For many e-commerce sellers, the thought of returns, especially international ecommerce returns, is a true headache. They cut into profit margins and can cause logistic and administrative hassle.
A well-streamlined policy and logistical execution is needed and it demands creating processes that are transparent for the customer on the one hand, and feasible for the seller on the other hand. Here is why streamlining a return policy in international e-commerce is vital for success.
Problems related to return shipping policy may result in lost sales
From a customer perspective, shopping at online stores means sacrificing the ability to see, touch and try an item in exchange for other advantages, such as convenience, a better price or availability of a certain good. The idea that the product might either not be as imagined or might arrive damaged creates the wish of the customer to know exactly how the store handles its returns and refunds.
Problems related to return policy is the fourth most occurring reason for shopping cart abandonment according to a survey by SendCloud and Nielsen in 2022
First, an unclear or inflexible return shipping policy in international e-commerce reduces customer confidence and trust, as customers want assurance that they can return a product if unsatisfied.
Secondly, it increases the perceived risk of making a purchase, as customers fear being stuck with an unsatisfactory product.
Consumers worry about the accuracy of product descriptions, photos, and reviews, which may lead to disappointment upon delivery. Additionally, there is apprehension regarding the reliability and trustworthiness of the online business itself, especially if it is unfamiliar or lacks a well-known reputation.
Also, there is the worry of encountering difficulties with customer service, should the need arise.
Overall, consumers approach online purchases with a level of caution due to the perceived risks associated with product quality, trustworthiness, data security, and post-purchase support. A customer-friendly return policy is crucial for building customer loyalty and encouraging repeat purchases.
A clear returns policy increases customer satisfaction
Research on online retailers' return policies show that customers are very satisfied when the return policy and procedure is clear and transparent, and therefore more likely to make a purchase.
The higher the value of a shopping basket, the higher is the desire of the consumer to be offered smooth after-sales service, including customer care and return management.
A clear return policy is especially important to shoppers of the luxury and specialized segments.
When selecting a retailer, shoppers value return policies that offer convenience and money-saving initiatives. An easy to navigate online return platform, pre-printed return labels that come in the box, the possibility to return items to a store and, above all, free return shipping returns are factors increasing the purchase intent.
For customers shopping cross-border, transparency and comprehensiveness of the returns procedure is maybe even more relevant. Consumers are worried about high return costs, they fear that sending the products back and receiving their money back is going to be complicated and that arranging replacement and repair might not be easy.
So, if you offer localized solutions internationally, make sure to highlight them. If not, consider offering them.
Ecommerce return policy from the retailer's perspective
A bad return policy costs sales, a good return policy costs money, this is what many online retailers might fear. Handling the products, sending them back to the warehouse which is often abroad, communicating with the clients, combined with taxes and re-export administration in non-EU countries can be a substantial challenge for retailers.
The European Commission's consumer scoreboard shows that retailers still see many obstacles to cross border selling, including compliance with different consumer protection rules, higher delivery-related and after-sales costs, and increased costs due to geographic distance. All of these concerns are in close correlation with the issue of returns and returns management.
There are several ways to deal with (international) returns. They include:
In-house returns handling
Larger players like ASOS UK and ModCloth - both fashion sellers naturally faced with a high number of item returns - have ‘in-sourced' their returns. ASOS has built a network of distribution centers all over the world in order to manage returns more effectively while ModCloth operates from its US distribution centers.
Outsourcing international returns to an international logistics provider or a local partner
Many retailers selling to international audiences use third party providers like Salesupply in order to handle customer returns.
The German Zalando has three logistics hubs in Germany and uses a big international logistics partner, DHL, to handle its free delivery and free returns throughout its 14 European target markets.
For smaller companies, working with a smaller or more specialized local partner for returns management can be a solution here: The customers can send back their unwanted merchandise to a local address in their own country. The seller can choose whether to include a label for free return shipping or let the consumer pay for the return himself, as it is a local shipment, it will be cost efficient. Salesupply or another local partner then handles the return and does all necessary administrative steps. Shipments back to the foreign warehouse of the seller are bundled in order to reduce costs.
