With so many businesses and retailers competing for online sales, customer loyalty has never been more important. As more shoppers opt to buy online and the rate of deliveries rises, so to do the returns. Considering three-quarters of customers are now citing returns as an essential factor in their choice of retailer, an inadequate returns process has the potential to drive away sales before they even click "add to basket."

    Retailers often recognise the importance of delivery with a sharp focus building in the last 10 years. However, returns have largely been neglected. Businesses need to close the gap between delivery and returns and create a seamless full-circle experience.

    Why Have Retailers Neglected Returns?

    For some time, retailers have understood the direct correlation between a good delivery offering and cart abandonment rates. With a focus on the outbound customer experience, returns were more of an afterthought. However, over the last few years, there has been a rise of customers who regularly return items or over order. Thirty-five percent of shoppers deliberately over order so that they can see the quality of the item before deciding if they will keep it, whilst 25% of shoppers frequently return items. Neglecting these customers could potentially mean up to a quarter of customers are not receiving the highest quality experience.

    The Need to Bridge the Gap: Why Returns Are Vital to the Full-circle Experience that Customers Demand

    Offering a top-quality returns service is rapidly becoming one of the leading factors behind who customers are most likely to shop with. 46% of shoppers are now choosing to read through the full delivery and return information before they even make a purchase, so it’s not just important that it is an easy process, but also that the returns policy is easy to locate on the website.

    The more confident shoppers are that the returns process will be straightforward, the more likely they will be to commit to a purchase. Plus, 92% of shoppers who have received good returns experience make repeat purchases.

    All this shows that implementing a good returns experience encourages sales and repeat purchasing, so it's time they see delivery and returns as a full circle customer experience, rather than two separate services.

    Customers want choice and convenience when it comes to returns, just as they do with delivery. 85% of consumers have a preference for how they would like to make a return, and they say that tracking or communication during the returns process is the most important aspect. Just as many businesses do with delivery, returns need to have the same convenience and transparency. Bringing delivery and returns together, and seeing them as one full customer experience, helps retailers with providing this kind of service across both delivery and returns.

    Planning and managing the returns experience can be complex and costly for retailers, especially for smaller retailers who don't have the resources that larger Tier 1 business have. There is a need for a cost-effective and simple solution to solve the returns process and level the playing field with larger companies.

    Using Multi-carriers to Optimize Customer Experience and Alleviate Operational Pressure

    To offer the choice and convenience that customers demand, in both delivery and returns, you need to work with multiple carriers. This ensures you have a choice between the different services they provide and the different costs. All this means a better customer experience and a better bottom line for your operations. However, working with multiple carriers can present more of a challenge for businesses as dealing with individual carriers and their own services and contracts can become costly and time-consuming — especially if your shipping needs are growing.

    Enlisting the services of a global multi-carrier provider can alleviate this pressure by finding the carrier that will provide the best service for the specific shipment, whether its outbound or a return. Maintaining constant contact with carrier partners on your behalf means that they can ensure both your business and your customers get the very best service, wherever they are in the world.

    Bobbie Ttooulis is Executive Director, Global Freight Solutions (GFS). Visithttps://gfsdeliver.com/ for more information.