The 2019 holiday season is already off to an epic start, with Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend breaking records in historic fashion. This is great news for online retailers and the economy in general. That being said, not every gift is going to be a hit with recipients. That means you need to be prepared for a historic year of holiday returns.
Holiday returns have been a thorn in the side of e-commerce merchants for years. As a matter of fact, in 2018 alone there was an estimated $90 billion worth of holiday gifts returned. Billion…with a B. That’s a lot for e-commerce merchants to handle. Unfortunately, retailers nowadays just have to understand that returns are a standard part of e-commerce and find a way to make the best of it.
Shoppers appreciate good return policies because they protect them from the fear of missing out. If there is a decent return policy … consumers think to themselves, ’Well, I better buy it to make sure I get it.’ — CNBC.com
But you can make holiday returns a lot easier on yourself by doing a few very important things, which we will cover here.
Have a clear returns policy
Though this should have been something you addressed before the holiday season hit (as 11% of consumers will abandon their online shopping cart if they think the returns policy is unsatisfactory), it’s never too late to do so.
Particularly with holiday returns, when those returning gifts may never have even visited your store, make sure your policy is easy to find on your site and very clear. 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.
When allowing a customer to return an item, make sure to find an opportunity for them to tell you why they are returning the item. This will make your processing and restocking so much easier.
Dedicate someone to returns
If you can spare the staff, avoid getting overwhelmed by having someone dedicated to processing your holiday returns. They’ll need to be able to identify if it’s due to defect, or if the product is just unwanted, was the wrong size, etc. This reiterates the point made earlier of letting the customer identify why they returned an item.
It would also help to have a dedicated area for processing returns. This helps ensure that stock won’t get mixed with current and incoming stock and helps avoid inventory nightmares (plus potential future customer service issues).
Want to know a few ways to avoid returns before they start by increasing the accuracy of your customer orders? Get the tips here.
While the returns workflow (check out the below flow chart from our Definitive Guide to E-commerce Shipping) isn’t super complicated, having a single person accountable for the process can avoid mistakes and hassles down the line.
Predict this year’s returns
What makes e-commerce just a little easier? Being able to predict what is going to happen and planning for it. This year, 77% of consumers plan to return a portion of their gifts, while 20% expect to return more than half, according to a survey by Oracle. That’s a pretty large chunk of returns to prepare for.
If you have a shipping platform like ShippingEasy, you should be able to run reports that will help you identify this.
For example, in ShippingEasy we have a report called the Complete Shipping Report. In this report, you can add a column that notes whether a shipment was a return shipment or not. Filter by that column to see how many returns you had last year, and use the above percentage to generally forecast approximately how many returns you might need to plan for this year. That’s putting your data to work for your business.
Turn returns into purchase opportunities
95% of people will shop with a business again if the returns process is easy. That’s a real stat and a real opportunity for your business to create a repeat customer. As previously noted, it all starts with your returns policy. The way you interact with customers throughout the process can help encourage them to shop again with you, as they know that even in a difficult moment they won’t have a poor experience.
For most customers, they just expect returns to be a part of holiday gift-giving, both as the buyer and the recipient. The buyer knows the recipient can just return the gift if they don’t like it, it doesn’t fit, or whatever. The recipient knows they always have the option to return a gift, so getting something that’s not quite right for them isn’t a big deal.
“Online shopping has drastically changed the idea of returns because there is so much more for shoppers to choose from. The ability to buy something at the click of a button gives shoppers power in the market.” — CNBC.com
So again, this leaves the onus on the merchant to make sure the return process is easy, seamless, and one that may bring them back to guy again.
Want a couple more tips and some more info on managing your returns? Read our writeup from last year that dives into some things not covered here, including some other surprising stats.
Interested in a platform that helps make your holiday returns processes, and the rest of your e-commerce workflows, exponentially easier? Start a free trial of ShippingEasy and breeze through this holiday season into a new year of productivity!
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