Retailer Finds Way to Reduce Returns

New program has cut merchandise return rate by 23%.

by staff writer
- Sep 17, 2009

Dealing with merchandise returns can be time-consuming, stressful and costly, but one auto-parts retail site may have found the answer, Internet Retailer reports.

JC Whitney allows customers to post their questions on the retail site, where JC Whitney staff, vendors and other shoppers answer their inquiries. The venture has had a noticeable impact on return rates, which are down 23 percent since the program began in 2008, JC Whitney reports.

"The more questions with answers on an item, the less instances there are of shoppers buying the wrong thing," says Tom West, the company's president and CEO.

In fact, 80 percent of items with more questions and answers—specifically those with at least 20 questions—had fewer returns than before the program began, JC Whitney notes.

The results are not surprising, says Product Analyst Rebecca Miller.

"When you have information about something, and maybe even know the potential problems based on other customers' comments, you will have a better feeling about what to expect," she says. "For instance, if you're looking to buy a TV, and you researched other comments about it and get your questions answered, then you'll know the quality."

The way merchants handle returns can impact sales, according to eBay. The site notes that difficulty returning items is the No.1 shopping barrier buyers have reported.

To help lower that barrier, sellers should have clear return policies, provide accurate descriptions of their products, provide FAQs and respond promptly and professionally to buyers' questions about items, Miller suggests.

"The more information, the better," she adds. "Buyers shouldn't be surprised when they get their purchases in the mail."

For JC Whitney, it's all about making sure shoppers get the right products, West notes.

"Automotives is a complex category," he says. "We offer 20,000 unique parts on our site aloneā€¦ And there are more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. alone. The more we can tap other people's expertise, the better."

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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