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6 Posts authored by: Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngAs I’m sure you’ve heard, attracting millennial customers is key to continued business success. The increasing purchasing power of this generation, plus their life stage as young adults and young parents, makes them a valuable demographic. But once you've got those millennial shoppers in the door, how can you keep them coming back?

 

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Here are six ways you can turn millennials into repeat customers.

 

1. Be consistent. Your digital and physical presence need to provide the same experience and ease-of-use. Whether you sell products on your business website or not, millennials expect a seamless transition as they switch from looking at your website on a smartphone or tablet to looking at it on a desktop to visiting your store. If your store is having a sale, mention it on your website. If your website says you have a product, it better be in stock. Disappointing or frustrating millennial customers is the surest way to lose their business.

 

2. Offer expertise. Millennial shoppers have a world of information at their fingertips, so when they visit your store, they expect your sales team to be just as knowledgeable. Forty percent of millennials say “deep product knowledge” is important to them when visiting a store, PwC reports. Your employees should be able to answer in-depth questions about products, provide recommendations and suggest complementary purchases. Another option PwC suggests: Consider putting your store employees on different tracks. For example, you can train some employees to focus on maintaining the stockroom and handling inventory, and others to focus on customer service and developing deep expertise.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE ONGOING DEBATE: SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS OR RETAINING LOYAL CUSTOMERS?

 

3. Reward your social media followers. Millennials won’t follow your store on social media just because they think you’re cool. Instead, they expect to get something out of the relationship. Exclusive access to deals, coupons or information are key reasons millennials follow retailers on social media, a survey by Accenture reports. When millennial shoppers are in-store, you can encourage them to follow you on social media by explaining the rewards they’ll get.

 

43059118_s.jpg4. Get personal with promotions. If you want millennials to become loyal retail customers, you’ve got to offer them personalized, targeted promotions and discounts, Accenture reports. A whopping 95 percent of millennials in that survey say they want retailers to “court them actively.” Coupons sent by email or (surprise!) mailed to their homes are the most effective promotional tool for this age group.

 

5. Use a loyalty marketing program. Paper or plastic loyalty cards won’t cut it with millennials. At last year’s Microsoft Envision conference, a panel of millennials expressed disdain for these “primitive” methods. The panel agreed they wouldn’t even be willing to carry a small, plastic keychain card to participate in a loyalty program. Fortunately, there are plenty of digital loyalty programs suited for small retailers; Belly, Loyalzoo and Perkaare just a few. These loyalty programs go far beyond the old “buy 10, get one free” model of yesterday. They enable you to capture all kinds of data about your shoppers, what they buy and what promotions they respond to. They also make it easy to create customized marketing messages that resonate with individual customers.

 

6. Think mobile. Speaking of customized marketing messages, one good way to reach out to millennial shoppers is via mobile. Most (85 percent) want to get mobile messages from retailers while they’re in-store, reports Chain Store Age. This age group is also more likely than others to accept personalized messages based on their past online behaviors. You can use mobile marketing to text offers to customers when they enter your store or get within a certain radius of it.

 

Adjusting your customer retention methods to focus on millennials is a smart move. Not only is this generation growing in influence, they’re influencing how their parents shop as well.

 


 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

          

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngThis will not come as a surprise, but if you want to succeed as a retailer, you must have what customers want when they want it, without having to stock up on excess inventory. To help you make smarter decisions in your retail business check out the retail and economic information available from the U.S. government.

 

Around the second week of every month, the government releases monthly retail sales reports for the previous month. What kind of information do these reports contain, and how can you use it to benefit your store?

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

What’s Included

The Census Bureau conducts the Retail Sales Report by surveying about 4,900 retailers ranging from multinationals to small, independent stores, including food service and automotive-related businesses.

 

The Retail Sales Report estimates sales for all retail businesses in each month, as well as the percentage change in sales from the previous month. Sales are further broken down into detailed types of retail businesses, such as furniture/home furnishing stores, sporting goods stores, clothing stores and more. View retail sales reports.

 

What It Means for You

Because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. GDP, the Retail Sales Report is an important indicator of the nation’s current economic health. By showing a snapshot of Americans’ discretionary spending habits, it can indicate whether consumers are feeling confident or cautious, which can ultimately give you insights into your consumers’ behavior.

 

Investors and financial services businesses use the Retail Sales Report to watch for signs of inflation and recession. If retail sales jump suddenly, it can warn of impending inflation. If retail sales dip or stagnate, it could indicate a coming recession.

 

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How to Use It

If the idea of poring over Retail Sales Report charts and tables gives you a headache, you’re not alone. For small business owners, reading the Retail Sales Report can be more confusing than helpful. For one thing, the government revises each month’s report several months after issuing it, so data can change dramatically. Since the Census Bureau doesn’t adjust monthly figures for inflation, volatile gas and food prices can make it look like retail sales are soaring or plunging.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE ONGOING DEBATE: SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS OR RETAINING LOYAL CUSTOMERS?

