Make “Returns Season” Less Painful For Everyone Involved

The holiday season is here, bringing with it the promise of high online sales, hectic delivery schedules, and of course, returned goods. The post-Christmas “returns season” can be a logistical nightmare for eCommerce brands. 

Whether the shipment was late, damaged, or lost in the shuffle, people bought the wrong size, or just the wrong gift altogether, January is the peak time for returns. According to Shopify, a quarter of holiday shoppers make purchases intending to return them later. 80.65% of eCommerce brands receive the majority of returns in January.

With so much going on during the Christmas rush, don’t forget to plan for all the returns you’ll most likely be receiving. Planning in advance for the returns season creates a better experience for everyone involved. It helps businesses control costs and generate positive customer interactions, which hopefully means they’re more likely to return.

You can’t make it through returns season with just holiday cheer and enthusiasm alone. You need specific policies and procedures in place. For starters, you’ll need a robust bill payment solution to manage your finances and get money back to customers quickly. What else can help businesses ease the pain of returns season? Below are five tips for successfully managing the post-holiday returns season.

1. Consider a more favorable return policy during the holidays

Return policies are more than just admin and logistics; they are a selling point for your products. Favorable return policies can significantly increase sales, especially around the holidays when sales increase and people are buying gifts for others. Online businesses need to find the right balance between attracting customers and the cost of handling returns.

Offering a more favorable return policy during the holidays can be beneficial to entice consumers and make for an impressive Q4. For example, you could extend the return window or pay for shipping on any returned products. Even with the higher return rates over the holiday period, offering a better return policy and boosting sales can boost overall profits.

2. Make return policies clear

Whether you choose to revise your return policy or not, perhaps the most crucial factor is how you communicate it. Especially during returns season, businesses need a clear and concise return policy that customers can understand from a quick scan of the website or receipt. 

Introducing technical terms and retail jargon or writing information in small print does nothing except frustrate customers. A consumer who feels misled or ill-informed about a return policy is unlikely to become a repeat customer.

Define an uncomplicated, direct return policy that explains the following:

  • What can be returned.
  • How long do customers have to return a product.
  • What customers receive, i.e., full refund, exchange, store credit, etc.
  • How long will it take to receive compensation.
  • What condition must the product be in to qualify for a return.
  • The process of returning the product, i.e., where to go on the site, shipping, etc.

Whatever your policy is, ensure it is accessible to all customers and clearly communicated during the sales process. Transparency is key to building trust, and your return policy should be easy to find on your website.

3. Convert returns into exchanges or sales

Most customers want a full cash refund for their returned goods. However, you can steer people into getting another one of your products. By tweaking your returns policy and getting your messaging right customers may want to exchange a product as opposed to returning it. Or even upgrading and buying a new product altogether. 

You could promote exchanges or store credit by offering faster processing and shipping. You could convert returns into sales by offering discounts on future purchases or marketing other products during the returns process. Make sure you’re not overcomplicating the customer’s experience and creating additional barriers to people just looking for a refund.

4. Train your staff

You may think your staff knows how to handle returns, but returns season is different. Taking the time to drill home every aspect of the returns process goes a long way to improving the customer experience.

Your staff needs to know:

  • How to examine returned products to ensure they qualify for a refund.
  • How to process returns within your eCommerce system and payment platform.
  • How to organize returned stock.
  • And how to communicate the returns process to customers.

The run-up to the holiday season is an excellent time to refresh staff on what is expected of them. This includes the returns policy and the related rules and guidelines specific to your company.

The retail industry is the target of significant return fraud over the holidays. Bad actors deliberately try to exploit return policies while using stolen goods and stolen or fabricated receipts. Training staff on the ins and outs of your return policy and what to look out for when it comes to fraud is a great way of protecting your business.

5. Learn from your returns

Our final tip is to track returned goods in order to learn for next year. By categorizing returned products and gathering data, you can identify specific patterns or issues that can be improved moving forward. For example, a high number of returns for a particular item, a common reason for returns, or a shipping partner damaging goods at a higher rate during shipping. 

Taking the time to dig into your returned items can help uncover problems and reduce the cost of future return seasons. You can also compare your current return policy with previous years to determine its impact. What do customers like, and what they don’t like? What helps boost sales? And what makes the whole process run smoothly?

Preparing for a successful returns season

For many businesses, the holiday season is the most profitable period, the cherry on the cake at the end of a long year. However, if you fail to prepare for returns season, it can quickly become a nightmare as your profits dissolve into refunds and return shipping.

While there’s a lot to think about during the holiday season, don’t forget to create a rock-solid return policy that is fair to customers while minimizing the cost to your business. 

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