As if the holidays aren’t hectic enough, now you’ve got to start worrying about holiday returns. Running an ecommerce business isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. But even though it’s a reasonable expectation to have about 10 to 15 percent of your holiday sales returned, it doesn’t have to be the ordeal that you may think.
Of course, the best medicine for reducing returns is prevention. Up to 65 percent of returns during the holiday season are due to buyers receiving the wrong product or a damaged product. Automating your order fulfillment process is essential in decreasing the number of returns you receive. If you are sending the right, undamaged products (that are exactly what your listings show), you will lower your return rate right of the bat.
While you may be past the prevention point for this holiday season, here are some things to keep in mind for the whole year that will save you time and money on returns:
- Make sure that product listing descriptions and images are 100% accurate.
- Write your own return policy. Don’t just use one that you find online. Your policy needs to match your capabilities.
- Make sure that your return policy is simple and easy to understand.
- Place your return policy in prominent areas of your website, so that buyers don’t have to hunt for it. It’s also a good idea to include it in any emails that are sent to the buyer, as well as on the packing slip.
- Consider making the window for returns longer. The longer the window, the better for your buyer and you. It shows that you have confidence in your product’s longevity.
- You can go the extra mile and include a return label with your products when they ship. That way, if your customers have to make a return it’s not a hassle, making it more likely that they will be repeat customers.
- Issue a refund or credit as soon as you see that a product is being returned.
Tips for Handling Post-Holiday Returns
How you deal with returns can have a huge impact on your future sales. Recent statistics from UPS’ Pulse of the Online Shopper white paper show that nearly three-quarters of online shoppers will buy from an online store based on a hassle-free return policy. Additionally, consumers cited the following as the elements of a best holiday returns experience:
- 60% want a free return policy
- 51% like a hassle-free return policy
- 44% want return shipping labels to be easy-to-print
- 42% like a prompt refunds
- 40% like a return label included with the product
You can see the importance of having a strategy in place for handling holiday returns. The following steps will help you get your process started.
- Make it easy for shoppers. Making your return experience seamless will increase your retention rate. Free return shipping, a return label included with your shipment, and a timely refund or credit are all ways to make it easy.
- You need to have a reverse logistics process, and you need to automate as much of it as possible. That will save time and decrease the chances of human error.
- Plan for the time and manpower needed. Many online retailers fail to consider the extra amount of time that is required for processing returns and dealing with customer service issues post-holiday. Save yourself the aggravation and plan for it ahead of time. If you have a staff that works for you, consider increasing their hours. If you are a one-man show, think about ways you can devote the added time needed to returns – where can you steal some time from?
- Monitor in real-time. Use real-time reporting and tracking to monitor return status. You have to be able to see exactly where products are in the return process, otherwise your inventory management will be inaccurate, and you may run into roadblocks with your customers.
- Have a system. You won’t get a great returns policy on accident. Whatever type of return policy you decide, and however you plan to handle them, it’s important to have a process in place for when returns come in. Consider different reasons that merchandise may be returned, and have a system in place to take care of them.
Remember that how you take care of product returns reflects you and your store’s brand. Nurturing good customer relationships is important to the growth of your business. Dealing with returns efficiently and effectively is one way to establish those types of relationships and create loyal repeat customers. You may just make someone’s holiday, and the potential sales you receive may just make yours.