Can you make eBay returns part of your customer service?

There isn’t a merchant in the world that likes having items returned. Its extra paperwork and you have to determine if your item can be resold or be repackaged. You have to make inventory adjustments and bookkeeping entries. All in all, returns are just a time sink that offer little reward and add extra work. However, if you can change the paradigm, returns can become part of your customer service plan and you can find ways to benefit your business in the offering of a liberal return policy.

Zappo’s recently made headlines when they upped their 1-year return policy to 4 years for leap year. Not only has Zappo’s created a return policy that ensures customer loyalty; they have found that customers who returned items are their most profitable customers.

For eBay merchants, starting June 1, those listings from Top-rated sellers that include 1-day handling and a 14-day or longer return policy with a money-back option will get the greatest average boost in exposure and 20% final value fee discounts. Listings that don’t include these services will continue to get some boost in Best Match and the Top-rated seller badge, but not the 20% discount or greatest average boost. The 3 day and 7 day return options are being retired and you will need to either offer 14-day or longer or not offer returns.

This policy, although unpopular, is only keeping up with the customer expectations. Over time, it has become the industry norm to offer returns vs. no returns, and eBay cannot expect to remain a competitive marketplace if they do not meet or exceed the expectations of buyers.

I know, it’s a hard pill to swallow if you have never offered returns (and there some items that just are not suited for returns, such as dated coupons or event tickets), but you can turn it into an advantage and compensate for extra returns. I am surprised that it took eBay this long to make returns more important.

The incentives for offering at least a 14-day return policy are a boost in Best Match and a 20% final value fee discount, which could very well make the returns policy profitable for a seller.

Some categories, such as apparel, will be harder hit and may need to adjust their prices to compensate for the additional cost of the returns and seller’s will need to be vigilant in descriptions to help avoid returns. In a recent Practical Ecommerce article, they cited a number of ways to reduce returns, including using your returns as a method to reduce future returns by paying attention to the reasons why items were being returned.

As in all policy changes and changes to your business, there will be benefits and drawbacks, your challenge (if you choose to accept it), is to find ways to make the policy change a benefit to your business and not a negative distraction.

As always, Happy Selling!

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