When people think about selling internationally they often imagine sales being one-way traffic to happy customers. Few think up front about the challenges of international returns.
A proportion of your orders will always be rejected, for a variety of reasons. Customers have high expectations the world over, and just because you may be thousands of miles away from the consumer, they won’t forgive you for poor service.
If you sell on your own web store, maintaining customer satisfaction when handling international returns can be a logistical headache. If you sell through online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, it’s even more serious. Just a few poorly managed returns could result in bad feedback and complaints, and have serious consequences for the future of your business.
But what brought international returns into sharp focus for a lot of sellers were Amazon’s new rules covering international returns that came into effect in March 2015. The key point is that Amazon sellers now need to provide international customers with a local returns address, or provide free return shipping.
Driven partly by Amazon’s policy change, a number of new and innovative options for international returns have sprung up this year. In this article I’ll outline what your options are, the pros and cons, and what they’ll cost you.
This post is by James Thomson, Partner of Buybox Experts, a consultancy supporting brands selling on Amazon and other marketplaces. James is also president of PROSPER Show, a continuing education conference focused on developing training and best-practice materials for early-stage online sellers.
With Amazon’s recent announcement that it is recruiting sellers into the Seller Fulfilled Prime program, much of the discussion has been around how much simpler this may make the lives of Amazon sellers.
Yet, the key implications are likely far more extensive than that. I’d like to take a few moments and outline those issues here so as to spark discussion among sellers, investors and solution providers.
Most sellers don’t get excited by shipping and fulfillment – and with good reason. It’s time-consuming, messy, repetitive and inconvenient. Great sourcing and marketing translate directly into profits, but fulfilling orders seems like a necessary evil.
So I asked twenty online sellers and ecommerce suppliers from around the world if there’s anything sellers can do to make fulfillment more, well, fulfilling.
It turns out that there’s plenty you can do, and with some creative thinking fulfillment can even be turned into a competitive advantage. Here’s what the experts said: