Managing product returns is unavoidable for any business, but returns can be a hassle for both businesses and customers alike. Returns management affect customer experience, supply chain efficiency, inventory, accounting and customer service. Pretty much every part of your e-commerce business. If your return policy is expensive, rigid or nonexistent that’s likely turning customers away. Especially when it comes to Sales After A Return (SAAR). Offering a flexible return policy is key to increasing SAAR, but how do you protect your bottom line during the process?
UPS Returns to the rescue
The biggest challenges companies face are restrictive, inefficient software that lacks technical flexibility and are far from developer or user-friendly. E-Commerce companies often feel the repercussions of insufficient technology in the return process. UPS launched a new piece of software that helps small businesses better manage returns. UPS Return labels have always been available through the API, in that shippers could generate and void shipping labels. This most recent update extends the features available through the API to automate and improve the customer experience in processing returns. Some available enhancements included with the UPS shipping API are customers catching address errors before they occur with the address validation tool, giving customers insight into shipment and delivery timelines with the time-in-transit tool, and allowing customers to select the best method of shipping by using easy-to-understand menus. The shipping API integrates UPS shipping functionality directly into your website or enterprise system promoting a more efficient business process while customers enjoy UPS capabilities.
For most e-commerce companies that rely on a third-party integrator for the returns management process, it will be some time before you see these features show up in your software systems, but it’s important to note that improving the returns process is essential for the modern e-commerce business to remain competitive.
Customer expectations are changing
The release of UPS Returns is timely in helping shippers meet the expectations of customers. New policy changes at Amazon related to returns will soon make returns even more important. Customer expectations are already being shaped by automated and easy returns by Amazon and merchants that sell through Amazon must, as a necessity, put more attention on returns starting in October.
Building a consistent, efficient workflow is a key requirement to success for any e-commerce business. Return Processing Time (RPT) benchmarks help improve the automation of the workflow from start to end. It starts when a customer requests a return and ends when the product is restocked in inventory. Of course, there are a few circumstances that could deviate from this course like the product never shipped back by the customer or damaged upon receipt. Still, this metric is one way to qualify your returns program and work to adjust to fit customers’ evolving expectations.
Amazon’s new return policy causes controversy
Most successful e-commerce stores are selling through channels like Amazon and capitalizing on the benefits the platform offers, but using a large online retailer can also bring about unpredictable changes to adjust to quickly. Amazon, the e-commerce giant, has recently introduced a new return policy that will benefit buyers but is causing sellers to question the financial impact of the move. In this new policy, Amazon will automatically authorize returns which will enable customers to return products without contacting sellers. This means instead of negotiating a discount or suggesting other solutions, sellers will have limited power in the return process. One seller using the beta program for the past 6 months mentions that the option to enforce a restocking fee is still available. The seller goes on to explain the benefits.
Amazon seller on using Beta program Our return costs are less, we can track our returns and actually have saved time.
For e-commerce businesses questioning Amazon’s new policy, adjusting your personal return policy to include a restocking fee is one way to offset any unexpected costs. For small business owners who fulfill their own orders, knowing customers will be able to print a prepaid return shipping label via the Online Return Center instantly means there’s a potential need to assess how to ensure their bottom line is protected. Every e-commerce business has unique processes in place.
Amazon aims to simplify the return process further by offering an opt-in “returnless refunds” policy, meaning the buyer is not required to ship their purchase back in order to receive a refund. For some sellers, this cuts down on shipping costs and steep processing fees, especially if a product incurred damage and cannot be resold. Sellers will be banking on the honor system in most cases. The new policy applies to sellers who are not part of the company’s Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) program and will roll out October 2, 2017.
Share a Refund tackles return shipment audits
Effective returns management requires top-notch technology. As UPS works to perfect return management processes, Share a Refund works to perfectly audit every shipment created within the UPS Returns Center. Share a Refund ensures all shipments are handled with absolute accuracy and that you never overpay on shipping, even when it’s returns. Share a Refund uses cutting-edge technology to perform a comprehensive audit on each shipment to help you stay ahead of the e-commerce game.