Preparing Your Ecommerce Business for Holiday Returns

returns.jpegMore money, more problems. If you’re running an eCommerce business during the holidayseason, the saying ought to be, “more sales, more returns.”

But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When your customers can’t try on, touch, or test products before they purchase them, returns become inevitable. So, even if you’re doing everything right when it comes to product descriptions, odds are you’ll still see about 30 percent of products returned.

Here’s where returns are a bad thing, though: 65 percent of returns occur because the wrong item was received, or the correct item was received but it was damaged. Damaged goods are a reason to think about carrier/shipping insurance (especially during the heaviest shipping season of the year) but sending out the wrong item is an easy fix that will save you time and money.

Easier Returns = More Sales

You want customer loyalty and trust—and repeat business. Your customers want an easy returns process. They’re weary of a painful, arduous process to return or exchange their purchase. If you surprise them with an easy, intuitive return policy? Well, 92 percent of online shoppers say they’ll become repeat buyers if the returns process is easy.

In fact, 67 percent of customers read return policies before they check out. That means they could have hundreds of dollars in their cart and are ready to spend money, but if your return policy is complex and convoluted, 15 percent of shoppers will walk away. It boils down to making the after-buying experience just as good as—if not better than—the buying experience. According to comScore, about 80 percent of customers won’t shop at your store if they find your return policy painful or annoying. Here’s a quick test: send your return policy to a friend. Don’t tell them it’s yours and see what their reaction is. Do they understand it? Are they happy with it? Does it irk them?

If they have trouble understanding the return policy or why it has certain provisions, take the

time to re-evaluate and update your policy to make it easier to read and more customer-friendly. Science Daily analyzed two large retailers and 500,000 transactions from each. The group that offered free returns shipping generated 25 percent more revenue than control groups that didn’t.

Keep in mind, if you’re selling clothing or other apparel, a lot of customers will buy multiple items with the intent to return items that don’t fit. That’s not a negative, though.

Zappos, the online shoe juggernaut, says that customers who return as much as 50 percent of products are also the ones buying the most expensive items. Their return policy is clear and easy to find—and is one that’s worth mimicking, if you can.

Need more ideas on making returns more accessible and customer-friendly? Check these out:

  • Make sure your product descriptions and photos are accurate and look professional.
  • Don’t just copy and paste a return policy. It’s imperative that it match your brand, business, and audience.
  • Your return policy must be clear and simple (see the family/friend test above): What products are returnable? Is there a timeframe for returns (the further out, the better)? Store credit or a full refund? Free shipping or customer-paid (We always recommend free shipping for returns )?
  • Longer windows for returns: 60-days is good, 90-days is better, 100+ is fantastic andshows you have faith in your product’s longevity. Of course, you should adapt your policy for damaged/malfunctioning products.
  • Make it easy to find your return policy. Include it on your product pages, on the home page, check-out page, etc. Include it when you email order and tracking details, too.
  • If you can, go above and beyond and include a return label with the outbound label. A UPS survey showed 52 percent of customers said an included return label was a key element to a positive return experience.
  • As soon as you see the package is being returned, issue the customer a credit/refund/etc.

The holidays are a hectic time of year, which means returns during the holiday season are even more chaotic. But how you handle returns is a reflection of your brand. Build trust, loyalty, and appreciation from customers by making the returns process easy—and then benefit from repeat sales. In our new report with Stitch Labs, Preparing for 2016: Retail Holiday Data Report, we further discuss top consumer holiday shopping habits while providing retailers with tips to help them avoid operational mishaps and increase profitability for a successful holiday season.

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