In this blog post, our partner Paqato reveals to you how you can improve the ecommerce returns experience in your Shopware store. Discover why a strong focus on returns management is important and what measures you can implement to increase your customers' satisfaction and reduce your returns rate.
The issue of returns management is increasingly coming to the fore in the ecommerce space. Online merchants see reducing their return rate as a key target, but, to be honest, no matter how well you optimize your processes, it’s impossible to avoid returns completely. Customers’ expectations of products are too unique and too individual for everyone to be satisfied.
Plus, returns are what makes online shopping so convenient: You can order a selection of products to your doorstep, and if there’s anything you don’t like or that doesn’t fit, you can just hand it back to the courier the next day. Not to mention that, ultimately, convenience generally takes precedence over best practice (or, specifically, placing a more targeted order to avoid having to return anything). After all, everyone knows that returns are costly, time-consuming, and generate tons of emissions.
The returns experience has become a key part of the ecommerce customer journey. It’s an aspect that can’t be overlooked: For your store, returns can be an opportunity to boost customer loyalty and grow your sales – as long as you go about them the right way. In this blog post, we’ll reveal 4 tips that help you rescue at-risk customer relationships and leave your customers satisfied, all courtesy of user-friendly processes.
1. Provide the right information
For 77% of consumers, a straightforward returns process has a key impact on their choice of online store.  In other words, returning an item needs to be just as easy as ordering it in the first place. Crucially, customers want to know about a store’s returns policy before they place an order. How long is the returns period? What courier service is used to collect returns? How quickly is the return processed and the purchase price refunded? Lots of customers have issues finding clear answers to these questions (and others!) when shopping online. Start here and make your customers feel they’re in safe hands before they even get to the checkout.
Putting information about the returns process in the right place is crucial. You can add returns instructions on the product pages themselves, while many online stores also direct customers to a separate landing page with information. Another option is to operate your own returns portal where customers can see the returns policy that applies to their orders.
Shopware merchants have the option of using PAQATO’s all-in-one software solution to add their own returns portal, for instance. You can connect Shopware to PAQATO seamlessly and swiftly by using the app. As soon as the shipping data has been sent to the PAQATO API by the Shopware store, the returns portal can be set up.
2. Leave outdated processes where they belong
Lots of customers aren’t satisfied with the returns policies offered by online stores. 67% check out a store’s returns process well before they even get to the checkout  – and if they think it’s complex or opaque, they won’t place an order. Why? Lots of online stores use a fixed template for their returns process, true to the “one size fits all” approach. This might be the easiest solution for merchants, but one size really doesn’t fit all when it comes to customer expectations. The fashion industry is a good illustration of the fact that self-service options are still the exception, not the rule: 18 out of Germany’s 20 most frequently visited online fashion retailers use a returns slip, and just 10 out of 20 let customers choose their own courier for sending returns back. 
If you want to get customers more involved in the returns process and give them greater flexibility, you might want to consider encouraging customers to keep the item they ordered by offering them a discount or an additional product worth the same amount instead. In turn, customers can actively play a role in ensuring fewer returns make their way back to online stores.
Online returns portals like PAQATO RETURN offer a decisive edge in this respect: It’s easy to scale the returns process to give customers a wide range of options to choose from. Slips are a thing of the past, with customers directed to the returns portal instead. There, merchants can pre-set which products can be returned, list a selection of couriers to handle returns or display item-related discounts and incentives to entice customers to keep the product.
3. Take your customers seriously
The reasons why products are returned represent a great way to access feedback from your customers. By asking your customers why they’re returning an item, you can gain insights into the customer experience. Their answers demonstrate what matters to them and where things aren’t running totally smoothly. As soon as you start to notice comments about sizing, material or the duration of the delivery process starting to pile up, it’s time to optimize how things work internally. At some point, customers will stop ordering from online stores if they need to keep sending items back for the same reasons.
The challenge lies in evaluating all the data swiftly and optimizing things at your end based on the reasons for returns. Lots of online stores still ask customers to enclose a returns slip in their parcel, detailing the reason for sending the product back. This leads to extra work when processing returns and the headache of dealing with all the bits of paper.
There’s an easier solution: Digital self-service returns portals, like PAQATO RETURN. Customers input one or more reasons for the return into the portal, while online merchants can see this information on their dashboard instantly, so they can use it to optimize their store. End-to-end digital returns handling lets you see at a glance why (and how often) your products are being returned. In turn, you can decide what action to take off the back of this to reduce your return rates.
Detailed product descriptions, photos and videos help you minimize returns for visual or material reasons, like “I didn’t like it”. Additional information, such as “the product runs small”, or extra details about what the product feels like, can also be helpful. This is an effective approach – as proven by a 2021 survey: 57% of respondents stated that better product information assisted in reducing returns. 
4. Don’t leave your customers out in the cold
Shipping is the most emotional part of the ecommerce customer journey, but watch out: That includes sending returns back! When a product is returned, online stores do generally cover the transport risk, but the consumer bears the burden of proof. In other words, if there are any problems, the customer needs to present their receipt to prove that their return was picked up by the courier – otherwise they won’t get a refund or store credit. Every online store processes returns differently and takes different amounts of time to do so. Put simply, the longer it takes to process the return, the more annoying the wait becomes, in the customer’s eyes – and the more queries your customer service team receives asking where things have got to.
There’s a simple solution to put customers’ minds at ease: Clear communication. Automated shipping communication isn’t just for customers placing an order. It’s also a reliable, transparent way to share dates and tracking options with customers for returns, too. Alongside RETURN, PAQATO offers Shopware merchants additional features for automated customer communication, customized track & trace pages, and smart shipping analyses. And it goes without saying, of course, that they all complement your store’s own returns portal perfectly.
Keeping in touch with your customers during the returns process and wowing them with your service pays off: Despite the fact that they’re sending a product back, you have access to additional touchpoints and valuable opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling.
Customers don’t automatically associate returns with a poor shopping experience. Quite the opposite: If you optimize the returns experience offered by your Shopware store, you can breathe new life into at-risk customer relationships during the returns process and even boost customer loyalty. Having your own returns portal helps optimize processes, provide customers with the right information at the right time, and meet customer needs quicker. Thanks to Shopware and PAQATO, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying reliable returns management at your store. And it’s now even easier to connect the two, with the Shopware 6 app letting you link Shopware to PAQATO in no time at all.
Learn more about how to integrate the PAQATO app in a flash or see further information about PAQATO here.
 Source: CreativeStyle Experience Report Fashion 2022
 Source: https://www.invespcro.com/blog/ecommerce-product-return-rate-statistics/ (last accessed on January 9, 2023)
 Source: CreativeStyle Experience Report Fashion 2022
 Source: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1312345/umfrage/massnahmen-zur-reduzierung-von-retouren-in-deutschland/ (last accessed on January 9, 2023)