Team eCommerce Next interviewed Andrew Chan from AfterShip to get more insights on How Outdated Returns Processes Can Sink the Holidays. Following is our interview with him:
Tell us about the genesis of AfterShip
Teddy and I founded AfterShip in 2012 at Startup Weekend Hong Kong, which is a 54-hour hackathon competition. We won the local Hong Kong competition and later became the global winner, as well. The idea behind AfterShip first came to Teddy when he was running his own e-Commerce stores selling electronics and remote-control toys. Using his engineering background, he built an automated tracking system for his online store that reduced order delivery enquiries by more than 50%. Today, AfterShip has more than 10,000 customers including leading marketplaces like Amazon, eBay Wish, and Etsy, as well as iconic brands such as Gymshark, Kylie Cosmetics, Murad, and Kate Sommervile.
What makes AfterShip different from other post-purchase and tracking platforms?
Unlike other post-purchase platforms that only handle a specific aspect, AfterShip offers shipping, tracking, and returns solutions at an enterprise level. Our solutions are designed for businesses of all sizes, from a D2C brand using Shopify to a Fortune 500 business that needs to handle millions of shipments per month.
One thing that makes AfterShip stand out is our investment in product and development. Close to 70% of AfterShip’s employees are from the product and engineering team and ensure the company ships fast to the market. The company also offers 24/7 live chat support to any customers, not just the enterprise customers. It is important for the company to support new and small businesses for them to grow.
And lastly, AfterShip works closely with many amazing partners in the market, including platform partners like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Salesforce, as well as other solution partners like Klaviyo, Gorgias, Omisend, and Shipstation.
How can an outdated returns process negatively affect online retailers specifically during the holidays?
The return process is an extension of the merchant’s brand. Having a negative return process can lead to the permanent loss of a longtime and valued customer. This is particularly detrimental to brands since existing customers are 50% more likely to try a new product and spend 31% more than new customers (source). However, if a valued customer has a negative return experience, they may never shop with the brand again. This loss can be very costly for a merchant because keeping existing customers is much cheaper than finding new ones.
How should online retailers quickly address their outdated systems for returns?
The best thing to do is to implement an online return solution. When it comes to returns, consumers are looking for two things — speed and convenience —so it’s best to make the return experience as virtual as possible, and allow customers to print a return without asking customer support. Consumers who purchase online are much more likely to want a return process that’s 100% online, so it’s best to deliver on that customer insight. Allowing the customers to initiate the return online without the need to pick up the phone will both save your company money and increase customer satisfaction.
How can a bad returns process hurt an online retailer’s brand reputation?
Many brands want to be seen as revolutionary, trendy, and up to date. Also, customers compare a brand’s return experience with other companies, especially Amazon. The return process is an extension of the company’s brand, hence having an outdated and non-friendly return process doesn’t help a brand position themselves as a leader in the market. If a brand wants to position itself as tech-forward, they need to deliver on that promise and that includes having a user-friendly online portal for processing returns.
Why do certain online retailers use complicated processes that make returns difficult for their customers?
It’s unlikely that brands use outdated or complicated return processes to purposely trick customers or to manipulate them into avoiding returns. The reality is that returns are complicated and complex for the merchant as well. They need to process the customer’s return request, ship a label, accept the parcel in the warehouse, process the refund, and then dispose or resell the returned item. Of course, automating some of these processes would help significantly. However, companies have limited resources and don’t always have the time to evaluate, integrate, implement, and launch new software. Implementing a new software, testing it and integrating it with all of their other tech stack can take several weeks, which could be a deterrent for some brands. Companies like AfterShip’s Return Center only take a few weeks to integrate, whereas there are many solutions that can take several months. While most brands genuinely want the best for their customers, they have limited budgets and resources. This means that much of these two will be spent on marketing, promotions, and other pre-purchase activities while post-purchase and returns get deprioritized.
How has COVID-19 affected AfterShip and its clients?
On the positive side, there has been an increase in online shopping, which pushed e-commerce to the next level. Pre-COVID there had been a lot of predictions that ecommerce will continue to grow. However, COVID really accelerated that growth far beyond any prediction.
On the downside, of course, there is a global supply chain issue. Most companies also begin to experience delays in their personal supply chain since they need to and want to keep warehouse employees safe, which leads to warehouse delays with packaging and getting packages ready. Retailers are abiding by restrictions on how many warehouse employees can work simultaneously and about social distancing, which is causing delays with getting packages out the door. On top of that, there are the major global supply chain issues that everyone is facing, which can sometimes lead to unhappy customers calling into customer service and wondering why their package is delayed.
What AfterShip offerings have helped your clients quickly adjust to the new reality of the pandemic?
Many of our clients use analytics and the dashboard to proactively inform clients of late packages. With so many supply chain issues and so many shipment delays, it’s becoming more and more imperative for brands to inform customers about shipment delays. AfterShip’s live reports help our clients catch shipment delays as they’re happening, and many of our clients use this data to proactively send their clients notifications that their shipment is delayed. Many of our clients also use the reports to spot trends. For example, we’ve had a client who noticed in her AfterShip portal that there’s an increase in delayed shipments in Italy, so she looked into what’s going on in Italy and found out that there was a major storm. This allowed her to proactively inform all customers in Italy that their shipments are impacted by the storm.
How does AfterShip help its clients both large and small navigate the post-purchase process?
Retailers utilize AfterShip to send their customers automated shipment tracking notifications to ensure that they have a positive post-purchase experience. The branded shipment notifications are an excellent tool to promote more products and keep a brand top-of-mind. Because shipment notifications have an extremely high open rate (70% on average) and click-through rate (30% on average), AfterShip’s clients have seen a 3% lift in overall repurchase rates, which is a very crucial factor for business success.
The AfterShip platform is also instrumental in helping retailers build customer loyalty, which leads to more sustainable growth. Our clients have seen a 40% reduction in where-is-my-order inquiries (WISMO) and a 15% reduction in delivery-related complaints, which means more happy customers.
What guidance does AfterShip provide its clients when using its product?
We have live support 24/7. We are an international company so we have clients and large teams across the globe. It’s not a situation where we have one lone person sitting in an office at night and anyone reaching out needs to wait until the one person gets off a call with another client. We truly have large teams working at every time of day to support all the time zones that customers live in. Our account executives and customer success managers are always available and happy to answer any questions. We’ve recently started doing win/loss interviews with the customers who recently signed up to learn more about their sales and onboarding experience. More than 75% have unsolicitedly mentioned that the openness and availability of our account executives was one major reason that they decided to join AfterShip.
About Andrew Chan
Andrew Chan is the Co-Founder and CPO of AfterShip, a leading post-purchase and tracking platform for e-commerce businesses. Andrew has more than 10 years of experience in SaaS product development and sales. He manages the company’s product managers, sales teams, and marketing teams. Before launching AfterShip, Andrew worked for Accenture as a business analyst.
Founded in 2012, AfterShip is a post-purchase and shipment tracking platform for online retailers to improve consumers’ post-purchase experience. Integrated with more than 740 carriers worldwide, AfterShip tracks more than 6 billion shipments per year. Currently, more than 200 top brands and more than 50,000 Shopify merchants utilize AfterShip to give their consumers peace of mind from shipment to anticipation to delivery. Partnering with leading e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, and Squarespace, AfterShip provides branded tracking pages and sends proactive delivery updates. Major marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Wish, and Lazada, and brands like Inditex, Harry’s, Dyson, Gymshark, Blenders Eyewear, Pura Vida Bracelets, and Kylie Skin employ AfterShip to customize their own shipment tracking solution and add value to their merchants and consumers.