Returns happen – there is no way to prevent 100% of returns except by not taking them, but if you sell on Amazon or eBay, that is no longer an option because both sites now have mandatory return policies.
We had a no-questions-asked return policy in our eBay listings -yet we get very few returns.
When I looked back over the last couple of years, our returns on eBay averaged about 1 out of every 350 sales. It’s quite a bit higher on Amazon, about 1 out of every 80 sales, but that is due to Amazon’s even more liberal return policy and is more a function of Amazon’s customer base. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to reduce returns on both platforms.
Here are my tips for reducing returns:
Item Description – A poor item description is the number one reason for returns. It is critical that you write item descriptions that are complete – accurate – and provide full details and specifications about the item, included accessories and parts. The complete details include things like exact weight and measurements of the item, an accurate condition description that reveals any flaws, marks, stains, chips or damage of any kind.
Most people think or assume that shorter descriptions are better than long ones and they are incorrect. I have tested this extensively and long descriptions result in more sales and fewer returns.
Photos – Take good photos and plenty of them. You can’t have too many photos. I like to take a photo of the item from all angles. If I have a professional photo from the manufacturer, I will use it, but I always include photos of the actual item I am selling.
Communication – Quick, polite and complete communications are essential to setting expectations in buyer’s minds. A buyer whom you have been communicating with now sees you as a person – not a platform they are dealing with. For that reason, they are far less likely to leave you bad feedback or a poor star rating if something is wrong -and they are more likely to communicate with you and give you a chance to fix the issue.
My wife, Karen, handles all of our customer communication. She always tries to personalize messaging between us and eBay or Amazon customers. For example, if we send an email telling someone in Tennessee we have shipped their item, Karen might add something like “We drove through Tennessee on our Way to Georgia and it is a really beautiful place, so we stopped and looked around and had a great time there.”
A sentence like that changes the tempo of the entire message from a business-like sounding automated email, to something personal, and entirely changes how the buyer sees you.
Shipping – After poor descriptions, shipping issues probably cause more returns than any other. These include overcharging for shipping, poor packing, waiting too long to ship and shipping in old over-used boxes. So use good shipping and packing materials, ship quickly, tell the customer when you shipped and how, and don’t overcharge for shipping. Note – eBay and Amazon both require entering tracking info into the system. Always do this ASAP.
Policies – We offer a 30-Day return policy and offer exchange or refund – customer choice. And, we pay for the return shipping. Will this occasionally cost you money – yes, but you will also make more money in the long run from increased sales and because you will enjoy a higher feedback and star rating.
So try these strategies and see how they affect your business. While I was working on this article, Karen got an email from a customer who bought a firepit cover from us 9 months ago and he said the cover had deteriorated and had tears in it. This is the first time that has happened, so I figured he must have gotten a defective one. My solution is to send him a new cover at no cost. A few minutes later we got another sale with positive feedback and the following message back through eBay: