You’ve packaged up your product with care and shipped it out to eager customers. But it didn't quite fit the needs of the customer, for whatever reason, and now it’s headed back to your distribution center with a return label. While this isn’t the desired outcome, the return process is a critical component of the customer experience, and one that marketers would do well to focus more time and effort on.
As consumers have become more confident and comfortable with online purchasing, e-commerce has swallowed up substantial shares of overall purchases. More customers are bringing the shopping experience to them, evaluating quality, fit, and even options in the comfort of their own homes. Because shopping is typically a comparative process, an influx in returns is a natural accompaniment to more online ordering.
Just because more shopping is happening at home rather than in-store doesn’t mean the pressure is off when it comes to customer service. I’d argue that it’s even more important for brands to double down their online service experiences.
Rather than depending on another human to understand needs, assist in finding the right product, and facilitating a positive return experience, we’re relying on technology. As all of us can attest from personal experience, technology is not always the best at reading and alleviating frustration. Who among us hasn’t shouted, “Speak to someone!” into some vacuous automated customer service system?
As email marketers, we’re often on the front lines of providing an easy, pleasant, and human-oriented experience during all aspects of the e-commerce process. We’re creating the business rules, drafting the copy, determining what information and links to include, and creating next steps for our online consumers. Are we being as intentional as we should about the customer service aspect of our transactional messages, especially return-related emails?
Your customers aren’t trying to create a logistical nightmare or damage your end of year ROI. They’re simply trying to find the best fit for their needs and wants. Try to leverage a more compassionate and human approach for return-related messages. Rather than employing stark transactional language, be understanding and helpful.
The simple act of asking consumers to “help us improve the purchasing experience” can help put a positive tilt on the perception of a brand. In addition to letting consumers know that their experience matters, the data can be helpful in streamlining the process or adding helpful, product-related information to product descriptions.
Want to turn it up a notch? You may even want to send a relevant follow-up message based on the response you receive.
Make It Easy, From Start to Finish
Much of the heavy lifting should be done on the website, but email can help set the stage and follow up in a customer-centric way. Be sure that your order confirmation email includes clear language related to returns. Once a return has been initiated, make sure that the follow-up message is warm, welcoming and keeps customer service top of mind. All order and return-related emails should include relevant information, helpful links, and customer care contact numbers.
Below are a few examples of brands that keep customer experience top of mind, even if they’re handing back revenue.
Lamps Plus thanks the customer, provides key details and extends the invitation to shop with them again in this short, concise email.
I love this stellar example from Lulu’s. From their declaration that they just want to “make this easy” to the product images to the “Tips” section and links back to the site for further shopping, they knock it out of the park.
If we’re able to improve the experience and make the return process as customer-centric as possible, there are clear benefits for the brand:
- Improved brand perception
- Increased likelihood of repeat purchasing
- Decreased likelihood of “social venting” and negative reviews
By making a process long considered a “necessary evil” for e-commerce as simple, convenient, and pleasant as possible, you’re sure to make a positive impression that can boost your revenue in the long run.
As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Casey has a healthy fixation with helping marketers realize the potential of their email programs by addressing human needs, building better relationships, and ultimately driving improved results for the business. Her nine years of experience and obsession with evolving the email space helped land her a spot on ExpertSender’s list of “25 Email Geeks to Help You Get Your Geek On.”