Jim Agger
 
March 13, 2014 | eCommerce , Fulfillment/Shipping | Jim Agger

Make Returns as Easy as Possible for More DTC Sales

If you sell wine online, you most likely dread customers returning parcels to your winery. You lose money on the sale, and it's complicated to coordinate the shipment. However, returns and exchanges are an inevitable part of online wine sales. In fact, handling them the right way can win you increased levels of customer loyalty and more sales. 

It can be difficult to get a real sense of a product before buying it online. For this reason, ecommerce returns are on the rise. Sixty-two percent of consumers returned or exchanged something in 2013, compared to 51 percent in 2012, according to an infographic from Endicia. In addition, 42 percent of shoppers want the process to be as easy as possible. While the growing number of returns may seem like a hassle to you, processing them as efficiently as possible could have its benefits. The infographic revealed 64 percent of consumers will refer friends or family members to an online retailer after having a good experience with return processing. Ninety-five percent will repeat their business with the brand if it's easy to return something. However, 85 percent of shoppers will abandon an online store if it's a struggle to return or exchange products. 

Higher expectations for return and exchange processing
Returns and exchanges require tightly aligned ecommerce fulfillment operations. Consumers will continue to put more pressure on retailers to offer the best wine shipping options. While it's important to get products to customers as quickly as possible for the lowest cost, handling returns can make or break satisfaction. Many multichannel retailers are starting to offer free returns and in-store pick up for online orders, which highlights the need for you to assess your current fulfillment capabilities. A study from Internet Retailer found that 2014 will be a year of movement toward these new trends. Currently, only about 10 percent of ecommerce stores offer free returns, and 25 percent have in-store pickup. However, this is expected to change over the course of the year. 

Only large retailers with an online and physical presence provide free returns, along with a few online stores. Zappos was one of the first organizations to pioneer free shipping in both directions if returns were necessary. However, as consumers continue to express a preference for these capabilities, your online wine store may need to adapt.

Why people return purchases and what they want
It can be hard to know exactly what you're getting when you buy wine online. Endicia found the most common reasons consumers will send something back is because they've received defective merchandise, the wrong product or unwanted gifts. While it's hard to compensate for user errors, you can minimize the number of returns by making your website intuitive to navigate. Having the right fulfillment technology in place can also reduce the number of inaccurate orders that get sent to customers. 

Instead of pretending that returns aren't going to happen, you can facilitate the process as much as possible. Customers want a clear return policy with direct language, easy-to-follow steps, a specific timeframe and full disclosure of any associated fees before they make the purchase. Just in case they need to send it back, many consumers prefer to receive a return label in the box along with their orders. For returns, many shoppers want automatic refunds. 

A return or exchange isn't a guarantee that a customer won't buy from you again. Making returns as easy as possible for your customers can increase loyalty and satisfaction. It could even lead to new business if they refer people to your website. 

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