Holiday Returns: What Went Wrong? What Can You Improve?


After the joyful frenzy of holiday shopping comes the stark reality of returns season. If you were relying on holiday profits to make your yearly goals, those returns can sting all the more. And for ecommerce sellers, return rates are estimated to run three times higher than physical stores.

Although any online seller needs to be prepared for the possibility of returns, you can actively work to reduce their numbers and overall impact. Here are a few ideas to consider as you establish your store policies for 2017 and beyond.

 Evaluate your current returns policy

Think about the following aspects that might be eating into your profits: paying for return shipping, storing and/or reselling returned merchandise, and your timetable for returns and exchanges. Is your returns timeframe too generous or too short? Is handling returns time-consuming for you and your staff? Do the costs of returns negate the profit margin you established?

 Be accountable for your mistakes

One study indicates that retailers are at fault for more than half of all online returns. Shipping wrong items, inaccurately describing or photographing what you’re selling, and not protecting fragile items for shipment not only eat into your profits, but damage your reputation as a seller too. If you were guilty of any of the above, take steps now to make your ordering and fulfillment processes flawless going forward.

 Make sure your policies are clearly communicated on your site

If information on returns and exchanges is buried, the chance of miscommunication with customers rises. Keep your policies short and to the point, with no wiggle room for misinterpretation. Be sure your information is easy to find across all platforms, too.

 Stay connected with customers

The personal touch can make or break customer satisfaction, and with that the likelihood that a customer will come back to shop with you again. Hassle-free return policies can include offering customers the ability to print out a return form and label, letting them know when you’ve received their returned items, and being quick to issue refunds.

 Figure out when to be flexible

Sometimes – when your ecommerce store is established and you can better afford to do so – you may have to bend when it comes to your customers’ concerns. In some cases, consider being open to meeting customers’ requests, such as covering return shipping or expediting a replacement item, in the interest of customer retention. Handle return inquiries politely and with concern, and do your best to establish a rapport with your customers regardless of the outcome.