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How to Reduce Returns on E-books & Other Digital Products

If you’ve ever sold an e-book, there’s a good chance that you’ve had to deal with at least a few e-book returns. They’re unfortunate, but they do happen, and you need to be prepared for them when they arise. 

Fortunately, if you’re selling e-books the right way, you’ll be far less likely to run into issues with the return process in the first place. There are several reasons why people return digital products, and figuring out how to prevent the issues will make all the difference in your success. 

Check out our podcast interview with ClickBank and August Grebinski on how adding a physical product to your e-goods or e-book can drastically reduce your return rates.

Also available on: Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts

Interview Q&A Highlights:

What are e-goods & e-books?

E-goods refer to any digital goods, including books as well as other forms of digital media such as music, videos, internet radio, television, digital subscriptions, advertisements, coupons, tickets, and more. 

Newer forms of e-goods that people often buy include cloud-based online games and mobile apps. But other styles of e-goods—like worksheets, webinars, blogs, and tutorials—have been around for ages. 

Templates, patterns, and website themes are all considered e-goods as well. Essentially, if it can be made digital, it can become an e-good.

E-books are digitized versions of printed books, and they are usually offered on digital apps like Kindle and other e-reader devices. Think of it like this: not all e-goods are e-books, but all e-books are e-goods!

The pros of selling e-books

E-books offer a great solution for customers who are looking for books that are more affordable and accessible than physical copies. As an author, e-books can help you test a product before committing to the production costs associated with physical books. E-books also offer you the ability to increase the accessibility of your book by making it available online.  

Why e-book returns are high

Of course, for every pro, there is a con. The return rates on e-books are staggering, to say the least. The biggest reasons for these high return rates are that the books are easier to pirate and they don’t hold as much significance to the owner as physical books do. 

Easily pirated

E-books are so easily pirated that some people wonder why they would even pay for them in the first place. Of course, if you do it right, you can avoid piracy and get maximum value for your e-book. 

Return policies

The other big problem here is that retailers and e-book authors must honor the return policies of sites like Amazon, which often gives readers 60-90 days to return a digital product. As you can imagine, that’s more than enough time to read a book and still return it, which is causing issues for many.  

Unfortunately, most e-book authors are subject to retailer return policies, which may allow for more time to return a product than an author would permit on their own. With a longer return window, readers have more time to return their e-book, which increases the odds that they’ll return. 

E-goods often have a lower perceived value

Although this isn’t always the case, e-goods tend to be viewed as having a lower value than physical goods from the consumer’s perspective. E-books lack tangibility, which can accentuate outlook. In fact, according to an interview with Vice President August Grebinski, 73% of customers prefer a physical product over a digital product. 

Not only that, but e-good product returns have a return rate of about 8.7% while physical copies of the same book only see returns of 2.3%, according to Grebinski. This goes to show that people are more detached from electronic goods — e-books included — which is likely a large part of the high return rates. 

How to reduce e-good & e-book returns

When you have a good e-book and a good producer, there are several ways that you can help prevent returns or at least reduce the impact that they have on your business. Keep in mind the fact the lifetime value of a customer who purchases a physical book is 37% higher than customers who buy an e-book.

The solution to e-book returns

It’s human nature to like things. When we spend money, we expect to receive value in return. That’s why offering a physical copy of your book—or at least something tangible along with your e-book—can improve the value of your readers’ e-book purchase. 

Print a physical copy

Though it’s not necessary to print physical copies of your e-book, it’s wise. The best way to prevent e-book returns is to make sure people have the option to purchase a physical copy. 

It’s easy to self-publish a printed book these days, and with the help of a dedicated 3PL provider, it can be even simpler than you think. Having a printed product reduces the likelihood of returns, increases the value to the buyer, and minimizes the risk of pirating. 

E-good creators: here’s how to reduce product returns

E-goods are great because they are a lower-cost way of testing the market all while helping brands expand more rapidly than they do with the launch of physical products. However, e-goods also have a much higher return rate, making them more vulnerable to value losses due to the way they are perceived and valued less than physical books.  

Offer multimedia

People are willing to spend more on shipping and handling costs when products include multimedia. Consider putting your digital product on a flash drive. Then, you can offer both versions to the customer by handing out “lockable” USB drives that will prohibit people from sharing or pirating the download. 

Custom notebooks

You can often include a workbook or a custom notebook along with your e-book to improve their engagement with your book. This also adds value to your book which reduces the likelihood of your e-book being returned. 

Consider swag or apparel marketing

If you want to increase loyalty and brand awareness, consider swag and apparel marketing. Stickers and t-shirts are two great ways to engage with people. T-shirts are popular, but stickers are both a cheaper choice for the budget-minded shopper and more affordable for authors. 

Custom kits

Custom kits are a great way to increase engagement and build loyalty among customers. When you know your audience, you can create the perfect kit that will appeal to them. 

Imagine receiving a package in the mail as part of your e-book purchase instead of just downloading a digital copy and calling it a day! Custom kits are special, and people are far more likely to keep items that give them a personalized unboxing experience.

Consult with Print Bind Ship to reduce e-good returns

Self-publishers and digital creators can benefit from the services of a dedicated 3PL provider like Print Bind Ship. Contact us today for a free quote. 

We’ll help you create the perfect accompaniment for your digital goods. As professionals in the e-commerce industry, we know what it takes to keep returns low and loyalty high with digital goods!