Setting up a category in eCommerce is a real challenge. We’re also in this game of bringing CVO to life and in everyone’s mind, but we’re just getting started.

Loop Returns is joining and doing a fantastic job at uncovering a hidden layer of customer experience – returns and exchanges. And we’re so lucky to have had the opportunity to talk to their awesome Brand Marketing Manager, Alex McEachern.

Enjoy the podcast and the notes below!

Who is Alex McEachern?

Alex McEachern is a retention/loyalty enthusiast, Disney nerd, and diehard basketball fan. He is the Brand Marketing Manager at Loop Returns, a previous Shopify brand owner, and the Co-Host of The Exchange (a podcast on retention).

Why are returns so important?

It boils down to why aren’t people paying attention to this? Every site is optimized to get people to buy and at Loop, what we say is you shouldn’t be optimizing for people to buy, you should be optimizing for people to shop.

Shopping doesn’t stop when I just go to the cash register and check out. It’s everything that’s going into what the product looks like, if I do need to exchange or do anything there. The customer experience doesn’t stop at the purchase and we call that post-purchase. 

Why do so few brands pay attention to this? Acquisition versus retention. The eCommerce community is very obsessed with ads. Buy more, sell more. How do I get as many customers in the door as possible? We’re only now starting to see a meaningful shift onto the retention side of how do I maximize the value of the customers I already have? How do I beat everything to the customers I do have? That’s where returns start to enter into the equation. 

I think a lot of brands when they first get started, don’t have a high enough volume of returns to really care about it. So it ends up being this page where basically, they just go and check another brand copy and put it on their site and they don’t even touch it until returns become a big enough problem to actually reevaluate that.

So that’s also my theory on why every return policy is 30 days because a brand just makes one and then another one comes and copies it and so on.

The future of eCommerce versus the shoppable content on social media

Build your audience. You can’t rely on someone else, find the people that you need, especially now, because things are going to get a lot more expensive. And actually, the level of data you have access to as we move forward is going to become less and less.

Web Smith has this theory of linear commerce and it’s basically that media and products are just going to merge into one thing. I think that ecom brands should really be paying attention to that because the audience part is becoming harder and having a product and an ecom site is getting easier.

So think about all the people who have audiences right now, like those influencers that you’re using to help you market, what’s stopping them from getting into the game themselves? Because they have the eyeballs and as the eyeballs become more expensive and harder to get, they already have the more valuable resource and they’re going to be able to launch a product like that. 

My biggest piece of advice for brands would be to think about content, think about community, think about these ways where you can get people to engage with you, with more than just what you’re selling. 

Content marketing has been a huge thing and B2B SaaS for years, but almost no ecom brands are getting into the content game. And when I say content, I’m not talking about a blog, I’m even talking about organic social. Have a YouTube channel, have an Instagram presence, just have something where people are going to be around you naturally, where you don’t need to be paying for these eyeballs.

As you said, it’s going to get more expensive and it’s going to be harder to target what you want. Right now it’s so easy. I mean, I shouldn’t say right now, but a few years ago it was so easy and so cheap to get the right type of person on your site. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. But that’s not the case anymore. 

Taking a customer-centric approach to returns

I think what it boils down to is what we’ve already been talking about. It’s taking a customer-centric approach to your returns. We talked a bit at the beginning here about burying and hiding it. Pull it out.

Some of the best brands that we’re seeing don’t just have it in the footer, they’ll have a banner because your return and exchange policy can have a huge influence on your conversion rate, too. Think about people that have never bought from you before and they’re evaluating how risky is this purchase? If you say, “I have 90 days to decide and hey, if you want to exchange this, it’s free.” it reduces the perceived risk and actually makes them more likely to buy. 

So I would say get your return policy out of the footer. Don’t bury it. Make sure people could see it. 

Number two would be on the policy itself, don’t make this look like something you need to get your lawyer to come to check out before you make a purchase. Make it super easy.

I always say there are basically five things that people are looking for. How much is this return going to cost me? Make sure that that is up on your return policy page because people want to know. I can get into some tactics on where you should charge return shipping and where you shouldn’t.

How long do I have? What’s the return window? What can’t I return? So if something’s final sale or ineligible for return, what are those? How long will it take? So reducing the perceived risk again is if I need an exchange, how long till the next product is going to be at my door? Or if I’m getting a refund issued, how long until I’m going to see that charge refunded to my credit card?

Where do I actually start the return? Where do I go to start the return? Obviously, if you use something like Loop, it’s like, “Hey, here’s the button to get started!” But if you’re not going to use something like that, I highly recommend you choose something to make this a more on-demand experience.

What email address do I use? What’s the phone number? Where do I actually get this started?

Join us for another exciting session next week with Chase Dimond, Partner at Boundless Labs and Structured.

This podcast is sponsored by VTEX.

VTEX is the first and only fully integrated commerce, marketplace and solution that offers the fastest time-to-revenue, without the need for additional updates. Ever.

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