Online shopping returns needn’t be tricky!

What to look out for and why. 

Cape Town 22 May 2023 – We’ve all been there: a clothing item we’ve ordered online doesn’t fit properly, and so begins the arduous process of returning it.

While the outfit might be advertised as the size you’re looking for, there could be discrepancies in production, leaving you feeling like a square peg in a round hole as you model it in front of the mirror.

Now comes the frustrating part of contacting various people in the hope they take back your right but wrong choice.

It is not uncommon for customers to feel like they’re being accused of something as the store fires off a series of pointed questions, nor is it unusual for tedious forms to be foisted upon the shopper to ensure the parcel reaches its original destination.

But returning goods shouldn’t be this hard; quite the opposite, in fact, says Lars Veul, co-founder of Cape Town-based click & collect specialist Pargo.

These days customers want their online purchasing to simulate an in-store experience, where items they don’t want can be returned easily.

“A hassle-free returns process ensures that both retailers and shoppers don’t feel any of the bumps or hiccups that may occur along the journey, including unskilled or untrained staff or agents who don’t know how the processes work,” Veul says.

“It should happen effortlessly and successfully with little disruption, accelerating the return of the product into inventory so you can move onto a new consumer.”

In South Africa, there are several challenges that need to be overcome in the returns process. These include:

Waybills and labels: Many couriers still require consumers to print a return waybill to attach to their parcel. With few consumers having access to printers, this has become a barrier.

Lack of clarity and transparency: Often consumers are left in the dark once the courier has received the return parcel, with days or weeks between communications to let them know what is happening.

Access: When purchasing online, shoppers often have to travel lengthy distances to return their online purchase in store, something that is both inconvenient and time-consuming. This results in a poor experience and will put them off from ordering from a business again.

Veul says Pargo has implemented several measures to counter these issues.

For one, it offers a smart, paperless returns solution that eliminates the need to print out waybills entirely, resulting in a faster return process.

For another, it is one of the few logistics companies in the country that offers frequent SMS and email notifications at every touch point of the parcel’s journey to ensure peace of mind not only for the shopper, but for retailers as well.

Finally, the company’s 4 000 pickup points across South Africa are located at well-known retailers, so there is a convenient drop off-location for customers to return items, no matter where they live.

Veul says shoppers now have a mental list of non-negotiable factors when they shop online, and retailers who don’t meet each of these needs will quickly see their consumers migrating to competitors.

“A clear returns policy that is easy and requires little effort from the shopper will immediately check a box bringing your shopper closer to checkout.”

“What is pleasing is that where retailers have historically opted to weave policies deep within sitemaps, they are now elevating their return policies. By being clear, upfront and transparent about returns, many brands are now seeing this as a boon when it comes to marketing and promoting their products. Returns are a great way to build loyalty and trust with your consumers.”

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