The importance of the return policy in international e-commerce
Returns in the supply chain

For many e-commerce sellers, just thinking about returns, and especially international returns is a headache. They change the profit margin, cause a lot of logistical and administrative problems.

Therefore, a return policy and logistics are needed that can be perfectly executed, with transparent processes to promote trust with the customer, which on the other hand, are feasible and profitable for the seller. In this sense, 'Sales Supply' has collected several reports to show the importance of creating this policy when adding customers.

An unclear or inflexible policy can result in lost sales

From a customer perspective, online shopping means sacrificing the ability to see, touch, and taste an item in exchange for other benefits, such as convenience, a better price, or the availability of a certain product.

Despite this, the idea that the product may or may not be imagined or may arrive damaged creates a need for the customer to know exactly how to return the products and receive their money back. An unclear return policy is the second reason why the checkout process is abandoned, according to a study conducted.

Facilitate return

In contrast, the research revealed that 53% of customers were satisfied when the return policy and procedure was clear and transparent.

Thus, when selecting a retailer, shoppers value return policies that offer convenience and money-saving initiatives. A pre-printed return label on the box, the possibility of returning the items to a store and, above all, returns free of additional costs are factors that increase purchase intention.

However, ComScore found that consumers continue to experience problems with shipping costs, lengthy return forms, or delays in waiting for their refund.

The retailer's perspective

According to 'Sales Supply' retailers view return policies as a costly process that will not lead to higher sales. The handling of all the products, the shipment back to the warehouse that is usually abroad, the communication with the clients, the taxes, the administration… All this can be a great challenge for retailers.

The European Consumer Commission's scoreboard shows that most retailers still see too many obstacles to cross-border selling, including complying with consumer protection rules abroad, rising costs, and geographic distance. All concerns are closely related to all the steps involved in returns.

Own returns management

There are several ways to deal with international returns. Larger players such as Asos and ModCloth are faced with a high number of returned items to consider. Asos has built a network of distribution centers around the world in order to manage returns more effectively. ModCloth operates from its distribution centers in the United States.

Outsourcing the service to an international logistics provider

Many retailers that sell to international audiences use third-party vendors in order to handle returns. Zalando has three logistics centers in Germany and uses a large international logistics partner, DHL, to handle its delivery, free of charge, and returns, free, throughout its 14 destination markets in Europe.

Outsourcing returns to a local partner

For smaller companies, working with a local, smaller or more specialized partner to handle returns can be a solution.

Customers can send their unwanted merchandise back to an address in their own country. The seller can choose whether to include a label for free returns or to let the consumer pay for the return. As this is a local shipment, they will be cost efficient.

The local partner who handles the return and does all the administrative procedures necessary for the operation. Shipments to the external warehouse of this seller are allied in order to reduce costs. In this way, the seller can offer the customer more convenience without increasing the price of the return.