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How to Prepare for and Manage Your Dropshipping Returns

3 minute read

As a dropshipping retailer you may consider returned merchandise to be a headache for the supplier, not you. Don’t forget, though, that you are the point of contact for the customers so if they have a poor experience when returning an item, it becomes your headache.

With as much as a third of all purchases made online being returned, it is worth investing time in preventing as many returns as possible but also creating a seamless experience for customers when they happen.

According to research, 65% of returns are the e-tailer’s fault, not the customer’s. That means either the wrong item was sent, it did not meet the customer’s expectations, or it was damaged. As a dropshipping retailer who never has contact with the inventory, you may be inclined to assume this is out of your hands. Instead, let’s look at ways in which you can one, prevent returns and two, make the return process as easy as possible. In fact, returns can be a great opportunity to retain customers by providing excellent customer service.

How do I reduce the amount of returns on my site?

1. Display the Product Accurately

As an e-commerce store you should be always looking for ways to build trust with your customers. This starts from the moment the shopper enters your site and views a product. The images and information displayed should be accurate and honest. Make sure your suppliers provide high res images with multiple views along with in depth description that matches the item. For example, if the description mentions “lace detail,” make sure there is a photo to support that. It will not only provide afirmation for you as the retailer blindly selling that item but also decrease the chances of return by aligning expectations.

Description copy is equally important and greatly influences buyers. If your supplier provides insufficient descriptions, feel free to edit to create more engaging text. For example, these four words have been defined by recent studies in behavioral economics, psychology and neuroeconomics to appeal to consumers primal instinct. Integrate them into your copy to build a personal relationship with your customer.

Lastly, if you are developing a new relationship with a supplier, you should consider purchasing a sample before selling the entire collection. Go through the experience to determine whether imagery and description meet expectations or disappoint.

2. Provide Accurate Sizing

The main disadvantage for consumers for purchasing online and one of the biggest influencers on returns is lack of a fitting room. If you can’t offer your customers an opportunity to try something on before purchase, be sure to offer the virtual equivalent.

Providing accurate dimensions can lead to informed purchases and prevent multiple size orders. A recent market survey commissioned by found that 41% of web shoppers in the U.K who bought clothes online, ordered the same item in two or more sizes. This will likely lead to a return (12% of the users that ordered multiple items forgot to return!). To avoid a return, be sure have size charts readily available so customers can make an informed purchase.

Ask your suppliers for accurate dimensions for each garment. Additionally, if you are listing international products, provide your customers with a size conversion chart. Shopify offers some great sizing apps that will make it easy for you.

You may also consider tools that will suggest sizing based on your customer’s previous purchases. For example if a user has consistently been buying size Medium but is about to check out for a size Small, have a pop up that forces them to confirm the purchase.

When a return does happen, how do I make it as easy as possible?

1. Clear and Easy to Find Return Policy

The most important thing is to lay out a very clear return policy. This not only helps reduce misunderstandings and mix ups but also may attract more sales. Ninety-one percent of consumers interviewed in a recent Harris Poll said that a store’s return policy was an important factor in a purchasing decision.

Since consumers are actively looking up return policies, it is an opportunity to impress your audience with clear and concise text. If you are working with suppliers that have different policies, you should decide on the one you would like to enforce for your store and remain consistent across the site. It is too confusing for users to have different return policies for products, even if it means you may be stuck with some inventory once and a while.

So…how do you write a good return policy?

2. Step by Step Shipping Instructions

As a dropshipper you have two options. You can either have the items returned to you or have them shipped directly back to the supplier.

If you decide to receive the return goods, have your shipping address clearly stated in your policy. This self service approach makes it consistent for your users but means you will be responsible for re-selling the returned items. Be prepared for the logistics involved with holding inventory.

If you decided to have the items shipped back to the brand, there is more customer service involved. Have all your suppliers addresses ready to go so you can immediately provide the return address for your customer.

If you are not prepared to offer free shipping on returns, try offering free shipping on exchanges as a way to encourage another purchase and retain that revenue.

3. Stipulate Time Frame

For protection, always take the supplier with the shortest window of time allowed for returns and cut it in half. For example if one brand offers 14 days for returns, offer 7 days for your customers so you have at least 7 days to get it back to the supplier.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what the time frame is, you just have to have one and be clear about it.

4. Communicate Often

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to offer excellent customer service. If you succeed in providing a seamless experience, you will likely see this customer return. While a lot of the logistics may be out of your control, the customer is dependent on you. Rarely can one over communicate with an anxious customer awaiting confirmation on the return or exchange. Be proactive in your emails and try to reach out before they do so you minimize complaints.

In conclusion, start approaching your return policy as an opportunity to increase sales. Pay attention to what is working and what is not. It is a powerful tool that is often misinterpreted as a hassle but should be approached as a strategy to generate more revenue.

What is your return policy and how is it working? Share comments below!

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