Insights to Help Your Business

Enhance Your Returns Shipping: Key Lessons from Amazon Prime Day

Learn how to master your returns shipping experience with key insights from Amazon Prime Day. Discover effective strategies to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Amazon Prime Day has caused a ripple effect across the industry. Walmart, Target, and many others have seized the opportunity to hold their own sales events at the same time to effectively compete. But it’s not just for retail giants. Online spending in the U.S. climbed 6.1% during 2023’s Prime Day promotion, according to Adobe Analytics.

For small and medium-sized merchants, it’s not just an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and boost their own sales. It’s also a critical moment to fine-tune the entire customer experience, especially the returns process. In an age where consumers are increasingly shopping online, a seamless returns experience can be a game-changer, one that differentiates the business in a crowded competitive marketplace.

Let's dive into ways you can enhance your returns shipping experience, leveraging insights directly from consumers about their preferences. 

Female wearing an apron and writing on a clipboard with a box in front of her
The Importance of a Smooth Returns Process

According to a recent UPS Capital survey1, 44% of consumers shop online weekly, with another 26% doing so monthly. This frequency underscores the necessity for merchants to prioritize not just the sale but also the post-purchase experience. Consider these key statistics:

  • Returns Frequency: A third (35%) of consumers surveyed report returning items more than four times a year. This means that a significant portion of your customers will likely engage with your returns shipping process multiple times. Ensuring the returns experience is efficient and hassle-free can encourage repeat business.
  • Delivery Issues: Delivery impacts are cited as some of the most common reasons for returns, including items damaged during delivery (35%) and items that never arrived (16%). Addressing these issues with robust packaging, reliable shipping partners, and clear end-to-end visibility and communication can reduce the number of returns and increase customer satisfaction. Additionally, comprehensive shipping insurance can bring you peace of mind and help reduce any reputational and bottom-line impact.
What Consumers Want in a Returns Process

Understanding what makes a returns process easy and appealing is crucial. Consumers have clear preferences over what features they want retailers to leverage, including:

  • Clear Return Policies: Ambiguity in return policies is a major deterrent. Over half (58%) of consumers surveyed feel a clear return policy is the number one feature to make a returns process easy. Ensure your return policy is straightforward, with no gray areas or hidden exclusions. Transparency builds trust and encourages purchases.
  • Free Returns: Notably, Boomers (62%) and Gen X (61%) respondents feel free returns is the number one feature to make a returns process easy. Offering free returns can significantly boost consumer confidence. While it might seem costly upfront, the long-term loyalty and increased sales often offset the initial expense.
  • Real-Time Returns Tracking: Providing real-time tracking for returns enhances the customer experience by keeping them informed throughout the process. This transparency can reduce anxiety and increase trust in your brand.
  • Fast Refund Processing: Quick refunds are a top priority for consumers. Streamlining your refund process not only satisfies customers but also frees up your resources to handle other business operations.
Learned Lessons from Amazon

Amazon is often regarded as the gold standard for returns, with 57% of surveyed consumers citing it as having the best returns experience. Notably, in contrast to other big box retailers like Walmart (18%) and Target (9%). Key features include:

  • Multiple Return Methods: Amazon offers a variety of ways to return an item, from courier pick up/drop off and self-ship to third-party drop off locations (e.g., Kohl’s). This flexibility makes the process convenient for consumers. Not to mention, 43% of consumers surveyed feel returning online purchases is generally easier than in-store due to having multiple return methods.
  • Clear Return Policies and Fast Refunds: Amazon’s clear return policies and efficient refund processes set a benchmark that merchants can aspire to.
  • Avoiding Negative Labels: Over half (56%) of consumers surveyed avoid products marked as "frequently returned." Ensuring your products are accurately described and meet customer expectations can reduce the frequency of returns and enhance your brand’s reputation.
The Price of a Complicated Returns Experience

As Amazon Prime Day illustrates, a seamless returns experience is integral to eCommerce success. In fact, nearly 7-in-10 (68%) surveyed consumers would be deterred from shopping with a brand due to a complicated return process, with a majority (74%) of Millennial respondents saying so.

Merchants can create a returns shipping process that not only satisfies customers, but also differentiates their brand by understanding and addressing consumer expectations. By implementing these strategies, you can enhance your returns experience to build lasting customer loyalty and get ahead of the competition.

1All statistics derived from an online survey completed by 1,000 18+ U.S. adults. It was commissioned by UPS Capital and fielded by Dynata, a global market research firm, in June 2024.

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