A guide to return trends and the returner personas shaping the future of direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce.
This guide was written for Returnly Systems Inc. All rights reserved.
Introducing the first-ever data report of its kind!
Check out the first-ever consumer-centric returns report. Unlike other return reports that analyze logistics data, the Returnly 2020 State of Returns Report includes findings from our year-long look at consumer returns behavior.
Let’s face it, most of us have certain expectations when it comes to shopping online. We want easy-to-navigate, engaging, and transparent experiences. From browsing inventory, customizing orders, and understanding pricing to selecting payment and shipping options at checkout, we expect the end-to-end shopping experience to be seamless. And when it comes to exchanges and returns, we’re no different; clear policies and simplified procedures earn our repeat business—and boost loyalty.
How important is the returns process for today’s online buyers? According to recent studies, it’s critical. Providing a simple, friction-free return experience for shoppers could mean the difference between closing a sale and the dreaded abandoned cart. A recent Baymard Institute study found that 11 percent of shoppers have abandoned at least one order in the past quarter due to unsatisfactory returns policy. And, after the cost of shipping and delivery speed, a Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Study shows that a complex returns process is one of the top five reasons for cart abandonment by global shoppers! For online retailers looking to expand their customer base across borders, this is especially concerning.
Want to return something internationally? Not so fast—literally.
Imagine for a moment that you’re from Madrid visiting San Francisco over your summer vacation. One day, while exploring Noe Valley, you stumble across a store that sells unique handmade shoes—but you don’t have enough time to shop. Luckily, they have an online store and ship to Spain. Perfect! After your three pairs of shoes arrive, you discover that they don’t fit and need to exchange them for another size. Sounds straightforward, right? Not quite.
The process starts with a call to customer service (which due to time differences is inconvenient). Then, via email, you’re sent instructions for returning your shoes. Step by step you do as instructed. Unfortunately, in preparing your return, you run into language barriers, confusing customs forms, border restrictions, currency issues, and unanticipated costs. By the time you’ve shipped your shoes, you’re beyond frustrated and have lost confidence in the brand you were so enamored with just a short time ago. What you thought would be a simple return, turned into a difficult, time-consuming, and slow exercise of jumping through hoops. By the time you’re done, you don’t want to follow through with an exchange. You just want your money back from the San Francisco-based retailer—and have decided you won’t be buying from them again (at least online) in the future.
Sadly, complicated international returns don’t only affect shoppers—they prove to be a major pain point for businesses looking to expand their ecommerce businesses internationally.
Turning the tables on highly manual and complex international returns
At Returnly, we’re all about finding new ways to help retailers and brands deliver frictionless returns. Committed to helping our customers expand into international markets and unlock their growth potential, we’re tackling the challenges associated with cross-border returns head-on with our newest solution, Returnly International.
Explains Eduardo Vilar, Returnly founder and CEO, “Our international returns solution is designed to make online shopping easier than ever for today’s global consumer. With a simple, fast and reliable returns process, we’re giving consumers the confidence to buy, while removing one of the biggest obstacles of global ecommerce growth for U.S. and Canadian online retailers ahead of the holiday season.”
For retailers’ shoppers, International Returns simplifies returns across borders by offering:
Automated Cross-Border Returns: A self-service experience that includes shipping label generation, streamlined duties and tax drawback procedures, and returns tracking.
Localized Shopping Experiences: Includes options to create regional return centers or display branded domestic return centers in the local language and currency.
Returnly Credit: Gives customers increased purchasing power even before they shipping the original items back.
For the retailer, Returnly’s International Returns solution not only streamlines the international workflow processes, it also provides a complete and comprehensive view into returns operations which translates into:
Better ability to forecast return volume
Improved insights into global shopping trends (e.g., what’s being returned and why)
Reduced support call and manual processing cost
With shopping cart abandonment rates as high as 69.57% online retailers will need to do everything they can to meet (if not exceed) modern shopper expectations. And while Returnly’s post-purchase payments technology can’t help retailers ensure the perfect fit for every pair of shoes sold internationally, our solutions can help save sales, encourage future repurchases, and increase customer loyalty when they need to be exchanged or returned.
