How to build customer loyalty using e-commerce

Social Media Specialist, Big Data, SWG UKI, IBM

E-commerce is a trillion dollar business, however the industry is being affected by high return rates, which are detrimental to their profits. How can analytics help to reduce these return rates for retailers across the web?

My trainers didn’t fit through the letterbox

Generally when buying products online, I have a fantastic experience and the products I buy fit through the letter box, no problem; for example my Jawbone fitness wristband which was delivered this week.

However, when buying fashion items, I often struggle, and have had a few negative experiences. Firstly, I ordered some trainers from an online fashion retailer (expensive may I add), and, naturally, they didn’t fit through the letterbox.

I received a note to say they would deliver another day—this happened three times, as each time they tried to deliver I wasn’t home (I was at work, of course; who is at home during the day?).

This then meant the products went back at the delivery warehouse and, if I wanted the trainers in question, I had to re-order them from the site.

What would you do? Order them again or give up?

I gave up.

You left my package where?

My second story involves a large box from a UK high street retailer which was left in the little hut that our bins live in, just outside my flat. The only reason I found out that my parcel had been left there was because I rang up concerned and the kind customer service representative found a note in the system that referred to this particular delivery location.

How else would I have found out had I not called up? I received no email confirmation of the delivery or its location.

How can retailers make sure they don’t disappoint?

Just recently I found an e-consultancy blog post on how fashion ecommerce retailers can reduce online returns, which talked through a range of different technologies that some retailers have adopted to ensure that customers have a positive experience, and the clothes fit well when they arrive.

Brilliant technology, and great for those people who order the wrong size online, but what about other e-commerce pain points?

Online retailers cannot measure their business performance purely on sales, as up to one third of orders placed online are returned, which, ultimately, will have a detrimental effects on profits. If expectations are not met (like my trainer story), does this also have an impact on the loyalty of the customer with that particular brand?

Clear Returns was founded to help retailers understand how, and more importantly why, returns happen and how they can reduce them. The predictive analytics technology unlocks insights that average retail analytics would overlook. Their end-to-end approach analyzes what happens to the order after it is initially made, which then allows the Clear Returns team to advise their clients on how to solve customer problems with specific recommendations.

This solution has helped the team at Clear Returns help their clients identify “toxic products” which when ordered online, have a negative impact on the whole order, which is then returned; advising clients to remove toxic products from their websites can dramatically affect return rates. The other benefit to clients that Clear Returns offers, is assistance in optimizing marketing strategies to focus on loyal customers who offer lifetime value; they can then be targeted with relevant marketing and an optimized product range for them in particular.

The ultimate aim here for Clear Returns is to help retailers maximize their profitability, through increased profits from loyal customers and reduced return rates.

Have you ever had any negative experiences when ordering online? Have you ever returned a whole order due to just one “toxic product”? Let us know about your e-commerce experiences and read the full Clear Returns story for more info.