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5 Tips For Your Holiday Return Policy: Free Up Returns Bottlenecks During Peak Season

Keeping up with the increased customer demand during this time of the year is challenging for many retailers, particularly when it comes to online purchases, and we know that a lot of customers might be looking for an extended return policy in case they need to return gifts purchased online.

shipping estimates

Luckily there are surefire ways for your business to overcome these obstacles and make the most out of the holiday shopping period! Getting the right size or style for gifts can often be difficult, and we understand that sometimes customers need to return items purchased around the holidays.

That’s why offering an extended holiday return policy using automated systems will process returns quickly and more effectively, just in time for the peak holiday season! This means more happy customers and less work for you and your team! Your clients will be able to enjoy more flexible return options and won’t struggle with returning unwanted gifts after holidays.

Holiday season return policies: what you need to know

“Data! I can’t make bricks without clay.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Before you even consider changing your return policy this holiday season, make sure you have all the data you need to make an informed decision. And we’re here to help!

First of all, let’s look at return rates to better understand why returns are overall a significant part of any eCommerce business. Return rates on physical goods are typically between 8% and 10%, but the overall average return rate for online purchases is 30%, with rates as high as 50% in some apparel industries, according to Shopify’s Fashion Industry Report.

Average return rate for online purchases

Considering that the return rate for online purchases is significantly high, relying on manual returns is not necessarily the most cost-effective option. Nowadays, the technology to implement a self-service and automated process is easily accessible and, because of this, you can improve the return journey for both your team and your customers!

The lack of visibility throughout a manual RMA process can cause a variety of issues:

  • Limitations in data availability
  • A lag time in returns
  • Lack of accountability for returns management
  • Overwhelmed customer service team

However, automated returns can reduce friction and turn the entire process into something beneficial for your eCommerce business! Moreover, providing a self-service, easy return process ultimately leads to an increase in sales and customer loyalty.

Now put this into perspective: in 2021, what was traditionally known as ‘National Returns Day’ became National Returns Week, with an average of 1.75 million packages returned for five days in a row during the week of January 4, 2021! When dealing with such a considerable volume of returns, taking care of each and every one manually can take a toll on shipping carriers and customers service representatives. This is where automation tools come into play! For instance, WeSupply can help create a frictionless self-service return solution that facilitates the return process for your eCommerce business while simplifying the experience for customers.

Learn from bigger brands

“It’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.” – Steve Jobs

Although what works for a business might not work for yours, it’s always a good idea to check out and learn from others and their successes (or failures). For instance, try looking at major retailers’ holiday return policies to understand their point of view and get a clearer idea of what consumers want from bigger brands. This can help you think of long-term strategies for your eCommerce business!

Let’s start with Apple’s holiday return policy: Unlike their standard return policy, Apple’s extended return policy has taken effect ahead of the 2021 holiday shopping season, and the company is advising their customers to start holiday shopping early. More specifically, items purchased between November 1, 2021 and December 25, 2021 can be returned through January 8, 2022, leaving any purchases made after December 25 to be subject to Apple’s standard return policy of 14 days after the original purchase date. Although Apple’s holiday return policy is not perfect, it is more than enough to satisfy customers during this holiday season.

Another example would be Best Buy: when it comes to the online store’s return policy, purchases made Oct. 18, 2021, through Jan. 2, 2022, have an extended return period through Jan. 16, 2022, under several conditions. Items purchased with a third-party contract and holiday products are excluded from this extended holiday returns policy, so additional return logic systems need to be put in place to avoid return fraud.

5 tips to take your return policy to the next level:

If you’re looking for reliable methods to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction this holiday season, look no further than simple, timely returns! We all make online purchases we’re not ultimately as excited about as we initially planned, and your customers are no exception to this. Fortunately, you can use some if not all of the following tips to create a memorable post-purchase experience for them!

Self-Service Returns

Turning to self-service returns means automating efforts for better productivity and overall performance, which will ultimately help you increase customer loyalty over time. Among the benefits that self-service returns offer, we have cost savings, a streamlined customer experience, and reduced loss of revenue to returns!

In fact,  73% of consumers say that they want the ability to solve product or service problems on their own, so enable your customers to send back eligible items purchased during their holiday shopping sessions.

73% of consumers want the ability to solve product or service problems on their own

Instant Store Credit

Giving a refund in the form of store credit or gift card can do wonders, especially for customers who are looking for instant satisfaction. Furthermore, it will do your business a favor, since the money is coming right back. Issuing instant store credit coupons is known to lead to a fast turnaround time for customers. In fact, 68% of consumers believe that digital coupons generate loyalty (source).

Here are our recommendations and best practices for instance store credit.

Curbside & In-Store Returns

During this profitable period, you’re probably always looking at how to drive traffic to your retail store while meeting customer expectations. The ability to return online purchases to your brick-and-mortar locations is an easy win for your eCommerce business if done correctly. Turning to curbside and in-store returns enables you to drive more sales, but most importantly to nurture trust-based customer relationships that will benefit your brand in the long run.

“40% of consumers say that it’s easier to return items in-store, with nearly a fifth saying that they wouldn’t purchase from a retailer that doesn’t offer in-store returns” (source).

40% of consumers say that it’s easier to return items in-store

This way, the customer can return the product directly to the store while being exposed to more of your products on the spot. WeSupply can help by offering your customers a complete list of eligible stores that can accept the return, and providing you with a customer feedback portal to pre-approve returns.

Automation Tools For Tracking Returns

Streamline returns tracking using RMA management platforms. This way, your customer is able to track the progress of their returned product and request to check the status whenever they want in just a few clicks – this means fewer support inquiries and better order and inventory management for you!

Using tools like WeSupply enables you to create a different logic for a variety of return scenarios, including an extended holiday return policy. You can particularly watch out for fraudulent returns or any suspicious activity by setting clear rules. Besides, digital transformation will help you better monitor all your sales, whereas customers can make use of their digital receipts (including a gift receipt for the present they need to, unfortunately, return) to easily make a return request online, rather than have everything in physical form, which makes it easier for humans to misplace and even lose.

automation tool return logic

Extended Holiday Return Policy

When it comes to holiday return policies, offering an extended return period is one of the most effective ways to win your customers’ future business. As we’ve seen bigger retailers do, buying your customers some extra time will help you increase loyalty to your brand while making the post-purchase experience a positive one!

WeSupply automation for holiday returns

If you’re using an automation tool for your returns, you’ll be saving some time for your team as well. For instance, WeSupply helps generate clear sets of rules for purchases made during a certain period, and only allows particular products to be sent back during that return window, as per the logic you create specifically for your store.

The Bottom Line

“Amazing things will happen when you listen to the consumer.” – Jonathan Midenhall

After all, what matters the most is to listen to your customers and be proactive when it comes to their needs and pain points. In order to understand things from their point of view, you’ll need data to back up their experience with your brand. The potential of data to revolutionize return management and modernize this tedious process for eCommerce businesses is considerably great. The most effective way to turn returns into future opportunities is by combining the right information with predictive analytics and automation, which helps cut down additional shipping costs, especially during peak periods for online retailers.

Learn how WeSupply can help your business free up returns bottlenecks this holiday season!

Learn how automated returns work in WeSupply!

Our shipping and logistics experts will guide you through the product and analyze how WeSupply best fits your eCommerce needs.​

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