The global pandemic has indeed accelerated demand for cross-border e-commerce dramatically. It’s never been a better time for a domestic retailer to expand into new international markets. However, one of the side effects of this explosive growth is that consumers worldwide are returning items at a much larger volume. Prior to the pandemic, an estimated 25% of all online purchases ended with a returned or exchanged item. In the U.S. alone, the number of e-commerce packages returned by consumers in 2020 jumped 70 percent compared to 2019.
There are many reasons why consumers opt to return e-commerce purchases. By its very nature, online shopping can present challenges for consumers who like to try on and touch goods before buying. In some countries, consumers prefer to order different sizes or colors of one garment and try them on to find the perfect fit, then return the other items they don't want to keep. But to provide an excellent onsite experience, cross-border e-commerce brands need to make sure they get their reverse logistics right so that they can deliver that consumer experience through to the last mile.
Easy Returns Build Trust and Loyalty
In many countries, the events of the past year have left consumers more open to doing business with foreign brands. When certain items became hard to find from local retailers due to supply chain interruptions, cross-border brands were an attractive, convenient option. However, cross-border brands must work a bit harder than their domestic counterparts to ensure that they win and retain the trust of these new customers. One way to accomplish this is to create a seamless reverse logistics strategy that eliminates any pain points for the consumer. International shoppers want to know that if they take a chance on a cross-border brand, they will be able to send an item back and receive their refund in a timely fashion.
Transparency is Key
Brands that neglect to communicate a clear, localized return policy can stand out in all the wrong ways with global customers. Further, brands that make cross-border customers jump through hoops with shipping, taxes and duties to send back an item through customs will struggle with repeat business. Retailers should also be clear about what can and cannot be returned due to local regulations, how and when a customer’s money is refunded, and who pays for return shipping. If the return policies differ across markets, then this information should be clearly communicated for the customer in each country. It’s important that customers have access to web-based returns processes, including self-service shipping labels and commercial invoices.
Prevent the Need for Returns
The best way to reduce cost and complexities around cross-border returns is to prevent them in the first place. This is not always possible, but there are a few best practices to help brands ensure that customers make more informed decisions when purchasing items online. For example, retailers should provide accurate product descriptions, multiple photos, and sizing charts using local measurements. Brands can leverage technology like artificial intelligence to create virtual fitting rooms or showrooms, so the customer can visualize how the item will look on them or in their home. Retailers can also use prior shopping history to alert customers when they attempt to purchase an item in a size that they previously returned and suggest the item in the more accurate size.
It only takes one negative experience for global consumers to search elsewhere, and there’s plenty of competition from both domestic and international brands. Take the time to develop a comprehensive cross-border returns strategy that takes into account the customer’s end-to-end shopping experience.
Flow can help brands create and execute a seamless return strategy for global shoppers. Our relationships with global last-mile carriers and partners make reverse logistics and a returns strategy possible for our online merchant clients. Flow removes the burden of global logistics through its international carrier network, superior rate cards, and we can even provide a branded, self-service returns portal on your e-commerce site.
Get in touch with Flow today to find out more about how to create a reverse logistics strategy that delights your customers in every country.