How do you decide who your “favorite” online merchants are? With online ordering going through the roof, online brands and sellers have been focused on the best customer experience. They have focused on the “front end” – an easy to use web site, wide selection of items, and fast delivery, maybe even one or two days.
One big factor in deciding your favorite online merchant is returns. Zappos took away the risk of shopping for shoes and apparel by offering no questions asked, free returns. So, you can order five pairs of shoes, see which one fits best, and return four. Observers thought Zappos would go bankrupt but just the opposite happened. They built their brand credibility by removing the size and fashion risk of buying shoes online and saw their business skyrocket.
For most merchants, the “back end” or returns experience isn’t good. Many department stores still charge for returns or require you to physically go to their stores to return an item.
Even getting a “free” return ready is a nuisance. There is the time consuming task of “repacking” the shipped item. You may have torn the original box when opening it, so you have to find a new box or envelope, add about a pound of shipping tape to make sure it stays together, print out the return label, tape the label to the box, and then take it to be shipped. Then wait in some cases 4-6 weeks for a credit to be processed.
Amazon has now set the new standard. They have removed the “back end” tension. If you receive an Amazon Prime package and want to return it, here is their new process. Go their website, click on return. Then just take the unwrapped box to your local UPS store, let them scan the QR code on your phone, and you’re done. Even better, a few hours later your credit card account gets a same day full refund instead of waiting 4-6 weeks.
So now Amazon has made both the front end and the back end easy. It’s a seamless experience that the purchaser can trust, even if they end up returning the item. And what is the result? Customers are giving more of their business to Amazon because a formerly bad experience – returns – is now a seamless, easy experience. So yes, more returns = more sales.
How does your company’s process compare? Are you making it easy or hard? Brands and retailers that make it easy are going to win, and the others will be left behind. So, take some time, perhaps experience your own process all the way through. Get a competitive advantage by removing any stress points with the experience, and you will see the results in happy customers and a lot more business.