Ecommerce Holiday Returns: What Customers Want

By Maria Fagerland
Oct 21, 2021
Girl dropping off a package at USPS

Holiday returns are an unavoidable part of running a successful eCommerce business, and they become even more unavoidable during the holiday season. In order to compete with larger ecommerce stores, it’s important to prioritize return shipping. Your ecommerce returns process directly impacts consumer satisfaction and their decision to purchase from you in the future. The faster and more effectively you set customer expectations, the sooner they will purchase from you. 

From attracting new customers to delegating tasks to your team, running a profitable online store requires having a solid plan for handling returns. Regardless of if the product return is due to an error or is expected, a clearly defined ecommerce returns policy will protect your bottom line.

69% of consumers say they expect to do more holiday returns in 2020 than in 2019, with consumers saying they expect to do 26% more returns this year, on average.

Revisit Your Ecommerce Return Policy Each Year

When was the last time you updated your returns policy? Probably never?

With the busy holiday season, it’s important to ensure you have a solid and updated plan for handling returns. Did you know that 11% of consumers will abandon their online shopping cart if they think the returns policy is unsatisfactory? 

The holiday season isn’t the time to completely overhaul your return policy, but it’s a good time to make sure you and your staff are clear before the holiday returns begin to roll in.

Is there a maximum time frame from purchase? Does the time frame of your return policy begin with the start of the holiday season, or does it start from the date of purchase? What limitations exist for returns?

Making your ecommerce return policy easily accessible and simple is a great way to establish good customer service and create a better returns experience. With returns, the simpler the better. Detailing in three steps or less how a customer can return a product to you can actually help sustain their future business. You can even include your return policy in your shipping confirmation emails with branded tracking. Customers are less likely to work with ecommerce stores that saddle them with extra steps or fees. However, it is imperative your return policy also considers your business’ needs.

Any confusion or vague understanding of your return policies could turn into a customer service nightmare and vastly reduce the likelihood of repeat business. 95% of shoppers who are happy with the returns process said they’ll purchase with the same retailer again. Those unhappy with the process are 3 times more likely never to return.

A streamlined returns process will help elevate your brand above the competition. Offering an accurate and convenient way to return items showcases your commitment to great customer service. It also helps establish your brand as being bigger than it may actually be. The more established your business appears to customers, the more likely they are to order from you again.

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How to Holiday Ecommerce Offer Returns

  • Extend the return window 
  • Make processing returns easy
  • Free returns and exchanges

Extended Return Window from Holidays 

When it comes to holiday ecommerce returns, the customer returning the gift may not have ever visited your store. Make sure your return policy is clear and easy to find. For the holidays, you’ll likely want to give a bit of extended time to return items than you would throughout the rest of the year.

Most retailers offer at least a two-week extension (into mid-January) for holiday returns, and some stores extend the return deadlines. If you offer a longer ecommerce return policy, be prepared for consumers who will take advantage of this extension but know that your customers will still appreciate the extra time.  

Easy to Process Returns

Make returns easy! Returns are a zero-sum game for both customers and merchants. However, mastering returns can increase customer satisfaction and contribute to long-term customer loyalty. Instead of requiring customers to call into a support line or wait around for you to send an email with the next steps, allow online shoppers to initiate returns in the same way that orders are placed. Make the process easier by offering automated returns through return portals on your website 

78% of consumers would rather have a prepaid return shipping label with the return cost deducted from their refund. 

Consumers are aware that there will sometimes be costs associated with returns of their online purchases. If there are, strive to make the process as easy and convenient as possible. Providing a prepaid return label and deducting the return cost directly from the refund reduces the effort needed on part of the customer and may make them more willing to buy from you again.  

Free Return Shipping 

Free return shipping for online returns can give your business a boost when it comes to customer satisfaction. E-commerce returns are already a major roadblock on the way to a smooth and satisfying customer experience, so by asking your customers to pay for return postage, you’re introducing more friction and hassle into the process. 

You can offset customer frustration by offering free returns and exchanges, which will provide a smoother shopping experience. Remember it’s all about customer retention. To remain competitive in today’s customer-centric retail space your business must proactively employ policies like free returns shipping. ShippingEasy also emails a copy of the return label to your customer when their email is entered on the label, creating an easier and smoother return process.

Most Commonly Returned Items

A recent study from ShipStation shed some light on some of the most commonly returned items and reasons for the products being returned.

65% of consumers are likely to return clothing and apparel, and there are three main common reasons for the ecommerce return rate. Clothing and shoes are the most commonly returned products, but right behind them are electronics. The major reasons that consumers cited returning items were:

  • 74% of returns are over issues with the product’s fit.
  • 55% return items because they ended up not liking the product.
  • 41% ended up not having a need for the product. 

While these issues largely reflect apparel, it also rings true for electronics and computer parts. Offering store credit with discount codes for items that don’t end up working is a great way to incentivize additional sales. 46% of positive returns experiences result in consumers exchanging for more expensive items. This is especially true during the holiday season. 

ShippingEasy understands how vital an effective returns process is to the viability of your ecommerce store, and that’s why we offer some great workflow tools to make the returns process easier. While returns may feel like a business setback, they are an important touchpoint for customer retention. 

Below is a list of quick resources if you’re a ShippingEasy merchant: 

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Maria Fagerland

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