The Connection Between Return Shipping and the Holiday Season

Package with return to sender label

The holiday season is a stressful time for everyone, but can also be particularly stressful for online retailers who suffer the unyielding pressure from consumers to do things better, faster, and cheaper.

What can be done to make this holiday season just a little less painful for everyone? A good place to start is by looking at your return policy.

Internet Retailer’s report “Click, Ship & Return” demonstrates how top e-commerce companies like Amazon, Gap, and Nordstrom have set an extremely high bar for other online retailers. Not only do these companies process returns quickly, but they also make it very easy by supplying returns shipping labels.

If you are hoping to stay ahead of (or at least in line with) the competition, you are going to have to put a heavy focus on whipping your return policy into shape.

What Do Consumers Want from a Return Policy?

There are many reasons why a customer might return one of your products. Perhaps it was damaged en route. Maybe the gift recipient already owned that particular product. Or maybe your customer did not like the style. In the mind of your customer, none of that matters. They just want to make the return as quickly and conveniently as possible.

These are the return policy expectations you should try to meet to keep your customers happy…and off of your competitors’ websites:

1. Clarity

According to UPS, 66 percent of consumers check a return policy before they complete a purchase. As a result, you should aim to:

  • Add a return policy to your website.
  • Put it in an easy-to-find location—including right before the purchase.
  • Make the terms of returns and exchanges crystal-clear.

2. Convenience

Returns are a hassle, especially if the purchase was a gift. That is why a convenient return policy is always a welcoming gesture. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Provide a pre-printed label and shipping instructions with each purchase.
  • Provide easy access to printable labels on your website.
  • Provide customers with the option to return their purchase in-store.
  • Provide a quick refund within five to 10 business days.

3. Cost

Customers who received free return shipping from a retail site increased their spending there by 58-357 percent, while 81 percent are less likely to buy again from an online retailer that charges them for return shipping. Avoiding a site because the retailer charges for return shipping might seem silly in the scheme of things, but to most of your customers, it is not. You may have a fantastic deal on something they need, but if they feel that the cost of returning it decreases the value or savings, it could be enough for them to turn away.

With every return you process, you have to consider:

  • The amount you have to pay for each return.
  • The cost and time to clean, repair or re-package a returned product.
  • A complete loss on the product if it is returned damaged.

4. Customer Service

Being a smaller retailer in today’s world of Amazons and Overstocks is a tough one. However, there are ways you can appease the consumer demand for more customer-friendly return policies.

While customer service is not necessarily a part of a typical return policy, it should be part of your company’s policy in handling returns. Make your customers happy by giving them the clarity, convenience, and cost (savings) they want, and they will be happy to return and stay loyal to your brand.

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