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E-commerce Start-up Business Plan

Order Process

Only two input variables are needed to easily find the merchant and identify a particular merchandise item. The customer's last name is asked for verification purposes only. website serves as a centralized online location for consumers to claim and process returns for participating merchants. As online shopping continues to grow, the added convenience of one single online destination to do returns for multiple merchants will increase. At the same time, participating merchants will place banner on their pages under return policies so that consumers could access the service directly from there. That way the domain name of the merchant will be pre-entered and the initial step even further simplified.

In case the merchandise was sent as a gift to another person who does not have access to the Internet, a toll-free telephone number will be provided to call in. An operator, with access to the Internet, will use the same exact sequence of onscreen entries and will relay options and procedures to the customer over the phone.

4.1 Order Number

The order number should ensure that the right item is identified. However, it is possible that the customer has ordered a few similar items but only wishes to return one of them, or the order number included multiple items. Hence a modification option is added to address that. In case the order number was assigned to a shipment that included multiple items, all items will be displayed and the customer will be asked to select those they wish to return.

In case a wrong item is identified, the customer will be taken one step back and asked to re-enter the initial information.

4.2 Return Policies

Once the item has been identified, the return policies that apply to that particular item will be retrieved. will summarize the return policy to the point of available options. This means that based on the item (regular merchandise, on-sale merchandise, etc.) different return options and procedures may apply. The customer will be given the shortest description of what needs to be done and when.

While some merchants have "no-questions-asked" return policies, others require justification to return merchandise. For the purposes of uniformity and the reasons described below, the customer should courteously be asked to provide reasons for return. The answer format is quite simple (check marks and short narrative) and it eliminates much of the ambiguity. The narrative part is also a chance for consumers to "vent out" their concerns or frustrations.

The customer will be given three options to resolve the issue: exchange, refund, or replacement. During this stage the merchant is informed that a particular item is claimed for return and why. In case of exchange or replacement, the merchant receives an invaluable opportunity to instantly sell another item to the customer (the merchant's website will appear onscreen for selection and shopping). Should the reason be incorrect or defective item, the merchant can send the correct/new item right away, thus instantly restoring customer satisfaction and saving the sale. The terms of the new sale are up to the merchant to decide (charge customer's credit card right away, give grace period for the returning item to arrive, etc.)

An option to look up the merchant's entire return procedures will also be given to consumers. A link will be established that brings up the page containing return procedures in a separate window. Once reviewed, the window can simply be closed.

4.3 Return Label

Once the merchant has authorized the return, if required, the customer will be asked to print the return label for shipping. If customer does not have access to a printer, a larger view of the label will be presented onscreen for the customer to copy down necessary information. The customer may also be given an option to make adjustments to certain information on the label before printing it. The label will have the merchant's address (destination where the returning item should be forwarded), returning item's identification (Returned Merchandise Authorization Number), the customer's return address, and possibly tracking and payment information for the shipping company. The customer will also be advised on refund, exchange, or replacement options, and when it will occur.

Since some companies already include pre-printed return labels in all shipments, the printing step may be skipped. But because consumers sometimes lose or throw away enclosed labels, the online print version will always be there as a backup thus adding convenience and peace of mind. More importantly, will strike strategic alliances with shipping companies to take and deliver all returned items so the printing of the labels will add uniformity to the entire return process. The label can then incorporate the shipper's information, and as a consolidator and demand aggregator of all returns will be able to negotiate a rate reduction.

As an add-on to its customer service, will offer an email reminder service to ship the claimed item. It may also offer customers a confirmation email to record the claim. Customer's email address will then be asked for. For its own database purposes, will record all transactions and details thereof.

Once the customer has finished the online entry process, the merchant's website will appear where the merchant will be able to approach consumers with new sales offers. This will be an additional selling opportunity for the merchant, which is part of the overall service.

4.4 Sequence of Process

The list below describes the sequence of actions taking place during the return process.

  1. Consumer claims an item through
  2. gains merchant's authorization, if required, and alerts the merchant about what is claimed for return and why.
  3. Merchant tries to save the sale by offering a replacement or other products.
  4. Consumer makes a new purchase, unless refund is demanded.
  5. generates a return label for the returning item.
  6. Merchant's website appears again to offer new products to the consumer.
  7. Consumer makes a new purchase.
  8. Consumer ships back the returning item.
  9. Shipping company delivers the item to the merchant.
  10. Consumer buys more from the merchant knowing that the return process is easy and trouble-free.

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