The holiday season is fast approaching and e-tailers around the world are getting ready with festive promotions, targeted messaging, and temporary website designs.
For most online brands, Christmas is the most lucrative time of the year with sales figures spiking; the other side of this, however, is a peak in customer returns. A recent report found that seasonal e-commerce has a huge returns rate of 30%, compared with 8-10% of high-street purchases.
With online retailers bracing themselves for an influx of returns, and January 2nd known as ‘National Returns Day’, how should you be factoring returns into your plans ahead of the holiday season?
- Create a great returns policy
The first thing to look at is your returns policy. Decide whether you will be expanding your policy for the festive season and offering an extended returns window for customers who may be returning unwanted gifts. An extended period will also accommodate international shipments and cultures that don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas on December 25th.
Consider whether, for this time only, you are willing to accept returns without proof of purchase as long as they are in perfect, re-sellable condition. Of course, your returns policy should be aligned with consumer law and whatever you commit to in your policy should be honoured. At this time of the year, it’s all the more important for customers to be given clear refund information, shipping instructions for returns, and contact details should there be issues.
Ultimately, offering clear and accessible information through a great returns policy protects both you and your customer, and strengthens trust at a critical time of the year. Online retailers shipping internationally also need to have a clear and easy to use international returns policy to ensure global shoppers feel comfortable purchasing from outside their country.
- Essential customer care
Once your returns policy has been confirmed, think about how you can best present it on your webshop. We recommend having a full page dedicated to your returns policy and all its details, including qualifying periods, exchanges, damaged goods and faulty items, information on global returns, as well as the returns process itself.
Make sure your customer service team is trained to a high level and can handle the pressure of post-holiday returns. If your customer service representatives don’t know your returns policy inside out and provide wrong information to shoppers, customer loyalty could be damaged.
Consider outsourcing your customer service department to dedicated organisations or taking on new, temporary staff for this busy time of the year. Delayed responses to customer enquiries (be it over the phone, email, letters, or social media) will quickly frustrate shoppers and harm the integrity of your brand.
- Make it easy!
Ultimately, handling post-holiday returns successfully is all about making things as easy as possible for your customers. There are many ways to simplify your returns process for shoppers. We recommend including a pre-printed return label in the original parcel so all your customer needs to do is repackage the item and drop it off at the post office. Also, offer tracking to give customers peace of mind and to keep them updated as to when they will receive their refund; this is important around the holiday season when budgets are stretched.
Christmas is a time when a lot of people exchange expensive gifts. Try to offer insurance for high-value items and make sure you provide the necessary support for premium goods that are shipped internationally, since different customs regulations can make returns problematic. Finally, consider using a local returns hub, which speeds up the process for international retailers. Once products are received and checked locally, quick refunds can be issued, leading to satisfied customers.
Asendia understands the importance of excellent returns management in today’s e-commerce environment, where returns are a vital part of the online shopping experience. That’s why our global returns solutions are simple and flexible, offering your customers convenient international and domestic returns. This is thanks to our combination of local returns facilities, local postage solutions, and the strength of an international network.