As we approach the holiday season, there’s a lot of things we need to prepare for it. From stocking up on shipping supplies to hiring some seasonal workers, there’s a lot of different things you need to consider. One thing that you should be working on is your returns strategy.
According to Allbusiness, 91 percent of customers factor return policies into their online shopping. With so many competitors, a detailed, easy-to-understand returns policy can be your winning move this holiday season.
Different studies have found different results, but various reports estimate that 15-30% of online orders end up getting returned each year. Returns only increase during the holiday season, too. If your customers buying gifts find your return policy to be too complicated, it’s likely that they’ll shop elsewhere.
Offering a convenient way to return items showcases your commitment to great customer service. It also helps establish your brand as being bigger than it may actually be. The more established your business appears to customers, the more likely they are to order from you.
Customer-Initiated Returns Portal
Return shipping has a long way to go before it is as convenient as ordering online. But, people like to make their transactions quickly and carry on with their day. Using something like ShipStation’s branded returns portal, a customer can print a return label by simply entering their order number and ship to postal code. There’s no need to even speak to a customer service representative. However, if you do wish to validate any return request, do not provide the returns portal URL with a customer until they contact you.
Include Return Label in packaging
An easy way around dealing with authorizing returns, etc. is to just include a return label in the packaging. Unless you have negotiated pay-on-use labels with a USPS provider, it is advisable to use FedEx or UPS. This is because FedEx and UPS do not charge for labels unless they are used. USPS, however, pays upon label creation. So, don’t use USPS for return labels unless you have pay-on-use returns enabled. (If you’re asking yourself, “Do I have pay-on-use returns?” the answer is that you probably do not).
Don’t Keep Standard 14-Day to 30-Day Return Policies
During the holiday season, customers buy from Black Friday right up to the last possible minute. Because of this, it’s possible someone receives a gift outside of your standard returns window. Most large companies extend their returns window to through to the end of January. This allows customers enough time to receive their gifts and give the gift givers peace of mind when placing the order.
The difference between a return and an exchange is important to make. Not offering an exchange program could be the difference between a repeat customer and a satisfied person that returned an item. As we move towards more automated workflows and returns strategies, we may have less opportunities for someone that simply has an item in the wrong size, etc.
In your returns policy and instructions, include information about exchanges ahead of information about how to get a cash-back returns. Consider including specific contact information for more information about exchanges. Automated returns may increase customer confidence, but automation can lack the more human elements of a brick-and-mortar experience.
Live Chat—The Secret Weapon
Live chat is great, because even if someone can’t find a banner on your homepage’s header describing something, people can always find a little chat widget to ask you where the information is. Chat is also the most preferred mode of communication. J.D. Power topped it on their list of customer communication with 42% of customers preferring it to second place, emails, at 23%.
We all know that customers that don’t get their questions answered will turn to social media to try and resolve their issue. If someone has an issue with a returns claim or even something like a delayed shipment, live chat gives a great way to easily communicate with a business and resolve an issue more quickly.
Furthermore, chat is more humanizing than email. So, making these connections with a brand goes a long way in the holiday months.