While leading content marketing at Returnly, I worked to help boost our executives’ digital media presence and reinforce their positions as thought leaders in the e-commerce returns space. Here are a few of the bylines I helped develop.
Using tech to exceed modern shoppers’ instant expectations
This article was written for Returnly Systems Inc. and published on their website.
My Role: Copywriter and Content Marketing Lead
As part of the ongoing series, Retail Transformed, Bloomberg Technology host Taylor Riggs, sat down with Returnly CEO, Eduardo Vilar, to discuss how tech can help with the returns process. During the interview, Eduardo discusses the health of e-commerce, what’s “broken” with traditional returns processes, and the expectations of today’s “now customer”. He also explains how Returnly is fixing returns with Returnly Credit, allowing consumers to shop again at the point of return — so they can get the right item, before returning the wrong one.
Watch Taylor’s full interview with Eduardo below to hear how direct-to-consumer (DTC) technologies like Returnly, Shopify, Shopify Plus, Affirm, and Klaviyo are helping online retailers create shopping experiences on par with e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart.
See what other DTC brands are doing to exceed the expectations of today’s online shopper
In the on-demand recording of Killing it Without Amazon, you’ll learn what DTC retailers are doing to compete with Amazon, drive growth, and increase Customer Lifetime Value. Leading e-commerce strategists from ShipBob, LoyaltyLion, Packlane, and Returnly discuss fulfillment, returns, customer retention, and packaging tactics brands can start using now to increase customer satisfaction and boost sales.
Topics covered in this webinar include:
How to build your own DTC flywheel that sees continual growth
Why your current fulfillment operation needs a facelift
How to save sales and earn loyalty with great returns
The retention opportunities that aren’t available on Amazon
How custom packaging can help your brand stand out
Increasing subscriber product adoption while reinforcing Autodesk’s mission to empower innovators
In 2018, while working as a copywriter for the Digital Customer Success team at Autodesk, in response to a call-to-action from our CMO (Lisa Campbell) to modernize our approach to marketing, I pitched a concept to my team — and the title slide of the deck read:
Autoflip: A reimagined subscriber nurture experience
By the time my deck was socialized with Director-level leadership, my Executive Summary (which really became the team’s asset) slide read:
Lack of actionable data, inability to reach the majority of our users, and new corporate focus drive a need to evolve beyond our current push-driven nurture practice
Create a new nurture experience where subscribers can pull and engage with curated content that meets their needs from across the entire Autodesk learning and community ecosystem
AutoFlip, a scalable web-based platform to be built in-house using existing Autodesk resources, will provide subscribers a highly-engaging opportunity to self-select content to help them succeed
This will finally allow us to engage in conversations with our subscribers, understand and capture their preferences, and deliver more personalized experiences than we can today
AutoFlip will enable the Subscriber Success Team to synchronize with leadership’s efforts to digitize the company—and create high-value interactions with our customers
Fast-forward to 2021
Ultimately, my “Autoflip” concept never gained traction due to cost — and I left Autodesk to expand my content strategy and content marketing experience in the startup world. In early 2021 I was contacted by my former manager and team members — “Autoflip was greenlighted!” I was invited to help manage bring my old (and now evolved) vision to life.
The concept “Autoflip” ultimately launched as:
Resources curated by experts. Experiences designed for you.
In addition to pitching the tag line (now live), my content strategy contribution helped define the UX, UI copy, back-end workflows, and the taxonomy used to power search.
Currently, the site support 7 industries, over 14 core Autodesk products — and has been produced in 6 languages. As of January 2022, a two months after launch, the English site has over 60K visitors with close to 200K page views (average time on page = 2 minutes.)
Autodesk Customer Stories. Real-Life Applications. Presented in Real-Time.
While working for Autodesk’s Customer Success Team, I collaborated with the Autodesk Brand Team to help tell our customers’ stories, show their design innovations, and reinforce Autodesk’s commitment to helping people imagine, design, and make a better world.
The five stories featured in the PDF below were actually presented as part of a live immersive storytelling exhibit at Autodesk’s largest user conference — Autodesk University — in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This article was written for Inkling and published on their website. All rights reserved.
My Role: Copywriter
When I think back to my two summer internships, I have several distinct memories.
Locked away in the back room of a law firm in downtown Chicago, every day was more or less the same. Some guy, who wasn’t big on conversation and never bothered to introduce himself, would roll in a cart packed with legal reference books and park it next to my Xerox machine.
Each book was filled with multiple sticky notes indicating the page ranges I needed to copy and staple together. After I conquered everything that cart had to dish out, I would wander the hallways with my 300+ pages of photocopies, looking for their rightful owners. When I got back to my “copy cave,” another fully-loaded cart would await me. This cycle repeated itself three times a day.
Well, let’s just say this internship wasn’t nearly as glamorous, fulfilling, or meaningful as my first. My immersive corporate learning experience involved a bond funds department at a now-defunct brokerage firm in New York City, a manager who liked his liquid lunches, and a microfiche machine. Yes, microfiche.
Two internships, two takeaways: (1) paper jams happen, and (2) chewing gum can’t hide the smell of a three-martini lunch.
Luckily, not all internships are created equal. The good ones are designed to provide a mutually beneficial experience for intern and employer alike. At Inkling, our interns are considered valued team members. We rely on their skills and insights to support our mission on a day-to-day basis.
In turn, our interns gain exposure to the people, operations, and real-world challenges that take hard and soft skills to the next level—and, quite possibly, influence their plans for the future.
Meet Edward Kim, Inkling Marketing Intern (Summer 2019)
As the end of his freshman year at Vanderbilt University approached, Edward Kim set his sights on returning home to California and finding a summer job. When asked about his job hunt, Edward states, “While I’m majoring in economics and minoring in business at school, I was casting a really wide net. More than anything, I wanted to see what it was like to work in an office environment—at a software company, if possible. When I heard through a friend that Inkling was looking for a Marketing Intern, I decided to apply.”
The Inkling interview and hiring process for Edward was similar to that of full-time candidates. After two phone interviews while in Nashville, Edward was invited to Inkling’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco for a series of face-to-face meetings.
“I was nervous,” Edward explains, laughing now in hindsight. “I didn’t know that much about marketing going into the interviews, and I had to meet with the Head of Marketing, the Marketing Operations Manager, the Field Marketing and Events Associate, and the Customer Marketing Manager.”
When asked how the interviews went, Edward laughs again. “While I felt intimidated going in, the team was really nice and made me feel at home. They spent a lot of time explaining what they did individually, how they worked together, and the kinds of things they needed help with.”
Inkling Design Review: Jacob McAdam (left), Front End Designer, Inkling Creative Services works with Edward Kim (right) to optimize his Solving a Rubik’s Cube Inkdoc design.
No Groundhog’s Day experience. No monotonous tasks.
Unlike yours truly, Edward never found himself assigned mind-numbing busy work devoid of variety. His experience was quite the opposite: no day was ever the same.
From marketing operations to event and customer marketing, Edward assisted every team member with mission-critical programs and tasks. Software solutions that were once foreign, like Salesforce and Marketo, became tools he used every day. And (for better or worse) Edward assimilated terms like demand gen, retention, scoring, and MQLs into his vocabulary.
Whether asked to pull reports, flip contacts, scrub lists, or sync program data, the marketing team members agree that Edward approached his responsibilities and new challenges with a can-do attitude.
Katie Arsenio, Inkling Field Marketing and Events Associate, states, “Edward is super flexible and easy to work with, and I was always impressed by his willingness to tackle our all-hands-on-deck last-minute projects with a positive attitude, which is essential when working on our lean marketing team.”
