Customers love the convenience of shopping online, but there’s one area where it’s hard to match brick-and-mortar: the dressing room experience. There’s no way to touch, feel, or try on clothes digitally. Many retailers compensate for this with highly forgiving returns policies such as free shipping both ways and instant refunds. Some even go so far as to suggest ordering several sizes of an item at once, and returning the ones that don’t fit free of charge. This might make customers more willing to try their luck, but it builds considerable waste into the business model by locking in down stream costs related to return shipping, restocking, and product loss.
And by the way, encouraging returns is also an environmental disaster. While online shopping, in general, can have a lower carbon footprint than in-store shopping due to more efficient logistics, returns multiply that impact. Beyond doubling or more the transport involved, returns often mean wasted inventory, as goods returned in less-than-perfect condition end up consigned to a landfill.
At a time when razor-thin margins are keeping retailers up at night, and environmental anxiety is doing the same for consumers, there has to be a better solution.
The best way to handle returns: making them unnecessary
No matter how simple and painless a returns process may be, it’s never a customer’s first choice. They’ve still got to go through the hassle of filling out a form online, re-packing the item, watching for the credit to appear, and so on. They’d much rather get the purchase right on the first try. So why can’t they? Simple: retailers aren’t guiding customers
What if we could help the customer avoid that struggle and hesitation in the first place? What if, instead of forcing them to leave their current page and seek help in a different part of the site, we offered them relevant information right where they are, in context?
Relevant Guidance—offered when it matters
Some companies are already taking steps to give customers a better sense of what they’re seeing on the screen—not just the colour, but the fabric, fit, and feel. Some are using extreme close-ups to show the weave, texture, and relative softness of an item. Others use mainstream brands to give an idea of sizing — “Love Levi’s 501s and wear a 34w 34L? This pair will fit just right.” This is a great start, assuming that customers know about and take advantage of these tools. The next step is to make sure they do.
It’s here that retailers can draw inspiration from traditional in-store shopping. The best associates use behavioural cues to understand when a customer could use assistance. Online, an automated system can use real-time behaviour analytics to draw the same insights. Maybe a customer is bouncing back and forth between two pages, or clicking on reviews with a given keyword in the title—or putting multiple sizes of the same item in their cart. Each of these markers suggests a specific type of struggle, and each can be addressed proactively by guiding the customer to the right online tool. The customer can then complete their purchase with confidence, no returns necessary. The company saves money, the customer avoids hassle, and the planet can breathe a little easier—without the need for the kind of costly human engagement the retailer hoped to avoid.
An online retail strategy designed around a higher volume of returns creates exactly the wrong kind of incentives. It’s more work for the customer, most costly for the retailer, and more damaging for the environment. By providing automated contextual guidance at the right time, in the right way, retailers can ease suffering across the board—and build a more differentiated, competitive, and successful online business at the same time.
goMoxie is a digital guidance platform that simplifies and provides clarity to the digital customer journey. The technology eliminates customer struggle and provides relevant guidance, increasing sales and driving business growth. goMoxie has success stories with brands like Michael Kors, P+O Ferries, Dell, and Chill Insurance.
Visit goMoxie here: www.gomoxie.com/