Free and Easy Returns Are Now Part of the E-Commerce Game

Free and Easy Returns Are Now Part of the E-Commerce Game

Have you ever had to return something you bought online? If so, you probably had to jump through hoops to get it done. Well, those days may be coming to an end. E-commerce operators are figuring out that free and easy returns are now part of the game.

Hassle-returns have long been part of the brick-and-mortar retail environment. For the better part of 30 years, retailers have taken back items with no questions asked. Online shoppers are beginning to expect the same thing from e-commerce operators. Whether it is practical or not doesn’t matter. Whether or not the retailer spends a fortune to accept returns isn’t even on the consumer’s radar.

The Old Way of Returning

Until recently, there was really only one model for returning things bought online. The first step was to contact the company and get a return merchandise authorization (RMA) number. Then you had to box up the item, put a shipping label on it, and head on down to a local shipping center to get it on its way. Things are starting to change.

There is a new model emerging known as ‘front door’ returns. It is a streamlined version of the old method that makes returns a lot easier on customers.

You still need an RMA number in most cases. But with the RMA number you also get either a printable shipping label or a QR code to generate a label from the website of a major carrier. That label goes on your box, and you schedule a pickup. Then you just put the package outside your door on the scheduled day.

Front door returns only eliminate one step, but it is the most inconvenient step: having to get in your car and drive to a shipping center. Eliminating that step eliminates most of the hassle of online returns. It is no big deal for shipping companies, either. They are likely going to be in your neighborhood anyway.

Options for International Shipping

The front door return model is still new enough that there aren’t a whole lot of companies offering it yet. With that said, it is not clear whether there are options for international shipping. There may be some day.

Preferred Shipping, a Texas-based reseller of DHL shipping services, says that DHL offers door-to-door delivery for e-commerce. Customers who utilize DHL Export Express can have their packages picked up at their location. However, it is not clear whether this holds true for returns.

With international shipping, there are always import and export regulations to worry about. It is not clear how an international company accepting returns would address those issues. Perhaps that’s why international returns are not as common.

It’s What Customers Want

International returns aside, it is clear that customers want an easy and hassle-free way to return merchandise to online sellers. If you’re not sure that’s true, check out the following stats cited by a recent Forbes piece:

  • A bad return experience will cause 84% of shoppers to not shop with that retailer again
  • Lack of an easy return policy will cause 75% of shoppers to shop elsewhere
  • Free returns motivate 86% of shoppers to buy from a particular retailer.

In fairness to retailers, accepting returns is a costly enterprise. Whether retail customers know it or not, e-commerce operators lose money on every return. They would rather not offer returns if they could get away with it. But they cannot because customers have come to expect it. Their only choice is to find a way to offer free and easy returns without losing the shirts off their backs.