In the world of online selling, there is only one real certainty: no matter the product, there will certainly be returns. Brands and manufacturers can work hard to market and sell their merchandise to the exact audience for the optimal price, but there will still be reasons these customers will return items. While handling returns in person at a brick-and-mortar store is fairly cut-and-dry, when it comes to selling on Amazon, it’s a whole new ballgame. Selling on Amazon means entering into a relationship with Amazon’s wide logistics network—and it’s not always easy.
The process of returns starts with the customer. While analytics and trends can track some of the ‘why’ behind customer returns, unfortunately it often comes down to a case-by-case basis. Some of the most common refund reasons include:
Luckily, all of these return reasons and more can be easily addressed by brands. Updating product listings with new details and validating shipping and logistics are great first steps, but it’s dealing with the actual returns when they come through that can be difficult for brands. Thanks to new return guidelines initiated by Amazon in the fall of 2017, buyers can return products to sellers without notifying them. This new rule essentially puts all sellers in the same category as Amazon, without any regard to the size of the organization or the products it’s selling on the e-commerce platform. Instead of contacting the seller directly when there is an issue with a product, buyers can simply print out a prepaid return label (which the seller will pay for) and return their items.
While this new process eliminates any visibility sellers have into their returns, it can also turn costly in the long run. These regulations are for brands who aren’t leveraging FBA, which rewards sellers for using Amazon’s logistics network. Items shipped through Amazon warehouses and FBA have strict return guidelines (aka must be returned within 30 days, etc.) and follow-up actions based on return qualifications. Amazon will also refund return postage costs if items are damaged or defective.
No matter if a brand is selling through FBA or as a third party seller, dealing with returned inventory can make a big impact on the bottom line. While Amazon charges a fee to get rid of an ‘unfulfillable’ item (one that’s been damaged), it will put ones that were returned for other reasons back into a brands inventory automatically without any hassle. For third party seller returns, this is a call that’s made in the warehouse.
While it is possible to offer a winning return policy and still protect the bottom line, working with Amazon on the back end can quickly rack up unnecessary fees and charges that are extremely difficult to track and can negate any real progress. With a single third party seller handling returns on Amazon, brands can reap the benefits of a FBA relationship without dealing with the hassle and hands-on resources it requires.