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E‑commerce returns management: The impact of order errors and returns on your customers

Catharina Mensak
July 2, 2019
three women looking at a computer and evaluating business choices

Many articles already cover how e-commerce returns affect your B2B business. But we wanted to look at it from your customers’ point of view. Therefore, in this blog post, we reveal how errors and returns impact your customers’ organizations, plus how you can overcome their challenges by optimizing your e-commerce returns management and preventing errors.

This blog post is based on the results of our B2B Buying Process 2019 Report. For this report, we commissioned Sapio Research to survey 560 professional (B2B) buyers from around the world, to uncover their preferences, needs, and challenges.

What do your B2B buyers want? Discover it here.

Why should you care about the impact e-commerce returns have on your customers?

Meeting your buyers’ needs and helping them overcome their challenges will improve your customer satisfaction. Naturally, a high customer satisfaction rate leads to increased repeat orders, reduced churn, and an overall increase in revenue. So, understanding and meeting your buyers’ needs is crucial to your organization’s success.

What are the causes of B2B e-commerce errors and returns?

Cause of online errors with suppliers

On average, B2B buyers place an online order with their top 10 suppliers at least once a week. But their online experience is far from perfect, with 44% of buyers experiencing online ordererrors with their top 10 suppliers at least every 2 weeks. 44% of B2B buyer experience online order errors with their top 10 suppliers at least every two weeks.

This includes 19% of buyers who experience order errors weekly and 9% who deal with errors on a daily basis.

Impact on Business: Order Errors

As can be observed in the table above, the errors your customers encounter are caused by several different factors. But we do see two separate categories emerge:

  1. Human error: This includes incorrect product selection, purchase entry, shipping information and account data entry (experienced by between 23% and 29% of buyers). Incorrect product selection is especially prevalent in North America (U.S. and Canada) and UKI (U.K. and Ireland) regions, as well as in the medical supplies industry, where it affects 32%, 38% and 39% of buyers respectively.
  2. Incorrect information displayed online: This includes the incorrect display of products, inventory, related products and pricing (experienced by between 23% and 28% of buyers). The food & beverage industry suffers the most from this, with 44% of buyers experiencing online order errors due to products being incorrectly displayed in the web store.

What is the impact of e-commerce returns and errors in B2B?

Our research found that each day, B2B buyers’ organizations place between 401 and 550 orders, comprising an average of 41 to 50 pieces per order. With this sheer number of orders, it’s easy to see how a slight inefficiency in the ordering and returns process can have a profound impact on your customers’ organizations.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that e-commerce returns and errors have a significant impact on the sales, profitability, efficiency, and productivity of your customers’ organizations.

On average, online order errors and returns decrease their profitability, efficiency, and productivity by 6-10%, and their sales by 1-5%. A small percentage of buyers (5-6%) even experience a more than 25% decrease in sales, productivity, efficiency, and profitability, following e-commerce order errors and returns!

Impact of online order errors and returns

Sapio’s research uncovered that the region and industry most impacted by e-commerce returns and errors are the Benelux region (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and the electronics industry. More than 30% of buyers in the Benelux region experience a decrease of more than 11% in efficiency and productivity. While more than 29% of buyers in the electronics industry experience a decrease of more than 11% in efficiency and profitability.

See how your customers in your region are impacted by online order errors and e-commerce returns:

impact of online error rate on efficiency

How can you prevent e-commerce errors and returns?

Sapio’s research found that your buyers’ top 2 key performance indicators (KPIs) are cost savings and increasing efficiency. Facilitating an error-free order intake — and consequently avoiding any decrease in profitability, efficiency, productivity, and sales for your customers’ organizations — is, therefore, key to delivering excellent B2B customer experience.

These are some of the steps you can take to prevent e-commerce returns and errors, due to both human errors and incorrectly displayed information:

  1.  Optimize your online product descriptions: Incorrect product selection is the number 1 cause of online order errors and returns. To assist your customers in making the correct selection, ensure you create detailed product descriptions. Include all the information your customer needs to know in an easy-to-understand format, including images, diagrams, and product specifications. See how Boards & More use images and diagrams to create detailed product pages in our 8 best examples of B2B e-commerce.
  2.  Leverage the power of your ERP: With an ERP-integrated e-commerce platform, display issues such as incorrect products, out-of-date pricing, and out-of-stock items simply do not happen. This is because such integration enables your web store to display the up-to-date, real-time product, pricing, and inventory information stored in your ERP. Find out more about the 44 benefits of integration.
  3.  Give customers online access to their account and order history: Having this information at hand 24/7 can help your customers make the correct product selection, purchase entry, shipping information selection, and account data entry. This is again something that can be easily done through ERP-integrated e-commerce, as it provides buyers with round-the-clock access to their account information stored in your ERP system via your web store.
  4.  Allow customers to make returns online: So even if your customer’s order was incorrect, the impact of the order error can be lessened through a more efficient returns process. Our research found that 34% of buyers would be persuaded to choose a vendor if they were offered the ability to manage their returns online. And 59% prefer accessing returns information online, compared to just 12% preferring offline.

How to meet your buyers’ demand for (better) B2B e-commerce

Looking for (more) advice on how to meet your B2B customers’ demands? Download our 2019 report about your buyers’ behavior, current demands, and future needs.

Buyers want to buy more online. 

Download our report to find out how to meet their needs.