How to Process Returns For Holiday Orders

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Filed under Holiday
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As the holiday season comes to an end, we get ready for the new year. But ecommerce merchants have one last bit of business to clear up before moving fully into the new year: Holiday Returns. As unpleasant as dealing with returns can be, there is a silver lining. Customers that experience a good returns process are more likely to shop from you again. In a recent survey, ShipStation found that Americans place a larger importance on returns than people from other countries this holiday season. As a result, your customers are likely going to expect return options.

Have a Return Fulfillment Strategy in Place

If you’ve been busy through the holiday season, it can be challenging to switch gears to dealing with return volume. There are ways to simplify the ways you initiate and control the way you process inbound returns. 

  • Do not process inbound returns alongside new merchandise deliveries. Properly separating outbound and inbound items leads to less confusion and help avoid improper sorting
  • Have employees dedicated to receiving and sorting returned merchandise 

Have a Plan for What to Do with Returned Merchandise

Sorting returned merchandise leads to its own problem. What do you do with it? There are a few options that you need to consider when receiving items from customers. Many merchants have a few strategies for dealing with this type of content—particularly during the holidays. 

Sell as New

First of all, holiday shopping is a little different than the rest of the year. While a large number of consumers return their gifts, it’s not always opened merchandise. Due to a wide range of reasons from “not appropriate” to “already have,” there’s the chance that you can just return an item to the shelf. If the merchandise is in good enough condition, it can usually be resold. This is particularly true for items that don’t come in manufacturer packaging. 

Open Box vs Repackaging

Items that are not damaged but have been opened have a couple of options. One is to sell them as used on marketplaces like Amazon. If you’re selling electronics, you can sell refurbished gear on platforms like Newegg, too. 

Another option is to contact the manufacturer about receiving new packaging to repackage the merchandise as new. This is why it’s good to log information about why an item is being returned during the returns process. 

Sell Bulk to Reseller

One option for merchandise with noticeable wear and tear is to bulk sell to a reseller. This is generally a last resort option for merchandise that can’t be returned to the manufacturer or sold as used. 

Log Reasons for Returns 

Data is crucial to growing your business. Knowing why merchandise is returned is helpful for tracking who buys what. If you’re getting a lot of returned merchandise from specific groups, it can help you better identify where you maybe don’t need to advertise as much. Additionally, knowing what to expect from returned merchandise can help you better plan for future holiday seasons and who to market towards. Additionally, if you log the reason for an item being returned, you can better prepare for how to sort it once it does come in. 

Make the Returns Process Simple for Customers

As ecommerce simplifies for customers, there’s a growing expectation that returns should be simple, too. Luckily, there are tools that help merchants simplify the returns process. In fact, we found that 2/3rds of customers check a merchant’s return policy before placing an order. Luckily, ShipStation has a solution for you. ShipStation offers a returns portal that you can send to your customers. It can either be a URL you host on your website, or more commonly, it is sent to customers once they email you about a return. It allows the customer to log why a return is being made and allows them to print the return label on their end.

Use Slower Return Services

When your customers place holiday orders, they may tend to wait until the last minute. This may lead to an increased frequency of express shipping services being used. And something that can be overlooked when dealing with returns is to just default to using the same service as the outbound delivery. This can be expensive and unnecessary.

To process holiday returns with ShipStation, sign up for a 30-day free trial!

Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

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