[Interview] “Returns are part of the ecommerce game; You cannot blame sellers! Can you?” shares online seller Mayank

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There are cases where sellers also see returns as high as 25%. Still there is no way return policies can be abandoned! If you don’t allow returns, it’s like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Just ask 32 year old online seller, Mayank Bhatia.

The Delhi based online retailer originally specialized in the sale of corporate gifts and customized products. His B2B undertaking catered to the corporate crowd and they loved doing business with him. Business was booming offline and Bhatia could only imagine the possibilities ecommerce could bring him. So he launched his brand into the virtual world and today his prominent brands Bendly, Hill Fresh, MikroActiv, Fab.U, Pure Play Sports and Liverpool FC are available on every online marketplace out there. His products comprise of bags, active sportswear and accessories like watches and sunglasses.

Bhatia’s Engagement with Ecommerce

Mr. Bhatia started selling online in 2013. As an offline business they saw decent sales and received impressive proceeds. This coxed him and his team to expand. So they dabbled into ecommerce to see how it could help them grow their business. They registered onto multiple online marketplaces and began experimenting with their brand online.

Later on, Mayank and his team got together with multi-channel ecommerce solutions provider Browntape. Browntape took over their listing process and inventory management. This helped them increase their efficiency as an online business. Their earnings began to increase and now they handle around 600-700 SKUs for him.

Despite his successful tryst with ecommerce, like many others out there, Mayank faced the crippling hold of product returns. The more we spoke it dawned upon us just how big a puzzle product returns were for him. So we asked him for his perspective on product returns.

Could you give us an approximate figure of your orders and returns rate this far?

Most of my orders and returns come from Flipkart. The approximate number of orders I’ve received from them is 17,000 since the start of the year. On a whole I’ve received 25,000 online orders for year. Out of the total orders received I can say 7-10% comprise of returns.

The common belief is improper packaging (from the seller’s end) is the cause of returns! So we had to ask:

How do you handle packaging? What is your process and what packaging materials do you use to package your goods?

Majority of our products are soft fabric products so packaging is not an issue for us. We use poly bags to package our goods made from fabric. These are tough bags that can withstand severe impact and damage. For breakables like watches and sunglasses cardboard boxes have served as sufficient packaging. Every marketplace has packaging guideline and all of them are pretty much the same. So as long as you make sure your packaging is secure, presentable and capable of protecting the product you shouldn’t have any issues.

Which marketplaces do you sell on? Which do you prefer best? Why? Does the return policy play a part in your choice?

I sell on basically every marketplace out there. I sell on Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon, Jabong, Shopclues, Paytm, Indiadying, Craftsvilla and many other online platforms like these. Out of all these I rank Amazon #1. Their platform is extremely systematic! The modules for payment, returns and orders are created to assist the seller to sell. Unlike Flipkart and other marketplaces where essential details are hidden from direct view! Jabong too has simple transfer models. We know exactly what we have given and how much we should receive.

Which of your products have the highest return rate?

Our bags category receives the most returns from all our product categories. Our new concept bags was the product with the most return requests. We understand the reason was people didn’t quite get the concept behind these bags. The product received multiple orders but the returns were high as well. So we took it off the online market. With help from Browntape we plan on promoting this product so the right consumers see it and people understand what it is all about.

What are the difficulties you face when your products are returned?

I understand returns made because consumers don’t like what they received or the product doesn’t meet their expectations. These are usually the return reasons given by consumers on Amazon. However, on Flipkart returns are not accompanied by reasons such as these. It is as if the consumer buys purely on impulse not out of genuine need for it.

Damaged goods are another issue with returned products. In the past 15 days our returns from Snapdeal shoppers largely comprised of damaged products.

Have you informed your marketplaces about these difficulties? How have they responded? Were you provided with any relief?

Yes I have. We raise a claim on the marketplace where the consumer asks for a return. In some cases you may get relief and in other cases you don’t. Most times we were paid full refunds for our claims.

And when you weren’t?

We were helpless! I mean what could we do? It’s in the hands of the marketplace.

Do you think with marketplaces looking to concentrate on rural consumers, returns will reduce?

