As the Ecommerce industry continues to grow rapidly, we will inevitably see a host of ongoing updates to policies governing all stages of the process—including a recent update to Amazon’s return policy. Many retailers have attempted to set themselves apart by promising easy, hassle-free returns, giving customers the added peace of mind required to make a purchase without seeing the item in person beforehand.
Ideally, reasonable return policies are transparent and function in a way that makes things easier for buyers, customer service, and sellers. They should be designed to keep things running smoothly and ensure that all parties are aware of their rights before and after purchase. With the increasing shift towards simplistic return policies, though, there is considerable potential for return requests to be abused. With this in mind, how does the new Amazon return policy for sellers affect businesses?
Upcoming changes to return policy
The Amazon return policy for sellers has gone through multiple updates. The latest changes address a consistent approach for all involved. Amazon merchants are facing a serious change regarding the return of ordered products by customers. An overview of the changes can be found in Seller Central. It states:
“We’re excited to announce that starting August 30, 2021, we will automate the approval of return requests for orders with shipping by sellers for all selling partners. With this launch, buyers will receive immediate return request approval for requests that fall within the scope of Amazon’s return policy.”
There are to be exceptions to automated return approvals for some products in specific categories and subcategories. In these cases, requests should still be able to be reviewed manually.
Who is the policy intended to serve?
Amazon has stated that it wants to make the shopping experience even better for customers, but that the actions being taken will also benefit merchants. According to its own statements, Amazon wants to save its merchants both time and processing effort through this new, automated step. They will no longer have to individually review and then approve all of the customers’ return requests in the future. Moreover, customers can be offered an even better shopping experience.
Amazon notes explicitly in the announcement that while this would reduce buyer contact, merchants would still have the ability to contact their customers while retaining “full control over your shipping methods for returns, calculating shipping fees for returns, and issuing refunds.”
Many merchants react critically
Many online retailers were quick to respond critically to the update in policy. Under Amazon’s notice, there are now numerous critical comments on the automatic approval of return requests. For example, one user points out that he sees the approval of the return process in his own area of responsibility – not Amazon’s:
“There are different reasons for returns. If I’m in charge of it, I want to clarify it with the customer. […] IT’S MY JOB!!! not yours!”
Navigating changes to Amazon’s return policy together
At GANDT, we feel that the changes to Amazon’s policy should not be classified as generally negative for sellers. For specific categories and products, it simplifies the previous manual returns process and could very well improve efficiency. Furthermore, Amazon raises the bar once again in customer experience by standardizing practices that benefit the consumer.
However, there are also certain products and categories that do not benefit from this change, as a manual and individual case inspection is necessary. In our opinion, this change could have been integrated so that merchants were free to decide whether to adopt it or have only been implemented at a specific product/category level.
That being said, we are here to help merchants adjust to any changes that come their way. At GANDT, our focus is on helping you understand your customers—because that’s probably the most important thing of all.
We ask questions like: why is a customer looking to return an item in the first place? A deep analysis of return behavior is the starting point to develop a strategy to deal with the new policy. The returns occur because the customer has experienced a pain point, and to minimize these areas of tension, or prevent them from occurring in the first place, it is vital to keep them as low as possible. We can help you recognize areas of concern and optimize the purchase process to resolve and clarify any potential pain points before a purchase takes place.