 

To get more value from the Retail Sales Report:

  • Watch a wide range of economic indicators. For retailers, these include the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s data on consumer spending, The Conference Board’s monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, and the monthly Census reports on shipments and orders of durable goods. (Durable goods are major purchases that last over three years; strong sales of consumer durable goods, which include autos and major appliances, signal confidence in the economy.) government's economic indicators here.
  • Use The National Retail Federation (NRF) resources. The NRF publishes retail data and projections for specific holidays, such as Easter or Mother's Day, and seasons, such as back-to-school and the holiday shopping season.
  • Focus on longer-term trends and predictions. Year-over-year trends or quarterly trends are a better indicator for retailers than month-to-month trends. Also, pay attention to whether figures are in line with experts’ predictions or sharply diverge.
  • Look to the experts. Instead of trying to interpret government reports yourself, read analysis of economic indicators in a trusted retail industry or business publication. Analysts can slice and dice the information in useful ways. For example, they’ll pull out specific retail categories and even individual retailers that are strong or weak, which can give you a heads-up on important trends. Currently, weak department store sales reflect Americans’ decreasing interest in stores that “sell it all,” while niche retailer Ulta Beauty is on the upswing because consumers prefer specialty stores.

 


 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

           

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngFor whatever reason, we’ve all experienced an unhappy customer. While this can be a frustrating experience, I’m here to tell you it’s not only possible to defuse angry customers, but you can turn them into raving fans of your small business.

 

Here are my top 10 tips:

 

1. Put your ego aside. When faced with conflict, it’s human nature to become defensive or angry in response. You need to put these urges aside and focus on the customer’s feelings, not your own.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Let the customer vent. Most angry people just want to be heard. Like a boiling kettle, your customer needs to let off steam—if you get in the way, you’ll get burned. 

 

3. Listen actively. While the customer vents, pay attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in response, interrupt or offer solutions (yet). Try to understand why the customer is so upset and what feelings are behind the anger.

 

4. Clarify the reason the customer is angry. Paraphrase what he or she said and ask if you’re understanding correctly. Repeat, if necessary, until you get it right.

 

5. Apologize for the problem. Don’t just say “I’m sorry”—be empathetic. “I’m so sorry the gift you ordered for your daughter didn’t arrive on time. That must have disappointed you and the birthday girl.” 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 FRESH WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

 

6. Take ownership of the problem. Tell the customer you will personally make sure the issue is resolved. Coming from the business owner, this means a lot and often diffuses the situation.

 

7. Suggest a solution and get the customer’s buy-in. To give the customer some control of the situation, present a solution and ask if that would work for her. Or offer two options and ask the customer which she would prefer.

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8. Solve the problem as quickly as possible. Often, you can do this on the spot; other times, it may take longer. For problems that require more time, keep the customer updated about progress so they don’t feel forgotten. 

 

9. Go above and beyond solving the problem. Customers will be satisfied if you fix the problem, but they won’t be thrilled enough to become raving fans. To get them there consider offering a discount, additional service, free gift or other item of value at the same time you resolve the issue. Better yet, offer something the customer can share with friends. “I’m so sorry you weren’t happy with your steak. We’ll bring you another one on the house. Also, please accept this gift certificate for two free entrees. We hope you’ll come back to visit us again.”

 

10. Follow up a week after resolving the problem. “Hi, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m calling to make sure the replacement part we installed last week is working properly for you.” This shows the customer that their problem isn’t “out of sight, out of mind” and that you care about them in the long term.

 

Diffusing an angry online confrontation is more challenging, since you can’t “read” a person’s body language or tone of voice. Ask the customer to “go offline” and talk by phone; then follow the steps above.

 

Afterwards, go online to update others on how the issue was resolved. If the customer wrote a negative review, post a response explaining what you did, or ask the customer if he’d like to do so. After you’ve gone above and beyond to make them happy, most customers will revise the review on their own.

 

If the issue is an ongoing problem rather than a one-off, be sure to thank the customer for bringing it to your attention, and tell them what action you’re taking going forward. “Thank you for letting us know our technician didn’t get your approval before performing the work. We’ve talked to all our technicians and changed our system so this won’t happen again.” 

 

Listening to customers and treating them with respect helps turn ranters into raving fans.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

           

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Is your retail store turning customers off? According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngconsumer satisfaction within the retail industry as a whole is declining.

 

While consumers’ expectations are rising, retailers are cutting budgets, doing less maintenance and laying off staff. But what drives shoppers the craziest (and might be driving them out of your store)?

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

Here are the 5 deadly sins of retailing.

