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Black Friday/Cyber Monday Prep: How To Process Holiday Returns



Returns are an unavoidable part of the holiday season. When a customer places an online order on Black Friday, the recipient doesn’t see it any differently than if it was bought for them on Christmas Eve. Being receptive to this can make you stand out with customers. While returns can impact profit margins, they are expected by most customers before they make a purchase. Furthermore, a good returns experience is a brand-elevating experience. Turning a returns process into a good experience can convert many consumers into long-term customers. This is especially true during the holiday season—no one wants to buy the wrong item. Making sure that your customers and their gifts’ recipients have a good experience, even if the item isn’t right, can be the difference between a negative review and a new customer. Here are some tips on how to offer an effective holiday returns strategy. 

Create a Holiday Return Policy

While you may have a returns policy that works for most shipments, the holiday season is different. Once people start buying gifts, standard 14 or 30-day return windows no longer apply. This is particularly true for early shoppers. Early shoppers get rewarded—that’s the beauty of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Implementing a returns window for orders placed from mid-November to Christmas ensures that your holiday shoppers know they have less risk when buying. While it may seem too lenient, customers are less likely to buy from you if you don’t offer a longer return window during the holiday season. While it may slightly impact your margin, it does help overall sells. 

Offer Store Credit Discounts For Returns

Not every return is going to be a chargeback. If a gift is not the right size or style, it can be a brand discovery for a customer to search through your store for the right items. Additionally, a discount can encourage shoppers to spend more than they initially would. If your shipping strategy is in place for the holiday, this also gives you another opportunity to showcase your warehouse’s efficiency.  

Pay-on-Use Returns

Pay-on-use returns through services like UPS and FedEx and some high-volume USPS accounts through services like Endicia effectively your returns workload. They allow you to include return labels with your outbound shipments without paying for postage. Postage is only charged if the return label is used. 

Generally, these still need authorization from the retailer to be used. Including instructions on a packing slip or shipping confirmation email is the best way to get ahead of such inquiries. As the holiday season pushes on, you may face periods of increased order volume due to supply chain delays. Being prepared to deal with any return inquiries as efficiently as possible will help protect your bottom line. 

Use Slower Return Services Than Outbound

Demand for quicker shipping options increases as ecommerce grows. While next-day shipping and 3-5 day delivery windows convert more customers, returns don’t need to be met with the same urgency. Using slower, hybrid services like UPS Surepost or FedEx Smartpost are economical ways to receive returned merchandise from customers. 

Dedicate Staff to Returns

While business picks up during the holiday season and you have to pull in more employees to help with processing shipments, you need to define lanes for established and new warehouse workers. Your receiving department that inventories incoming merchandise is usually the best option. They can assess if an item can be reshelved, resold, or needs to be returned to the manufacturer or scrapped. 

How Shipping Platforms Help with Holiday Returns

Holiday returns require more effort than outbound shipments. And outbound shipments can be time-consuming enough. Finding ways to streamline the process and minimize interactions with customers allow you and your team to focus efforts on more pressing issues. Automating workflows remains the best way to save time and money. Software like ShipStation lets you automate the returns process with customer-initiated returns, printing outbound return labels, and other optimizations. To save time and money on buying, printing, and shipping holiday shipments and returns, try ShipStation free for 30 days

This originally appeared on Bold Commerce and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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