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Customer experience: how to make returns a unique differentiator

By Luke Griffiths

Customer experience is an industry term that’s been floating around for years. So how come some retailers still aren’t implementing it into every customer touchpoint?

For some, it may be perceived costs, for others, they might claim a lack of information on how this works across channels. It might be that some retailers simply don’t think it’s important… and that’s when the alarm bells go off.

Customer experience needs to be infused into every process, from the moment a shopper taps their card on a terminal to when they decide to return an ill-fitting pair of jeans. Returns showcases an increasing opportunity for retailers to impress customers, and shops could see loyalty soar by transforming the returns experience… here’s how:

Mitigate the impact

Retailers who are facing an unmanageable barrage of returns need to act fast to understand why products are rebounding back to warehouses. Our research into the attitudes of 2,000 UK consumers towards returns, has highlighted a number of reasons why this might be, including: inaccurate images online compared to the product in real life (19%), the quality not meeting expectations (21%), and the item being damaged or faulty (25%).

With so many reasons fuelling consumer returns, retailers should really take stock and look at why this is happening. Photos that present an item as better or different to how it is in real life will only delay disappointment, while poor quality items will leave shoppers feeling short changed and frustrated. All of this only leads to an increasingly poor consumer experience.

These experiences won’t just lead to more product returns, they could lead to fewer return customers. Add to that a poor returns process, which 84% of UK shoppers said would cause them not to shop with a brand again, and retailers can quickly see themselves falling out of favour.

More accurate images, clear product descriptions, and a thorough process for checking faulty and damaged items can save retailers a lot of hassle and remove the need for numerous returns from customers.

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Make returns = free-turns

78% of consumers said that if a retailer offers free returns they’ll buy more with them over time. That’s a huge amount of people volunteering their loyalty for a good returns experience, and that’s no surprise to us at Klarna. Experience has long been the driver of loyalty, and a smooth, simple, and fuss-free experience — at every point in the shopping process — can be the difference between a one-time buyer, and a long-term loyal customer.

But as we’re focussing specifically on returns, we can see retailers certainly aren’t receiving mixed messages. Over two-thirds of shoppers say free returns are an essential factor in their choice of retailer, and a further 62% say they won’t buy from a retailer that doesn’t offer free returns.

Making returns free may feel like a hit for a retailer’s budgets, but the long game suggests that consumers trust and want to shop with brands who make returns free and easy. Taking the plunge and giving consumers what they ask for can only benefit retailers — those who do make the change rarely regret it.

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Bring on the tech!

Retailers shouldn’t feel like they need to revolutionise their business overnight, nor do they need to do it alone.

But for every problem facing the retail sector at the moment, there’s a tech specialist business or partner willing to lend a hand. Feeling pressured to adopt ‘the next big thing’ isn’t always the smartest option, but retailers could see real impact in their relationship with consumers by looking at more practical technology solutions that improve experience. Returns aren’t the only area that could use a helping hand, the checkout has plenty of room for improvement too.

We know that almost a third (31%) of shoppers said that they would be more likely to buy something online if they had the opportunity to pay for it after trying it at home, and so flexible payment options can be a strong opportunity for retailers looking to improve their customer experience.

Offering choice at the checkout also plays a part in building total lifetime value. 26% of respondents say paying after delivery would make them trust a retailer more, and 63% reveal it would encourage them to keep more items — helping build a relationship with customers and secure long-term loyalty.

It’s clear, then, that returns, delivery, and payments are all an integral part of the shopping process and making these elements simpler, smoother and in some cases free will be a huge perk for consumers — leading to a considerably better experience for them each and every time they shop.

Returns, in particular, don’t have to be a headache. Done right, they form part of a smart customer-first ecosystem of features where retailers can really stand out from the crowd.

Read the full report here - Rethinking Returns 2019

Luke Griffiths, General Manager, Klarna UK

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