Optimization of the foreign returns process in cross-border e-commerce – What can be improved?

  • Last update: 11.04.2024
  • Published: 19.09.2023
  • Read in: 6 min

Being an entrepreneur, it’s important to accept and understand that returns are an integral part of running a business, especially in e-commerce. However, let’s look at it this way — what seems like a challenge can also be an opportunity for growth. Deciding to expand your business into new foreign markets, we must pay special attention to this issue. Foreign customers, fearing complications or higher costs of returns, may hesitate to flee to local competitors. Therefore, it’s crucial to be well-prepared to serve the foreign consumer, to gain their trust and increase your credibility.

Optimization of the foreign returns process in cross-border e-Commerce – What can be improved?

From the customer’s perspective, returns often result from discrepancies between expectations and reality – what the seller presented in the product description on the website does not always match what the customer received. Defective products, incorrectly fulfilled orders, delayed deliveries, and inappropriate sizes or cuts are common reasons for returns. Foreign customers often block themselves from making a purchase due to fears related to potentially high costs and complications associated with international shipments.

For e-commerce sellers, returns can mean loss of profits and additional costs related to the return process. Planning to operate or already operating in the fashion or electronics industry? You probably know that these sectors have the highest return rates. Understanding the challenges related to returns in these industries, as well as others, is a fundamental basis for finding optimal solutions.

How can the return process be improved in international e-commerce?

Here are 7 steps to optimize foreign returns:

1. Provide a clear and understandable returns policy

Before deciding to sell abroad, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the legal regulations regarding consumer protection in the respective country. Acting in accordance with local laws can help avoid serious problems and misunderstandings.

Ensure that return policies are clear, understandable, and easily accessible on your website. Most importantly, make sure they are written in the native language of the respective country! This will help avoid potential misunderstandings and conflicts, build trust and a sense of security for customers, and consequently lead to an increase in conversions. A buyer familiar with the return policies feels more confident and is more likely to make a purchase, knowing that in case of problems with the product, they can return or exchange it without any issues.

Remember to include the time frames within which customers can return a product, the required condition for returning a product, information regarding packaging, and any fees that may be incurred.

2. Create a knowledge compendium

Try to contain all information regarding returns in one place — step-by-step guides, frequently asked questions and answers, and troubleshooting tips. With such materials, customers will feel more independent, as they get tools to solve problems without needing to contact customer service.

3. Keep informed on the go!

One thing is certain, customers do not like to be kept in uncertainty. Provide them with the ability to track return shipments and regularly update the order status. Informing about any changes in order status is crucial as it eliminates concerns and creates a positive shopping experience.

4. Make the returns process as easy as possible

The process of returning products can already be cumbersome and stressful, why make it even more complicated. Minimize the number of steps and documents required from customers to make a return. Eliminate unnecessary difficulties and frustrations for customers by providing a simple and intuitive return form, which will translate into a pleasant and stress-free experience.

5. Provide a local returns address

When selling cross-border, high costs and long order processing times can be barriers and limitations for business growth and customer satisfaction. Provide local return addresses to avoid these additional expenses — international shipping is often significantly more expensive than domestic. This will also shorten the return processing time — the shipment does not have to cover long distances, and the entire return process is faster and more efficient. Additionally, faster return processing can impact customer satisfaction and accelerate the refund to their account, eliminating stress and frustration associated with waiting and uncertainty.

The e-commerce return management service Salesupply allows sellers to offer their customers a local return address in 17 different countries, which can significantly streamline the return process in your online store.

6. Set up a team responsible for returns

It happens that customers encounter complications during the return process — difficulties with generating return labels, various questions regarding pending returns, or delays. Provide a customer service team that will handle the issue of returns – offering support to customers in their native language, eliminating communication barriers, and responding to their inquiries immediately and effectively, minimizing frustration. Additionally, such a team can be a source of valuable information that can further improve and develop the company.

It’s also worth using the help of external companies specializing in customer service outsourcing, which can significantly relieve you of this duty.

7. Draw conclusions!

Returns in an online store are a source of valuable information. Analyze the reasons for returns — what problems are most often reported? Can it be avoided? How can it be improved? This is an excellent opportunity to notice certain trends and understand potential quality or customer service issues, as well as a chance to draw conclusions and improve.

In short, in the field of international e-commerce, optimizing the return process is a key aspect. Deciding to expand into foreign markets, it is necessary to provide comprehensive customer service support — ensure clear and understandable return policies (in the native language!), local return addresses, and keep informed about any changes. Reducing difficulties related to the return process translates into customer satisfaction, trust-building, and long-term relationships, as well as increased competitiveness in the international e-commerce market. Moreover, analyzing returns provides valuable information that can help in refining the store’s offer and ensuring even better shopping experiences.

Antoni Merkun Copywriter and marketer, who has been cooperating with Taxology since March 2023. Interested in SEO and content marketing.