 

1. Not enough salespeople: While no one likes to be hounded by sales associates, shoppers do want knowledgeable help when needed. However, in a survey by MindTree, 40 percent of shoppers say they can’t find a sales associate when needed during the typical shopping trip. Staffing adequately is well worth the cost.

 

  • Customers who interact with a sales associate are 43 percent more likely to buy something, 12 percent more likely to become repeat customers, and make purchases with 81 percent more value than those of shoppers who don’t interact with a salesperson.

 

2. Poor online reviews: Most shoppers (64 percent) check with two or more sources before deciding whether to patronize a business – and at least one of them is likely to be a review site.

 

If your store has negative online reviews or ratings, 52 percent of shoppers won’t consider visiting, a survey by YP.com reports.

 

  • Make sure your business has a critical mass of reviews (most customers don’t read more than 5 or 6) and that they are primarily positive.
  • If you receive a negative review, act quickly to respond and resolve the customer’s concerns.

 

THE 4 C’S OF SOCIAL MEDIA TO GROW BUSINESS (VIDEO)

 

3. Not providing personalized service: A TimeTrade study estimates failing to provide personalized customer service costs brick-and-mortar retailers $150 billion in potential revenues last year.

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As a small retailer, you probably know many of your regular customers by sight. But with the variety of digital loyalty programs available today, why not go one step further?

 

  • Create a frequent shopper program and collect data on what your regular customers buy, how they prefer to pay and what types of promotions get their attention.
  • Use this information not only to target your marketing messages, but also to streamline their checkout process.

 

4. Return hassles: The growth of online shopping has made consumers more comfortable with returning merchandise. In some categories, such as clothing, it’s common for customers to buy items in store, take them home to try on and then return those they don’t want.

 

  • If your return process is complicated or limiting, or salespeople aren’t familiar with how it works, you’ll have problems.
  • A smooth return process is especially important if you also sell products online: in a study by Omnico Group, 40 percent of consumers want to be able to return products bought online in a physical store.

 

5. Inconvenience: Online shopping is on the rise because it’s fast and convenient, and shoppers expect the same from physical retailers.

 

In a survey from Deloitte, eight of the top 10 factors that keep customers from shopping at a physical store relate to convenience—including “long lines,” “slow checkout” and “inconvenient store hours.”

 

Anything that slows the shopping process, whether it’s a long checkout line, confusing signage or a struggle to find a salesperson, contributes to customer frustration. All of the previous factors contribute to inconvenience, making it the overwhelming sin your store can commit.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky:

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

No matter what type of business you own, whether you sell B2B or B2C, and even if you don’t directly cater to them, Millennial customers matter to you. Why is this generation, born between 1982 and 2000, so important to businesses? Consider these statistics.

 

  • Millennials (also known as “Gen Y”) are the biggest generation ever born in the U.S., topping 83 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Older Millennials—those aged 25 to 35—are entering their prime spending years. Accenture has projected that by 2020, Millennial spending will reach $1.4 trillion per year, and that this age group will account for 30 percent of all retail sales.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

Size and spending power are part of what makes Millennials important—but as with the Baby Boomers before them, what matters most is their influence. Here are nine ways they are re-shaping the world and impacting small businesses.

 

1. They’re less interested in ownership. Millennials care less about “things” and more about “experiences.” With heavy student loan debt limiting their disposable income, they tend to spend what they do have on technology and travel. With ownership less of a priority, “sharing economy” business models such as Uber are thriving.

 

Related article: Selling to Millennials: 5 Tips to Market with Authenticity

 

2. They’re tech natives. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers as part of their daily lives – they go online, and mobile, for just about everything. Bank of America has reported that 96 percent of younger Millennials (aged 18-24) say mobile phones are the most important product in their lives. This “mobile-first” attitude is transforming retailing, marketing and banking, with mobile payments rapidly becoming a necessity for all types of businesses.

 

3. They’re taking a different approach to adulthood. Millennials are delaying marriage; 18 to 34-year-olds are more likely to be living with their parents than in any other type of living arrangement, Pew reports. Rather than marrying or buying homes, they’re focusing more on education. One-third of older Millennials have a four-year college degree or higher, making this the best-educated generation in the history of the U.S.

 

4. They’re becoming parents. Millennials want to be good parents and tend to take a more lighthearted approach to parenting than the generations right before them. In 2015, Millennial moms accounted for more than eight in 10 births.

 

5. They want it now. Trained to expect immediate gratification, Millennials expect businesses to make their lives easier and more convenient. They rely on mobile apps for everything from chatting with friends to banking or booking travel arrangements. Because convenience is paramount, they’re less brand-loyal than prior generations.