Referencing one particular out-of-the-box project Edward took ownership of, Katie recalls, “Ultimately, he accomplished things to help out in ways we never imagined—like writing a digital how-to guide!”
From marketing operations to puzzle master and Inkdoc author
What Katie is referencing is one of Edward’s most unique (and impressive, IMHO) accomplishments of the summer: creating an Inkdoc called Solving a Rubik’s Cube.
To showcase an Inkdoc’s capabilities for sales prospects, Edward learned how to use Inkling’s authoring tool called Habitat. As Edward puts it, “Creating the content wasn’t the hard part. Habitat’s drag-and-drop functionality and design elements made that part easy. The hardest part was learning how to solve the Rubik’s Cube and outlining step-by-step instructions.”
After Edward drafted his Inkdoc (the mobile-responsive, easy-to-search documents created in Habitat), he had a design review with Jacob McAdam, Front End Designer on the Inkling Creative Services Team. “That was a real eye-opener,” Edward explains.
“I saw my work through the eyes of a professional designer, and Jacob taught me digital design best practices and showed me ways to reinforce learning. It was really cool to get a taste of the actual training and support Inkling customers have access to during the implementation process.”
Top three takeaways
I sat down with Edward on the last day of his internship to talk about his experience at Inkling. In addition to the hard skills and authoring accomplishments, Edward expressed gratitude that he was able to practice soft skills like time management, task prioritization, and expectation setting on a daily basis. He also shared his top three takeaways for the summer:
His boss Neha Sharma demonstrated how a good leader can be transparent while providing enough information to succeed, sufficient space to make mistakes, and ample time for feedback.
His marketing operations mentor Matt Cronk showed him that it is possible to approach every situation and challenge with a smile on your face.
In the future, he might want to explore the analytics side of the marketing business!
Needless to say, the team misses Edward a lot, but we’re happy that the hard work he did this summer was meaningful for him. We also know that his efforts will continue to have a positive impact on our marketing programs this year.
Originally written for Returnly Systems Inc. and published on their blog. All rights reserved.
My Role: Copywriter and Content Strategist
O.k., I admit it—when it comes to holiday shopping, I’m the worst. While I do love giving gifts, making thoughtful, well-planned purchasing decisions is just not my thing. Sadly, what I am exceptionally skilled at—where my holiday retail “superpowers” shine through—is being able to secure one random purchase after another with impressive speed on last-minute whirlwind shopping sprees. Luckily, I have one safeguard that brings a sense of peace to my “process”. Whether purchased online or in a storefront, I don’t buy something unless I know it can be returned or exchanged.
Data shows returns are the new norm for ecommerce
My chaotic approach to holiday shopping is not the norm for a majority of today’s holiday shoppers (and for sanity’s sake, something I don’t advise). According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, “39 percent of holiday shoppers said they would start buying holiday items before November, while 43 percent are waiting until at least November, and 18 percent are waiting until December.”
Where I am aligned with most of today’s shoppers is that I buy with returns (or the ability to return) in mind. Data published in a Shopify Plus article by Aaron Orendorff shows that 41% of shoppers “buy variations of a product with the intent of returning.” And this consumer trend looks like it will translate into a staggering number of returns this holiday season.
Case in point: UPS. Per GlobeNewswire, they’re anticipating a record-breaking holiday returns volume this year with customers due to ship:
1 million return packages back to retailers daily during December
1.6 million return packages daily the week before Christmas
1.9 million returns on January 2, 2020 alone (up 26 percent from last year’s peak return’s day)
Between the uptick in shoppers using returns as part of their buying process and an NRF forecast predicting a significant increase in online and non-store sales, it’s safe to say that ecommerce retailers need to be prepared to handle more holiday returns than ever before.
Watch Now: How to Prepare Your Online Store for Holiday Returns
If you’re running an ecommerce operation, returns are a fact of life you’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. If you’re unprepared to handle them—especially during your busiest times of year—they can become a nightmare; impacting profit margins, conversion rates, and your brand’s reputation.
