Team eCommerce Next interviewed Aaron Schwartz from Loop Returns to get more insights on the challenges of small retailers. Following is our interview with him:
Consumers have come to expect Amazon-like levels of service when shopping online. What can smaller merchants & DTC brands do to keep up and meet these lofty expectations?
- Choose a dynamic platform that has a vibrant ecosystem: Rather than trying to build your own eCommerce backend, integrate your shop with a pre-existing platform like Shopify. By listing your products on a platform with an extensive ecosystem, you’ll be able to easily set up and display your products in a mobile-optimized online shopfront with integrated payment processing. This gives customers the same seamless experience they’d have shopping on Amazon or another retail giant, without spending thousands of dollars in ongoing development costs.
- Take advantage of add-on apps: Choose apps that are purpose-built for your particular ecosystem. This is where Loop can come in, since we are a Shopify-only brand. Aside from us, with Shopify you’ll be able to customize your store with more than 100 different apps that have been created by Shopify or third-party developers; helping you with store design, marketing, management, customer service, shipping and delivery, order fulfillment, and other categories.
- Optimize customer support: Customers don’t want to wait a day for a response: 49% of customers say they’d like to hear back from you within less than a minute while using chat support. Customers using email are willing to wait a little longer, with 48% saying they’d wait up to 6 hours, and 94% saying they expect a response within 24 hours max. By partnering with a customer support platform such as Gorgias or Zendesk, you can give your customers the fast and personalized support they have come to expect.
- Offer speedy delivery: Most customers have come to expect fast and free shipping, so the best way to compete with larger brands is to follow their lead. At least 51% of retailers now offer same-day delivery on at least some of their items.
- Simplify the returns process: To compete with larger retailers like Amazon, you should offer free return shipping. And don’t make it a complicated process for customers to request a return; they should be able to use a self-service platform that enables them to set up their own return. 60% of customers will check out your return policy before buying, so make sure that it’s (1) generous and (2) clear
What aspect of Amazon’s CX is the most challenging for smaller retailers and brands to replicate in your view?
- Offering same-day delivery is a great goal to shoot for, but it might not always make sense for your business financially. Same-day delivery is more expensive, so consider whether you should offer it in your default free delivery or tack on an extra fee for customers who need their orders faster.
- Many brands think that having as seamless of a returns experience as Shopify is out of the question. That’s when the brands need to partner with someone like us, as we take that challenge away from them through our automated returns management software.
Returns and post-purchase experiences are often an afterthought when compared to other steps in the customer journey – why is this the case?
Many brands see returns as a perpetual cost center – where shoppers buy a product, find an issue, and return for a refund. On the surface, it may seem like you’re giving up potential profits by committing to hassle-free returns, and free return shipping – but you’re actually doing anything but. With the right tools, the post-purchase experience can be optimized to incentivize exchanges and create better shopping experiences, and therefore transform returns from a cost center to a profit center.
Why should businesses focus more effort on improving their returns experience?
About two-thirds of customers check your brand’s returns policy page before deciding whether or not to make a purchase from you and 73% of shoppers say that their returns experience will impact whether they’re likely to buy from that shop again. Online shoppers return, on average, between 15% and 40% of their purchases, so understanding their returns experience is an important consideration when determining where to shop. With a seamless returns experience, you’ll increase revenue retention, increase upsell value, and increase customer happiness – which leads to loyalty and repeat customers.
What does an improved returns experience look like in practice – how do consumers tend to respond to more seamless returns experiences?
An improved returns experience should be a self-service, automated experience where shoppers can initiate and process returns on their own without needing to wait for customer support. By using an automated returns management software like Loop, you’ll be able to cut down on customer support hours, and automate the entire returns and exchange workflow, while incentivizing customers to exchange products rather than sending them back for a refund. By incentivizing exchanges, the customer now has a second chance to buy something they love.
As eCommerce grows, return rates follow. There are now millions of brands to choose from – over one million on Shopify alone. This means competition is fiercer than ever, making it harder for your brand to stand out. If any part of the customer journey is ineffective, your potential buyers will look elsewhere. By improving the post-purchase experience, you not only retain more revenue and customers, but complete the customer journey.