The 4 Ps of a customer-centric and sustainable returns journey

Improving the consumer experience throughout the returns process is a key objective for retailers who are falling behind their competitors who have slicker logistics, allowing them to deliver more convenient and customer-centric offerings.

At the same time, sustainability keeps rising up the agenda for consumers, with Metapack research showing that over three quarters (77%) of online shoppers now say they care deeply about the environment when thinking about how they receive their deliveries.

We’ve come up with 4 ways to improve the returns process by making it more sustainable and satisfying for customers to use.

This post is part of our series on eCommerce Returns. Check out our master Guide to eCommerce Returns for a full insight on how to improve your customer experience and make returns more profitable.

Policy

60% of shoppers check returns policies before they buy. That makes having a clear returns policy which meets consumer expectations essential to converting those shoppers. The ability to return items within 30 days of receiving them is more or less industry standard in retail, and increasingly consumers are looking for free returns, with 78% reporting that they’d shop more if returns were free.

Having a great returns policy isn’t just about making a page on the website. Leading retailers like ASOS use their returns proposition as a part of their marketing and brand identity, which both drives additional awareness of their policy and maximises its positive impact on conversion and loyalty.

Paperless

It might seem like a small change with minimal impact, but paperless returns can be a game-changer in terms of efficiency and data insight, and it even helps with sustainability.

Putting millions of paper sheets and peel-off stickers into bags for customers orders costs retailers money, and the majority goes unused and wasted. Even when they get the paper form back, recording return reason and other data takes time to manually add to the system. Time is a luxury that distribution centre workers can ill afford, especially during peak season.

By scanning parcels in and allowing barcodes to pick up the full data set about every parcel, retailers can save time and capture the data they need effectively.

PUDO: Pick-up and drop-off points

Pick-up/drop-off (PUDO) locations can be a real win-win for retailers and customers. For customers they provide a convenient option to drop off their returns, adding more location availability. For retailers, they can draw customers into stores during the returns journey. Many customers returning products will still be looking for alternatives to satisfy their original need, making them highly likely to purchase if they’re in stores.

Platform for digital returns

It can often be difficult for customers to know where they can return products to. Some carriers offer various collection locations, but putting this information in front of customers takes away the retailer’s involvement and minimises their opportunity to benefit from the store traffic we talked about above.

Digital returns allow customers to choose where to drop the parcel, explain why they’re returning it and select how they want to be compensated, all in one branded experience provided by the retailer. This is partially achieved at the moment by many retailers by using paper returns forms in parcels, but this has the limitations we described in point 1, namely time-consuming manual processes and sustainability. In addition, this format doesn’t help customers to find the most convenient location or find a store to take their return to.

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The most important P: Profitability

Adopting the four Ps (Policy, Paperless, PUDO & Platform) should lead to the fifth and most important P of all: Profitability. Customer expectations are constantly increasing and retailers need to be continually ready to improve their processes to stay ahead of the curve, no matter where they are today. Adopting purpose-built returns technologies gives the end customer a great choice of options and a level of service which can match their ever-increasing expectations.