Handling returns, both domestically and abroad
Retailers can now reach customers across the globe, although it may take some extra effort.
Even if retailers are based in the United States, the wide grasp of the Web allows merchants to utilize their online stores reach customers regardless of where they are located. At that point, the only question retailers need to ask themselves is whether they want to serve international customers.
However, regardless of whether they are abroad or domestic, return logistics has long been a sticking point for many online sellers. When customers want to return or exchange products bought online, getting them back in stock and available to sell once again can be difficult. This is particularly challenging given the rise of omnichannel retailing - brands need to be able to return and exchange products regardless of where customers made the original purchase.
Accepting returns from domestic customers is already a challenge, when merchants decided to serve international customers, the problem is magnified by several times.
"Establishing a process for documentation, cost-effective shipping and returns back to the U.S. is only part of the challenge," Multichannel Merchant contributor Michael Lamia explained. "Organizations must also clawback the duties and taxes paid to foreign governments."
Establishing the policies and processes for accepting returns, regardless of from where
Before retailers open their stores to international customers, they need to have strong return processes and policies in place. The same is true of domestic shoppers, but with foreign buyers, there is even less room for error.
It all starts with an effective return policy that is easy to find on the retailer's website. Having an easily accessible return policy on product pages can reduce the anxiety associated with making a purchase and also eliminates the chance of any "surprises," such as finding out a retailer only offers exchanges within a certain time frame.
Lamia suggested the next order of business needs to be setting product restrictions. Shipping is expensive, particularly when it comes to foreign countries. Retailers may need to make special exceptions to return policies on specific items. Merchants want to serve these customers, but at the same time, sometimes they just need to say "no" when it costs them a fortune to return or exchange an item.
Finally, retailers should look at international carrier options. Whichever services they use domestically may not work internationally or may be significantly more expensive than other options. Multichannel Merchant suggested using a postal solution - although this may take longer, it may also be much simpler than alternatives.
Making return logistics work for the merchant
Whether customers are domestic or foreign, ironing out return and exchange policies and practices is critical to success. For many years, online sellers simply did not allow exchanges or they charged customers restocking fees simply because it was such a pain. With the competition of online retail ramping up, however, this is no longer an option because it may cost merchants sales.
Instead, merchants should look at the technology they use to deal with order management and logistics. The right eCommerce solutions can play a big role in helping retailers accept returns while also preserving profit margins.
The key is working around the various channels in play. An order made online does not have to be returned to the same warehouse from which it originated. This often makes the entire process needlessly complex and expensive when merchants could simply accept the return in a store and add it to the inventory there. However, retailers do need the tools that help them account for these products to ensure their inventory counts remain accurate.