leave some space.  More oh dear!  Oh bother.

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