By outsourcing your international returns processes, you can unlock a range of benefits that will enhance your customers' experience and streamline your operations:
Streamlined International Returns
One of the standout advantages of partnering with Salesupply is the ability to offer customers a local return address in 17 different countries. By having a local presence, customers can conveniently ship their items back to a nearby location, simplifying the return process and reducing the hassle associated with international returns. This localized approach helps improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, as it demonstrates your commitment to providing a seamless online shopping experience.
Efficient International Logistics
Managing international return logistics can be complex and time-consuming for online retailers. With Salesupply, you can rely on our expertise in handling return logistics across Europe, the USA, and China.
Our robust network and optimized processes ensure that returns are swiftly and accurately processed, regardless of the customers' location. By entrusting your international return logistics to Salesupply, you can focus on your core business while leaving the complexities of cross-border returns in capable hands.
Automation and Seamless Integration
Salesupply offers a plug-and-play integration that seamlessly incorporates their returns management system into your current setup. The same fluent integration is now available for the recently integrated all-in-one returns platform of Returnless.
This streamlined integration minimizes disruptions to your business operations, allowing you to quickly leverage the benefits of their services without extensive implementation efforts. Salesupply's user-friendly integration empowers you to optimize your returns process without sacrificing time or resources.
Comprehensive Processing Services
Returns often involve more than just you accepting returns and refunding products. Salesupply's return hubs provide comprehensive processing services, including storage, testing, refurbishing, and even destruction of returned products.
This holistic approach allows you to recover value from returned items and minimize losses. By outsourcing these labor-intensive tasks to Salesupply, you can streamline your operations, reduce costs, and focus on driving your business forward.
Enhanced Customer Experience
At the core of a successful e-commerce business lies a commitment to customer satisfaction. By partnering with Salesupply, you can significantly enhance your customers' experience with a smooth and efficient return process. With local return addresses, prompt refunds, and a hassle-free experience, your customers will feel valued and supported throughout their shopping journey. Positive experiences breed customer loyalty, leading to repeat purchases and increased brand advocacy.
If you want to know about us and see if we're a fit, contact us today.
Best practices for return policy in international e-commerce
Having said that, when it comes to developing an international return policy in e-commerce, there are several best practices you can consider to ensure customer satisfaction and streamline the return process.
Clear and transparent communication is key to a successful return policy in international e-commerce. Clearly communicate your return policy on your website, ensuring it is easy to find and understand. Use clear language and include information about return timeframes, eligible products, condition requirements, and any associated fees.
Aligning your return policy with local and federal law and regulations is crucial for international e-commerce. Research and comply with local consumer protection laws in each target country to ensure your ecommerce store return policy adheres to legal requirements.
Looking up a good ecommerce return policy template in a shop that sells in the same market that you do is a good way to start.
Something to keep in mind is to also establish a clear refund policy. For example, when and how they'll get a full refund, if you offer store credit instead of cash, etc. Especially to manage customer expectations.
Additionally, by offering extended return periods, such as 30, 60, or 90 days, for international orders, you provide customers with the flexibility they need to initiate returns. Providing multiple return options, such as prepaid return shipping labels or local drop-off points, simplifies the return process for online shoppers and enhances their experience with your international e-commerce business.
Furthermore, offering responsive customer support through various channels like email, live chat, or phone can address any concerns or questions related to your return policy in international e-commerce.
Processing refunds promptly and effectively, whether it's cash or store credit, while considering international shipping costs, demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction. By regularly reviewing and improving your return policy in international e-commerce, you can optimize customer experiences and build trust with your global audience.
Return shipping is a vital success factor for international online retailing and customer loyalty. Customers include the return policy in their purchase decision, and the return experience is an important part of the impression the retailer makes on the buyer.
For retailers, international returns demand a good deal of strategic planning in order to minimize costs, maximize trust and convenience for the customer and make the whole project feasible in the light of profitability.
The decision whether to handle and manage returns in-house or outsourcing them to a central logistics provider or a local partner depends on the scale of a company's international ecommerce business and the available resources.
If you need help deciding what the best option is for your online shop, send us a message and get in touch with one of our international ecommerce fulfillment experts.