15 Day Cyber Monday Warning: 5 Ways to Reduce the Return Rate of Online Purchases

Welcome to the 20-Day Cyber Monday Warning! We started a Web Series, where we'll break down important digital marketing news and strategies for you, dear reader, to use in order to prepare for the biggest day in e-Commerce! For previous entries, please click here! Check back every weekday, as we count down to Monday, December 2nd. Comments, gripes, concerns? Check out us out on Twitter!  

Day 15: "... A Return To Normalcy" 

December 2nd, everyone. Our Super Bowl is only 2 weeks away!!

And what a day it will be. The perfect storm of eCommerce features a convergence of complementary factors with unprecedented momentum -- namely mobile and social media -- that, combined with the unofficial shopping holiday's natural growth, has projections of online sales booming passed $2 billion on Cyber Monday 2013. 

Let's look at the aftermath before it happens, because it doesn't take a crystal ball to make the following statement: DEATH, TAXES, & RETURNS FROM HOLIDAY SHOPPING.

(I know, I know - RETURNS - not everyone's favorite topic in eCommerce.)

As InternetRetailer.com reinforces, you will benefit from anticipating returns at 10-40% of holiday volume, depending on factors such as what type of product you sell. It's a tough forecast to stomach, but there are strategies you can implore in order to reduce the rate of your returns.

What are they? So glad you asked! Here are 5 ways to lower your return rate not just on Cyber Monday, but this entire holiday shopping season.

1.) Write accurate product descriptions

This is true across the board, but the more we get into accessorizing the more we see a lot of returns based on confusion. A phone case designed for the DroidX will not properly fit a DroidX2. As I advocate for in my post on trust marketing, if you remove confusion up front, it will reduce returns (and build trust). 

2.) Use high quality product images showing the product from all relevant angles

We find it amazing -- or baffling -- how many catalogs only have one view of three-dimensional products that are important to see from the common angles: front, side, back, and top. And while putting the product in its best light will improve sales, images that distort physical properties (e.g. using elongated perspective) will create disappointment when the product arrives.

3.) Product Comparisons

Pumping up the competition on your own turf may seem counter-intuitive or even sacrilegious, but today’s shoppers are savvy. If you don’t provide a comparison to similar or competitor products on your own site, your audience will find buyers’ guide matrixes on other sites, and at that point you’ve all but lost them. Keeping the comparison on your own site is both user-friendly and smart (and again, builds trust).

4.) Enable Reviews

Most product catalogs come with ratings/reviews functionality, but many merchants turn these off in fear of negative reviews. While it’s prudent to moderate and prune your reviews, not every negative is a slam: when people post about relevant compatibility issues, they’re helping to reduce your return rate. 

5.) Keep the Operators Standing By

Your online catalog is meant to reduce strain on your call center. But your phone staff would much rather talk with a prospective buyer explaining a product than having take the heat from an irate customer who didn’t get what they expected. But even in the latter conversation, that phone call may very well save the sale.

As Ignify.com observes, giving your customers access to a customer service agent can mean “the difference between returned merchandise and retained merchandise.”

... Parting Thoughts

While all of these tips will reduce your returns, check this post from the Gist Blog for a ton of great advice for streamlining your return process to save time and money for the merchandise that does come back.

For more Digital Marketing news and analysis, please follow Bridgeline on Twitter.




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