While many non-retail businesses may begin to slow down after the holidays, the heat is still on e-commerce businesses as the inevitable holiday return season reaches its peak.
On average, while returns only account for 8.89% of all sales at brick-and-mortar stores, 30% of all products purchased online are returned. These margins are only going to climb during the holiday season.
According to a 2021 study conducted by Oracle, 42% of holiday shoppers plan on returning some or even all of their gifts.
Making sure your customers have a smooth return process will be essential to recouping those sales later. As many as 92% of consumers surveyed have said they would make another purchase at a business in which their return was made easy.
While sales and promotions may help you win new customers, getting your holiday return shipping process right could help to build loyal customers and generate repeat business.
Create Customer-Centric Return Policies and Present Them Early
The first step in creating a smooth process for handling holiday returns is to craft the right return policy. What this means is setting the rules around which products can be returned, when the deadline for return shipping is, how they can make returns, and where they can send back their orders.
When done correctly, you can turn your return policy into a revenue generator.
However, with supply chain issues still present, you may want to consider extending this window.
If your goal is to limit returns, you may want to consider creating a return policy that will only accept returns if the product meets certain thresholds. You’ll also want to make sure that your product descriptions are as clear as possible to match customer expectations.
No matter the direction you choose, you’ll also want to make sure that your return policy is easy to find and abundantly clear. Studies show that almost two-thirds of online shoppers check an e-commerce business’s return policy before completing a purchase.
Return policies can be placed within a customer’s cart, on the homepage of your site, in the FAQ section, or wherever is most convenient.
Make Refunds Easy For Customers
There are a few different ways in which e-commerce businesses can handle refunds.
The first of which is to ensure that the item in question is confirmed to have been received at the warehouse or fulfillment center it was originally shipped from after which funds are charged back to the customer’s credit/debit card or other methods of purchase.
One holiday return shipping method that has been growing in popularity is offering increased store credit instead. This allows you to keep the original funds gained while also incentivizing your customer to use the bonus funds towards another item.
Another option that has begun to gain popularity is to simply provide the customer with a refund without needing them to ship their return at all. For certain low-ticket items, the cost of the return might outweigh the cost of the item itself.
This may only apply to some of your products and you’ll have to know who your customers are so that no one abuses the system.
Provide Return Labels Up Front
One of the best ways to make holiday return shipping easy for your customers is to provide them with return labels at the time of the shipment. The return label would go along with the packaging slip, eliminating the need for customers to manually print out labels.
With Shippo, return labels can be printed at the same time as shipping labels making it easy to include with orders. These return labels are also scan-based, meaning e-commerce businesses will only be charged for them as long as they are used.
Other benefits of including return labels include eliminating the potential of return labels to be mislabeled and lost in transit.
While this could lead to a higher rate of returns, that may not negatively impact your business. In fact, having a return method that’s easy for customers promotes a greater number of sales, which could offset any missed opportunities with returns.
Offer Return Tracking
If your e-commerce business has taken the route of waiting until products have been inspected and returned back to the warehouse or fulfillment center where they originated from, you may want to consider offering return tracking.
Customers are well known to view tracking pages when items are in transit to them. In fact, customers on average view those pages eight times. But, while 97% of retailers offer delivery tracking, only 7% offer return tracking.
Offering tracking for returns not only helps you stand out from the competition, but it can also make it so less customers reach out for that issue and your customer support team can handle more pressing matters.
Prepare Against Fraudulent Returns
While many holiday shoppers are buying gifts with good intentions, there are some that buy with fraudulent returns in mind.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), customers returned roughly $428 billion worth of products in 2020, and 5.9% of those were fraudulent. That percentage translates to $25.3 billion lost to fraud.
There are a few steps to take in order to protect your business from fraudulent holiday returns including the following:
- Track Customer Returns: Building customer profiles will allow you to track their spending and spot suspicious repeat offenders.
- Requiring signature confirmation: This could be used for high ticket items to prevent customers from claiming they never received the item.
- Using a like-for-like exchange: Delivery drivers can handle exchanges at the customer’s address to ensure that the product has been received by the customer.
- Require invoices and receipts for returns: This allows your business to verify that the sale came from you and not from somewhere else.
- Have your fulfillment center/Warehouse inspect the product: This will help protect against counterfeit returns or refunds for damaged products.
Other methods of protecting against returns also include checking the address of the return to make sure that the return is starting in the same area as the original delivery. This will also help you identify if a questionably large amount of returns are coming from one place.
How Shippo Handles Returns
Shippo understands that shipping is a two-way street and that return shipping can be just as valuable as delivering orders. That’s why there are features already built in to help with holiday return shipping and returns year-round. Some of those features include:
- Print return labels at the same time as shipping labels
- Only pay for labels that are scanned
- Have the option to change the shipping service on returns
- Save package information for future returns
Sign up for your free Shippo account today and start generating return labels to improve your customer’s e-commerce experience.