If there is second COVID-19 wave it is likely that lockdowns will be reintroduced – possibly over the holiday/peak season. Ecommerce brands that implement safe delivery and return methods now will be ahead of the curve should the time come.
An unexpected bonus of COVID-19 has been seen by many ecommerce brands – once the initial shock period of March and April ended, sales significantly increased. ESW clients have seen up to 110% increase in average order volume since the same time last year with some countries seeing over 300% growth in this time.
However, the pandemic has still affected businesses and changed shopper behaviour, whether through mandated lockdown or by consumer fears regarding the spread of the virus. Brick and mortar stores that were closed throughout lockdown had to start or increase their ecommerce offerings, and shoppers were often cautious about receiving packages due to possible transmission concerns – all of which impacted brands’ sales.
With the possiblity of another lockdown if an anticipated second wave happens, brands need to implement safe delivery and returns now to be ready for peak season. To help brands provide the best possible delivery and returns services throughout the pandemic and beyond, here is a guide to improving delivery and returns across all touch points.
- Communicate with Shoppers
Clear communication with shoppers is important under normal circumstances in order to pre-empt questions, minimize contact with customer service as far as possible, and provide clarity to shoppers on any aspects of their purchase such as delivery or returns, but it is particularly important during these uncertain times.
Clearly positioning any changes to delivery times, returns or refunds on the website home page and in FAQs will ease customers’ minds and should minimise unnecessary communications with customer service. Similarly, if packages are delayed, alerting the customer in advance has shown to reduce reach out to customer service.
- Flexible Delivery and Tracking
Providing additional delivery methods such as express delivery or buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) to allow customers to have their goods delivered to them in a way that is both convenient and safe for them, will reassure shoppers that they can avail of the best options for their particular situation.
Having in-flight changes available – where customers can change their delivery address after the delivery had commenced – will also give shoppers peace of mind if their circumstances or location changes.
- Consider Free Shipping to Help Conversions
In difficult periods of time such as the pandemic, when shoppers are uncertain and less likely to make impulse purchases or buy non-essential items, doing as much as possible to create as friction-free an experience as possible may help. Free shipping has been shown to increase conversions and offering this to customers, even for a limited period, may entice customers to convert.
- Modify Returns Polices to Encourage Customer Loyalty
Due to delays in shipping and logistics at the start of the pandemic many companies extended their returns policies to 60, 90 or even 365 days to allow shoppers ample time to make any returns necessary. This gave shoppers comfort that they can buy online and have time to make returns without worrying about missing a deadline. Keeping the shopper top of mind in this way will increase customer loyalty as the shopper will feel they’re being looked after even in very difficult circumstances.
- Make Ecommerce Returns Easy
When lockdown was in place and brick and mortar stores were closed, returning in-store was not possible for most shoppers. If this avenue was closed, and they had to pay for returns it could dissuade them for shopping during this time. Offering free returns and multiple methods of returns such as courier pick up or local drop off points, can help persuade shoppers to convert during uncertain times.
- Anticipate Delays for Refunds
Due to social distancing required in returns hubs, some retailers found approving returns and therefore refunds were delayed. If this is a possibility, let the shopper know in advance. From extending returns periods to clear communication regarding when refunds can be expected either on the website or by email – or both, brands will need to communicate effectively all aspects of the returns and refunds process to anticipate and mitigate queries and negative feedback from shoppers.
While lockdown measures are lifting in many countries, there are no guarantees that further measures won’t be implemented in the future again. Ecommerce brands that implement and maintain excellent delivery and returns protocols will retain customers and increase customer trust, loyalty and conversions.