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March 7, 2022

How Partnering With a 3PL Can Make the Returns Process Easier

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This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.

20% of products bought online are returned, compared to just 9% of those purchased in-store. No matter how many strategies you use to decrease returns, you will always have customers who want to return products purchased online. 

Rather than discuss how returns cause profit losses and disgruntled customers, we’re focusing on how to make the best of returns. Keep reading to understand return rates by industry, the impact of returns on the customer experience, and tactical strategies for handling eCommerce returns. 

Return Rates by Industry

Did you know that return rates vary by industry? See the chart below to find out why some industries have higher return rates overall than others.

Here are the return rates by industry:

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(Image Source: Statista)

It probably isn’t surprising to learn that the industry with the highest rates of return is apparel (specifically clothing). The most common reasons for returns in the apparel industry are that items don’t fit properly, the customer changed their mind or didn’t like the style, or the items were not as described. 

Across other industries, 80% of shoppers return items because of a mistake. This may include items being damaged, broken, or incorrect; regardless, it’s more than just the customer changing their mind.

Impact of Returns on the Customer Experience

No matter what the reason is for the return, the experience a customer has returning items can make or break their sentiment towards your brand. For example, 84% of online shoppers would say goodbye to a retailer after a bad returns experience. Plus, these customers can also leave bad reviews detailing the negative experience, discouraging future shoppers from purchasing your products.

Easy returns are very important to shoppers. In fact, 54% of eCommerce shoppers said that their definition of a positive online shopping experience is a simplified returns process. Positive shopping experiences are vital to retain customers and increase brand loyalty. 

Whether or not your customers find your company’s return experience simple or not will dictate if they ever buy from you again. But rather than fearing that your eCommerce returns experience is driving people away, keep reading to learn how to properly handle returns in order to drive repeat customers. 

Strategies for Handling Ecommerce Returns

As a reminder, returns are inevitable when shoppers are buying products online. Rather than focusing on how to decrease returns, we’re sharing tips on how to effectively handle eCommerce returns to keep customers coming back to shop with your brand.

Before we dive into the strategies for handling eCommerce returns, here are tips to make returns a better experience for customers. No matter what return method you use, your brand should always:

  • Be transparent and clear in your returns policy, and make it easy to find.
  • If possible, offer multiple ways to return products (e.g., shipping back, returning in-store, etc.
  • Give customers a generous time frame to return products, but make deadlines clear.
  • Make return labels easy to print, and consider prepaid return labels.

Crafting an effective return policy doesn’t have to be challenging. In fact, the more simple and easy to understand, the better. The best return policies answer the big 3 questions: When, How, and What. Take a look at this example:

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(Image Source: returnlogic)

This example of a return policy is excellent because it includes a call-to-action, making returns as simple as the press of a button. 

Now that you know the best practices for returns, here are some strategies to help you improve your returns process:

1. Offer the Option To Return Items to a Brick-And-Mortar Store

This first tip only applies if your company has physical store locations. This tip is helpful because many shoppers prefer to drop the item off rather than mail it back in. For shoppers who rated their last return as ‘very easy,' 46% said it was because they were able to drop off their return at a convenient location.

Not only is dropping off items in a store more convenient, but it might entice more shoppers to buy. If they’re only returning because their clothing doesn’t fit, they’ll be likely to stick around and try on more sizes, leading to a sale. By knowing their size, they’ll be more confident in their future online purchasing decisions..

2. Post the Item Back to Your Warehouse

This is the most popular option for eCommerce retailers who don’t have a physical store. Shoppers post the item back to your warehouse or fulfillment center. Merchandising employees then inspect the product to ensure it’s eligible for a refund. Then, the item is processed back into inventory at the warehouse until someone else buys it. 

3. Use a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Partner

Third-party logistics (3PL) partners handle the entire order fulfillment process, including returns. Since 3PL companies are experts, they make the returns process much easier for your customers. 

When customers return an item, it arrives back at the 3PL warehouse. The 3PL team inspects the item, and either process a refund themselves or lets you know that the refund is ready to be processed on your end. After they approve an item, they place it back on the shelf to fulfill a future order.

3PL partners are a great option for brands that want to avoid dealing with returns, or brands that don’t have enough physical stores or warehouses to simplify the returns process. With 50+ warehouses across the United States, Flexport is an excellent option for a 3PL partner to help you improve your return processes.

Flexport helps you optimize reverse logistics to get the returned items back in stock for future customers, faster. Returns powered by Flexport allow you to:

  • Lower the costs associated with your returns
  • Manage and process returned items more efficiently
  • Gain visibility into each return with detailed tracking and reporting
  • Inject resellable returns through a dedicated facility to maintain strong coverage

…all with a single 3PL provider.

Simplify Your Returns Operations

Although returns can be costly, they are also an opportunity for growth. The most effective way to make returns beneficial for your company is to focus on improving the customer experience to ensure that shoppers are satisfied and likely to purchase from your brand again in the future. Learn more about Flexport Returns, or talk to an expert to get started today.

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