Product returns are an inevitable part of the online sales. For both the customer and the seller, they are somewhat of a nuisance – no customer wants to go through the hassle of returning a product they have bought, and no seller would be too keen on receiving an item they have dispatched. But, we cannot completely eliminate returns, however hard we try. Should a seller provide the return policy to the customers? if so, how to strategize them so that as a seller you can make most out of it? These questions should seriously be considered by every online business owner, and steps should be taken to incorporate them into the overall strategic operations.

Product returns come under the class of what is known as reverse logistics. Reverse logistics is when the flow of product is opposite to the direction of motion of the supply chain. Although it seems unlikely, prompt returns management can be quite effective in the overall profitability of the business. Offering returns in itself is a major sign of trustworthiness for a seller. After all, a customer is risking their time and money by paying you upfront. It is only fair that you provide a service with which their grievances are effectively handled. Now, let us look at ways with which life with returns can be easier to both you and your customers.

Managing Product Returns

  1. Analyze Your Returns

Do an in-depth analysis of all your returns. What products are returned the most? Is there a particular region where the percentage of returns is higher than others? What about the role of shipping agents and courier companies? Basically, you need to reach the root cause of the returns. Returns can be of two kinds – controllable and uncontrollable. Controllable returns are those whose root cause can generally be attributed to factors that can be controlled by the seller. Uncontrollable returns are the inevitable product returns that cannot be helped.

  1. Diminish the Controllable Returns

There are a lot of factors that contribute to returns. Faulty packaging, lethargic transportation and storage, and general mismanagement, to name a few. Every controllable factor has a cause that can be minimized or eliminated with better forward logistics processes. A simple tip for a much neglected aspect of sales is providing valuable product information in a clear manner to the customer. Many returns take place because the customer, on receiving the product, realizes that it is not what they were looking for in the first place. Bottom line, diminish the controllable returns through rigorous analysis and positive action.

  1. Handling Uncontrollable Returns

Of course, you can try as hard as you can to completely negate the possibility of product returns, but that will rarely happen. So you need to be ready to handle those few returns that do reach your doorstep. Here are a few bits of advice on how to go about it.

Include an easy to use pre-addressed return label with your package, so that the customers don’t have to go through the hassle of relabelling and packaging the product.

When you receive a returned package, let your customers know. Ask them the reason behind returning the product. You can do this by including a questionnaire along with the return label itself, or initiating a conversation via email.

Sort your returns into damaged and undamaged items. You can enter the undamaged items back into your inventory. If the item was pre-damaged, you need to return it to the supplier.

A few inventory management software, like Browntape, allow for product returns in their database. The SKU number of that product must enter the inventory now, so that it can be reprocessed for new sales.

Last but not the least, attend to your customers’ grievances. Provide them with a replacement product, complying to a pre-decided policy. Customer satisfaction comes first.

This was a short guide on how to manage product returns. For any further queries regarding anything related to the ecommerce market, get in touch with us at Browntape. Our aim is to help you become successful online business owners!


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