The return peak is coming: How to manage returns effectively in the new year

2022 is right around the corner – and that means the return peak is almost here.

It may sound daunting, but a bump in returns is a perfectly normal result of increased sales over the holidays. Ecommerce sales are expected to reach over $210 billion this holiday season. With consumers buying for friends, families, co-workers and more, it’s no surprise that not every gift is the perfect purchase.

Thus, we have what is known as the return peak. Simply put, the week following the end of the holiday season typically brings forth a significant uptick in returns.

While we don’t love products coming back into the warehouse, the returns process is a surefire way to create brand loyalty and fuel repeat sales.

Why? Because a customer dealing with an easy returns process is more likely to shop at the same brand again. In fact, 92% of customers will buy from a brand again as long as the returns process isn’t too difficult!

So, how can you ensure that your brand’s returns process is one that will improve the customer experience instead of hindering it?

Make sure your returns policy is easy to find

In today’s digital age, transparency plays a large role in ecommerce customer experience. Consumers want straightforward, smooth service and aren’t afraid to speak up if they feel a brand isn’t meeting their standards.

While more reviews can promote increased conversions and longer spend times on your site, a negative review about your returns process can scare new customers away. A whopping 88% of consumers admit to trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Establishing a transparent, easy-to-find returns policy can offset negative reviews and help create an overall better customer experience. Studies show that over two thirds of customers check a returns policy before making a purchase, so it’s imperative for ecommerce brands to have their returns policy listed generously on their website.

Whether your policy is within the FAQ section of your site, on your homepage, included in checkout, or all of the above, having an easily accessible policy this holiday season can prepare your customers for the returns process and help eliminate any unfortunate surprises.

Streamline your returns process with self-service

With last year’s returns reaching 1.74 million packages during the week of January 4th, 2021, it’s safe to say that National Returns Day has become National Returns Week.

One of the most effective ways to combat all these returns (and take some of the load off customer service reps) is to offer self-service, where a customer can complete a return without needing any assistance or authorization.

Giving customers the power to initiate a return with their order number and relevant information helps streamline the entire process and removes back-and-forth communication. Self-service returns begin by simply clicking the link within a confirmation email – which means there’s no dependency on a faceless representative.

If you’re interested in taking the self-service route for returns management, it’s worth looking into a branded return portals solution like Happy Returns, Returnly, or Loop, which enhance your exchange capabilities, and give full visibility into analytics and returns status.

Track your returns data for preventative measures

Answers can always be found when diving deep into data. Is there a particular product that’s finding its way back to your warehouse more frequently than others? Perhaps the sizing chart is inaccurate, the style is off, or the color displays differently in-person than on-screen. These are called ‘preference-based’ returns.

According to a study by Shopify, consumer preference-based returns account for about 72% of all returns in the fashion and apparel product categories. The good news? If you’re seeing an increase in these types of returns, it’s likely that a few updates on your site, such as in-depth sizing charts or higher resolution photos, will create a better experience.

Whatever the returns reason may be, having access to all this data will point you in the right direction and allow you to take appropriate preventative measures.

While returns aren’t as exciting as new products, increased sales data, or holiday marketing promos, they are nonetheless a very important aspect of ecommerce brands.

No matter what industry you’re in, having a smooth returns management process is a driving factor in retaining loyal customers and bringing new customers onboard.

Embracing returns as a friend instead of foe this post-holiday season will only help your brand to enhance the customer experience and win long-term customer loyalty.

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