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E-commerce Returns: What You Need to Know About Packaging

E-commerce Returns: What You Need to Know About Packaging

Consumer studies show that a whopping 92 percent of consumers will buy something again if returns are easy. Your customers want to know that they can easily return the item if there is an issue. To help customers, many companies offer free shipping on returns and include the required packaging materials to make the return.

Optimizing brand value is a continued process for all companies, and a consumer-oriented return policy strengthens the value of your brand to your customers. There are many components of the return process. While the logistics of the return process is important, this article focuses on the returns from a packaging perspective.

Before the purchase: what does the customer look for?  

Almost 70 percent of your customers are checking the return policy on your website before they make a purchase. This can make or break the initial purchase, as well as repeat shoppers. There are specific elements that will encourage the customer to make a purchase:

  • Clearly published: Publishing your return policy on your website is a requirement. Ensure that your customers can easily find this so that they know what to expect before they purchase.
  • Ease of use: Make the return experience as simple as possible; customers want to know that they can quickly and easily return the products, especially if it is not their fault (ie. Product damage, wrong product, etc.).
  • What can be returned: Within your return policy, spelling out exactly what can be returned is a must. This saves HR resources to field calls and inquiries about returns, and also protects you if there is a discrepancy.
  • Packaging: Specify whether you are going to provide the packaging or whether the costs are the responsibility of the customer.
  • Timeline: Let your customers know how long it will take to process the return. Will you send out the new items before receiving the returned item?

Your customers are returning

Making the return process part of your overall brand process can’t be ignored. E-commerce shopping is expected to hit a massive $4 trillion by 2020.  Data forecasts that at least 30 percent of those purchases are expected to be returned, and this is on the lower end. If these customers are welcomed to the return process with an easy experience, the likelihood of a repeat customer is strengthened.

Another number that has grown every year is the number of customers who are shopping online – approximately 96 percent of America. With 80 percent of those customers shopping in the last month, it’s clear that customers are repeatedly shopping online, so building long term relationships is important.

To take it a step further, if the return process requires the customer to source their own packaging the customer is still likely to make the return but is not likely to repeat shop. If they decide to keep the product, they are still unlikely to repeat shop or recommend you to other customers.

Pro tip: When setting the return deadline, research shows that a longer deadline actually decreases the rate of returns. The argument is that the longer the customer has an item the more attached to it they will grow (this is called the endowment effect).

Providing return packaging materials

Many companies offer free returns, but do you currently provide return packaging materials? The options for return packaging materials are endless, but creating an effective strategy takes special attention. Contact a Hughes packaging professional to learn more about customized return packaging options for your customers. Before deciding what materials you need, consider these questions:

  • How many different sized boxes or envelopes will you need?
  • Will you provide the materials with every purchase or will you only provide on demand?
  • Do you need to provide protective packaging void-fill to prevent further damage?
  • Will you provide free shipping or will the customer pay for the shipping?

Some of the return packaging products that Hughes offers include:

How lenient is too lenient?

This is where the cost analysis and logistics component plays a key role. With a cost analysis you may find that your customers with the most returns are also spending the most and justifying the expenses for the return materials and processes. A Hughes packaging professional can assist you in answering questions related to your return policy.

The overall objective with returns is to create a policy that helps your customers trust your brand, get support where needed, and provide efficient packaging materials.

Pro tip: Allow in store returns. This will encourage your customers to visit your store and increased foot traffic increases sales.

If you need assistance with your return packaging procedures, contact a Hughes packaging professional now.