If the returns are low it definitely is a good idea.

Should marketplaces change their return policies? If yes, could you suggest in what ways they should?

Yes, they do need to change their return policies!

  • It’s unfair to the seller when consumers purchase just for fun, use the product and then return it. Marketplaces need to do something about this like impose a penalty on the buyers.
  • The 30 day return policy is too long. The return period should be reduced.
  • Marketplaces like Flipkart need to add more options for return reasons. The limited options affect seller reputation. Most consumers are forced to select poor product quality (due to lack of other options) when in reality there is absolutely no problem with the product quality. This affects our credibility as sellers, according to marketplace benchmarks.

Do you think marketplaces favor customers more?

Yes, they do. Marketplaces are more for the consumer. They have taken initiative to protect online sellers lately but not to an extent that actually makes a difference.

Sellers are voicing their disapproval of marketplace policies. What is your take on that?

Sellers need to object at some point! Unnecessary returns and high deductions by the marketplaces are all cutting into our earnings and our profit margins are reducing.

Do you have any tips/message for your fellow online sellers and marketplace?

Returns are part of the game. That cannot change but the decrease in return rates hugely depends on marketplaces. Sellers need to do everything right to enforce this. Get your images, product descriptions and packaging done exactly as per marketplace regulations and guidelines. This way we are in the right and we can fearlessly question marketplaces “Why are my products being returned?”

By the end we were curious to know if his opinion towards ecommerce had changed. To which he replied,

“I have mixed feelings about ecommerce. It does result in revenue and increasing interest, but profits from online selling keep depreciating.”

What do you feel about ecommerce product returns? Let us know in the comments below.

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8 Comments

  1. Sir,
    NPC is into online platforms since 2006, NPC started with rediff, indiatimes & ebay , Today almost all major e-com players sale NPC products including amazon, flipkart, naaptol, rediff, snapdeal, paytm, indiatimes, infibeam, Etc . Return rates can be minimised , we have minimised return rate to 7% from initial Rate f 25% to 35% .
    The ways wat we found helpful in Low RTO are
    1) selling unique products which are not in dirty mud of unfair competitions
    2) Cross veryfying COD orders greater than 20,000/-
    3) conecentrating on High margin SKU rather than concentrating on over volume .
    4) some of the exlusive customised products bring traffic from genuine needy buyers only .

    2 trucks of Branded Mixer grinder were made RTO to seller by a top e-commerce company during diwali sales of 2015 . That cud lower down over all profit arising due to damaged returns , damaged original packing etc ..

    Regards
    Raj NPC

  2. Samir Ahluwalia Reply

    The issue with returns will always be there, but with small steps it can be reduced, the major return source is not delivered products but COD products which were never delivered and unfortunately on Amazon there is not checks to reduce that. also unfortunately the shipping charges for COD items are deducted from sellers account

    I think the issue with ecommerce is no longer returns its now going to be commission Amazon will be increasing its commision to as high as 15% in some categories and with shipping charges in Amazon also set to increase they will be almost 70% more then what they were a year ago.

    One issue which most of the sellers do not realise is that ecommerce can nevery be on turnover but on margins, however new sellers do not realise that and perish however in doing so destroy the listing also

    I think for majority of the products ecommerce is longer about price but ease of shopping, accessibility and peace of mind

  3. Anonymus Reply

    Thank God somebody brought this issue. I am a new seller and if eg I receive 6 orders, I get back 2 returns which is demotivating. I received the product back without opening it which is disheartening that people purchase the product just for fun. I completely agree with what Mayank has highlighted like Amazon being the best seller friendly portal and return policies needs to be changed. The return period 30 days needs to be reduced to 7 days or a week after delivery. I believe there are new portals who instead of returning the money are keeping that in customer’s account so that they can purchase other products from them in future.

  4. Whizkid_no1 Reply

    The Marketplaces are nowadays advertising and almost coaxing the customers to return products

    Product returns are the biggest bug bear and since the market place is not losing anything they are encouraging customers to return products

    “Returns” is the next “discounts” – another way for online marketplaces to push sales

    I wonder if they reduce returns when they report their GMVs !!!!!!

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