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6. They’re influencers. Millennials have impact both up and down the demographic ladder. They influence their children’s purchases, and influence their parents’ in turn. For instance, Millennials are likely to be early adopters of new technology; once Millennials become comfortable with technology, the older Gen X’ers and Boomers will adopt it as well.

 

Click here to read more from small business expert Rieva Lesonsky

 

7. They trust peers, not ads. Having lived through the Great Recession, Millennials tend to distrust institutions—including businesses and traditional advertising. Instead, they turn to their friends, family and peers for recommendations. Fifty-five percent of Millennials say they learn about products, promotions and offers on social media. Millennials are making user-generated content, social media and online reviews the primary means of earning trust.

 

8. They’re racially and ethnically diverse. More than four in 10 Millennial adults (43 percent) are non-white, Pew research says—more than in any prior generation. By 2043, the Census Bureau projects, the U.S. population will become majority non-white, and Millennials are leading the way. Stereotypes or marketing messages that aren’t inclusive won’t work with this generation.

 

9. They’re socially responsible and expect businesses to be the same. For Millennials, social responsibility goes beyond caring for the environment. It extends to issues such as how you treat your employees or whether your products are fair trade. Whether you get involved in social causes by donating money or volunteering, make sure your efforts are legitimate—Millennials can smell inauthenticity a mile away.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Whether you own an e-commerce website, a brick-and-mortar retail store or both, you’re undoubtedly dealing with more returns than usual this time of year. In fact, UPS dubbed January 5th “National Returns Day,” and estimated in the first full week of January, more than 5.8 million packages were returned using UPS alone. How can you make the return process easier for both your customers and your business? Here are my top tips:

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

If you sell online:

Offer free returns. Let’s face it: You're competing with Amazon, Nordstrom, Zappos and other big companies that offer free returns. In today’s world, many online shoppers won’t even consider buying from you if they have to pay for returns. Build the cost of free returns into your product prices, even if that means charging a little more; you’ll make up for it in customer satisfaction, loyalty and future orders.

Provide return shipping labels. “Easy-to-print return labels” and “Return label in the box” are key factors for a seamless ecommerce return experience for your customers, according to the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study. Labels should include clear directions on how to return the product, such as what paperwork needs to be included in the box, whether it needs to be shipped by a specific carrier and where to drop it off.

Set customer expectations. Make sure return and exchange information is easy to find via a link at the top of your website. You can also include this information (or links to it) on individual product pages, as well as in follow-up emails sent after a product has been delivered.

Click here to read more General Business articles.

Allow in-store returns. If you have a physical store in addition to your e-commerce site, give customers the option to return online purchases in-store. Sixty percent of those in the UPS study prefer making in-store returns than returning by mail (plus, each visit to your store is an opportunity to make a new sale). Just be sure all store employees are well trained in handling online returns.

If you own a brick-and-mortar store:

Make it fast. Consumers in the UPS study say speed is a top factor in making in-store returns a positive experience. Consider setting up a special area for returns during high-volume times; this will shorten wait times and keep customers happy. Be sure signage clearly indicates which line is for returns. There’s nothing worse than waiting in a long line at checkout to return something, only to be told you have to start over again in the special return line.

Train all salespeople to handle returns. If salespeople always have to call a higher-ranking employee or manager over to finish a return, you’re slowing down the process unnecessarily. Post step-by-step directions for returns at the checkout so your salespeople can refer to them easily.

Related article: The Value of Customer Loyalty

Make returns a positive experience. Lots of us enjoy shopping, but no one likes returning things. It’s a hassle, and customers who are disappointed in a product are in a negative frame of mind to begin with. If your sales clerks sigh loudly, look irritated or roll their eyes, they make the problem worse. Train your employees to treat customers with returns cheerfully and professionally—it’s key to retaining their business.

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Communicate your return policy early and often. Have salespeople briefly explain the return policy during the transaction (“We accept returns any time within 90 days as long as you have your receipt.”). Print key return information, such as time limits, on receipts. Have your return policy clearly posted at checkout.

No matter what type of retailer you are:

Be willing to make exceptions. The way you handle a complicated return situation can make or break your relationship with the customer. Empower your salespeople to use their discretion and make exceptions when warranted.

Use returns as a learning tool. Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers should always ask the reason for return, either in person or on the return form. By tracking information about specific products and reasons, you’ll spot trends and problems. For instance, you might find that one supplier has started providing poor-quality merchandise, or that clothing is more likely to be returned if the description doesn't include fabric content.

Prevent future returns. E-commerce retailers will find that providing as much product information as possible—including multiple photos, videos, detailed size information, dimensions and materials—reduces returns because there are fewer surprises when the product is received. Letting customers write product reviews helps eliminate returns by alerting shoppers to issues, such as clothing that runs small.

Handle returns right, and they can actually increase customer satisfaction, build customer loyalty and give you insights into your product assortment.

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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