It may only be July, but e-tailers everywhere are already racking their brains for ways to minimize costly returns this holiday season.
Their angst is understandable given the staggering statistics about the impact of returns on their bottom lines. Fully one-third of all Internet sales are ultimately returned, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story.
While it’s worthwhile to spruce up the fine print to let shoppers know what your policies are should they wish to make a return, merchants should also endeavor to prevent returns altogether with product information that proactively addresses concerns and matches them with the right items, the first time around
Though video production can represent a significant investment, practical videos can contribute to the bottom line by increasing conversion and staving off returns.
Nearly 60% of consumers say they’re more confident about online purchases thanks to product videos, and 44% say they purchase more on sites that provide videos, according to research from the E-Tailing Group and MarketLive technology partner Invodo.
The E-Tailing Group study found that shoppers are most willing to spend time with videos that educate them about a particular product category, while videos that demonstrate how to use an individual product came in a close second. 55% of shoppers prefer to consult videos as part of the deep consideration process that takes place on the product page.
Consider investing in videos centered around these three essential types of video content:
Problems and solutions. Create videos centered around common shopper concerns or challenges, such as swimsuit fit for an apparel merchant or wet weather preparedness for a camper.
Buying guides. Help shoppers navigate among the choices in a particular product category with video buying guides that step them through the factors they should consider.
Product demonstrations. At the most detailed level of the purchase consideration process, videos that show how to use individual products help consumers see concretely whether the item is a fit for their needs.
High Tech Tools
Though highly effective, videos aren’t the only tools available to help retailers improve customer satisfaction.
Consider using specialized tools or apps for matching colors or allowing customers to take a virtual test-drive of your products. Though development may be daunting, cost-savings for providing them — particularly for big-ticket and/or match-required products could be worth the the effort.
Design Within Reach partnered with mydeco.com to offer DWR 3-D Room Planner allowing customers to create or upload floor plans and then complete rooms with details, including the vast collection of DWR furniture and accessories to get a realistic preview of how they will appear in home.
Sherwin Williams has also developed an app called ColorSnap® which easily matches colors in images you capture with your iPhone to Sherwin-Williams paint colors.
Fit Guides and Super Specifics
The biggest cause of returns by far is size. It’s a persistent sales hurdle for apparel merchants: helping shoppers find the right fit without being able to physically try on items before purchase.
This means going beyond traditional fit charts, which list sizes and dimensions in inches in a static grid. Consider the following ideas more tailored to online customers who expect the process to be quick and convenient.
Develop an at-a-glance system. Go beyond the numbers and develop a system appropriate for your merchandise that conveys key fit information — whether garments are meant to be loose-fitting or tight or whether watches are rugged or delicate, for example.
With the web becoming increasingly visual, merchants in all industries should find ways to allow customers to employ faceted search and communicate facet options on category and product pages with icons, shapes or sliders. Eyewear and eye care site Lenscrafters lets shoppers filter frames by face shape as well as frame shape, using icons as guides.
Save the numbers. If you ask shoppers to supply their dimensions, save the information to their profile for future reference — a time-saving feature shoppers will appreciate — and use the data to present products that are most likely to fit, whether on the eCommerce site or in targeted email or mobile offers.
Synch sizes across brands. If shoppers know their size in a particular brand, you can use that information to help match them to other garments. You can make this process as simple as creating an equivalency chart for shoppers to consult, or you can employ a matching technology such as TrueFit, which asks shoppers to create a profile based on a sampling of brands that fit well, plus information about body type. The portable profile lets shoppers visiting the sites of participating merchants view which items are likely to fit them well, as at the Macys.com denim shop for women.
Product Q and A
Your customers are invariably going to have questions you didn’t think of adding to your Q & A lists.
Seventy-two percent of customers trust online opinions as much as they trust their own friends and family, according to Forrester. According to Forbes, ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations, whether from strangers or from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
Let shoppers pose questions and customers answer them. Integrate your questions and answers with your review section, the bedrock of any ecommerce site, with the main stream of product information. By doing so, the information not only is more likely to be read, but more questions are likely to be spawned – thereby creating momentum.
Skincare merchant Perricone MD gives reviews and Q and A content equal weight, using a tabbed format so that shoppers can swiftly switch information streams as they conduct research.
Such a presentation not only makes for interesting reading; it also solves the critical-mass problem common to product Q-and-A tools that are siloed separately from reviews.
By enabling fluid dialogue between existing customers and potential shoppers, merchants create a platform for exchanging candid information – thereby establishing the brand as a credible hub of product knowledge and increasing customers confidence in their purchasing decisions.
This stream of user-generated content that ends up benefiting everyone.
Let shoppers know they can try and buy in-store
While shopping online is convenient, sometimes customers would still prefer to visit stores to ensure they’re getting the right fit.
Jewelry merchant Helzberg Diamonds prominently offers in-store appointments to view any of their 30,000 diamonds and jewelry collections for those shoppers who just need to see before they buy. An appointment icon displayed throughout their site offers a click-and-schedule feature. They add, “We look forward to seeing you!”
Shoppers can still use web sites to browse the full product catalog to narrow down choices but try and buy where they can see and feel the merchandise in person.
What methods do you use to prevent returns. What worked? What challenges are you facing?