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Ecommerce Holiday Returns: Tips and Best Practices

December 11, 2019 Published by

Returns are an inevitable part of the ecommerce lifecycle. Never is this truer than during the winter holiday season when your overall returns are likely higher than any other time of year. Without good planning and processes in place, the increase in returns can be difficult to manage.

These best practices for ecommerce holiday returns will help keep your business on track.

1. Have a Clear, Fair Return Policy

Most consumers are savvy and selective about where they buy. When purchasing from a new etailer, they will often take the time to do research about returns before making a final decision. Not surprising, many etailers have pre-existing positive and negative reputations regarding returns that help or hurt their sales from word of mouth.

This is especially true of gifts that may have be bought during time-sensitive seasonal sales. Your customers want to know what their options are if their gift isn’t right. If you want to increase your conversion rates, make sure your return policy is clearly visible on your website and that its details are fair and easy to understand.

Wherever you can, avoid over-complicated returns’ processes such as necessitating email approvals, having overly restrictive timelines (especially during the holiday season, where people may buy months before giving), and making it hard for gift recipients to make returns. Some ecommerce holiday returns’ policy best practices include:

  • Automatically providing gift receipts and return shipping labels within packages
  • Extending the normal window for returns’ eligibility
  • Offering free shipping on returns

These customer-centric policies will win you goodwill and sales both before the purchase and after if returns do occur.

2. Product Pages Should Focus on UX

Best-in-class product pages can help reduce holiday ecommerce returns. The best practices you need to be mindful of are having accurate and complete information and imagery for all your products. If the buyer has lots of information to use to inform his/her purchase, it will be a lot harder for them to make a mistake or inaccurate product expectations. Your product descriptions should include detailed dimensions (size) information and/or clear fit charts (in the case of apparel) to make it easy for people to determine the item will suit their specific needs. In addition, any ingredients or materials should be fully and accurately listed. Product images should be high resolution, well lit, include multiple angles (360* or video views are useful in many cases), and demonstrate scale (showing the product in relation to something of a known size). Don’t have a professional photographer? Don’t panic! Check out these DIY product photo tips.

3. Make the Return Process Positive for Everyone

It may seem counterintuitive to think that ecommerce holiday returns can be positive. After all, you’re losing money. However, without the right tools and processes in place, returns can be even more wasteful and costly for your business. Just like your return policy should be clear and fair for your buyers, the actual mechanization and back-end process of your returns has to work efficiently.

Probably the single most important best practice for holiday ecommerce returns is to ensure they happen quickly and that they don’t disrupt your ability to keep selling. Wherever the process can be effectively automated, such as with inventory, accounting, and tracking systems, you will be able to take on the extra return volume from the holidays with minimal impact to your operations.

Holiday ecommerce returns are going to happen, so it’s critical to provide a great customer experience efficiently. It’s also worth noting that for all the returns that are inevitable, some can be avoided. One way to avoid unnecessary returns is to be sure that your order fulfillment is highly accurate and that your packaging is secure to avoid buyers making returns due to receiving incorrect or damaged orders.