The good news: Returns don’t have to wreak havoc on your business! If you have the right policies and practices in place, there are great opportunities to build shopper loyalty and see profits grow.
In the on-demand webinar How to Prepare Your Online Store for Holiday Returns and Drive Revenue, Jon Feldman, Head of Partnerships at Returnly, shares seven tips that can help you save time, improve customer experience, and boost revenue with product returns this holiday season.
Transform a lackluster customer onboarding experience into an engaging introduction to the Autodesk ecosystem of resources and tools — while reinforcing the brand promise to help the customer “do more” with Autodesk solutions.
Create persona-based multi-touch nurture campaign to acquaint software administrators and/or end users with a holistic overview of the role/industry-specific need-to-know programs, resources, and tools.
Reimagined Onboarding Touches
Touch 1 – Let’s get you set up
Touch 2 – Check out your support and community resources
Touch 3 – Explore your account management tools and features
This article was written for Inkling and published on their website. All rights reserved.
My Role: Copywriter and Content Strategist
I’ve always been a late adopter of most things designed to simplify life, which makes embracing the latest technologies particularly hard for me. I mean, why microwave popcorn when I can vigorously move the Jiffy Pop container in a circular motion over the open flame of my stove top? And why should I subscribe to a streaming music service when my record player still cranks out tunes for free?
Yes, my struggle to embrace change is real, but the desire for increased efficiency and simplicity inevitably pushes me to adopt new ways of doing things. And while I may struggle on some level with new technologies (the verdict is still very much out on self-driving or driverless cars, thank you very much), I happily identify as a modern learner.
When I need to know something to do my job or solve an everyday problem, I must find answers within minutes, if not seconds, and the information I need must be available in different formats across multiple devices. For better or worse, I set the instant-gratification bar high when it comes to accessing and using information to perform my job.
Like me, the majority of today’s learners expect more. At work, we want quick access to the mission-critical training and information needed to do our jobs well. We strive for everyday successes. From at-your-fingertip search capabilities and on-demand tutorials, to more traditional lesson-based structured learning, the learning experiences must be flexible, personalized, intuitive, engaging, and modern.
The shift in learner expectations—and the subsequent effort to provide modern solutions that meet employees where they are—is disrupting the learning and development market now more than ever before. In the training delivery sector of this evolving space, tremendous innovation is taking place, and leaders are getting noticed. So, what does it take to be recognized as a leader?
5 criteria to vet training delivery leaders
For the third year in a row, Training Industry, Inc. has published its list of Top Training Delivery Companies. As a leading research and information resource for corporate learning leaders, Training Industry helps organizations in their search for training delivery platforms.
“This year’s Top 20 Training Delivery Companies continue to develop engaging delivery platforms that provide advanced reporting and analytics capabilities that measure the impact of learning,” said Ken Taylor, president of Training Industry, Inc. “Through a combination of strategic methods, these providers deliver training solutions that optimize employee training and performance.”
To compile this year’s list of top training delivery companies, Training Industry evaluated the following criteria:
Value of platform features and capabilities
Quality of analytics and reporting
Company size and growth potential
Quality of clients
Geographic and vertical reach
As announced yesterday, Inkling is proud to be included on Training Industry’s 2019 list. Danielle Draewell, market research analyst at Training Industry, stated, “Inkling is revolutionizing the learning experience by integrating world-class content authoring tools with a personalized user experience.”
As someone who works cross-functionally at Inkling, I can say unequivocally that it’s a very exciting time to be a part of such an innovative organization. From product design and engineering to customer success, sales, and beyond, teams across Inkling are passionate about our work because we allow modern learners to tap into critical knowledge in their moment of need quickly and easily.
And when you couple this excitement and passion with Inkling’s easy-to-use content authoring tools, intuitive user experience, personalized learning options, and analytics capabilities, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds for learners in the years to come!