Best Practices for Holiday Returns and Refunds

This blog post is part of our 2017 Holiday Planning series. Be sure to check back often or, better yet, subscribe to the blog to stay updated with this year’s latest holiday trends, tips, best practices, reports and more!

Did you know that three of every four holiday shoppers checked return policies before committing to buy something last holiday season? And six-in-ten holiday shoppers are hesitant to shop at retailers who have delivered frustrating experiences in the return process. It makes sense — think of the last time you had a difficult time returning something. Did you make another purchase from that retailer?

It may not be fun, but there’s no way around it: return policies are a crucial component in holiday purchases. The sooner you have a solid plan in place, the sooner you can have peace of mind knowing that your customers won’t encounter any hiccups along the purchasing path. Here are a few ways to make dealing with returns and refunds a little bit easier this holiday season:

  • Check your listings regularly to ensure they’re accurate and complete.

Your title, descriptions and bullet points (aka, your product data) should accurately describe your product — and double-check that your images are showing the correct item and/or color. If something could be potentially confusing, figure out a way to better describe it. Additional images might also be in order.

With the exception of eBay, you share a product page with other sellers and sometimes your product gets attached to the incorrect page. Check the other sellers’ prices and if their pricing is dramatically higher or lower, there’s a good chance you’re attached to the wrong product page. If you’re running into issues with pricing, consider using repricing technology to eliminate the tedious, manual process of staying competitive on the pricing front.

  • Encourage buyers to leave reviews.

Most marketplaces send emails several days after the product was purchased asking for feedback. With Amazon and eBay, you can also send follow-up emails asking for feedback. For eBay, we can help automate this process.  Just be sure to follow the marketplaces’ rules regarding communicating with buyers.

  • Review your marketplaces’ service level expectations and return policies.

Some have rolled out new tools to help automate the process, so be sure you’re aware of the following:

  1. Walmart recently rolled out new seller performance standards on September 1.
  2. Amazon introduced a new return policy that went into effect on October 2 that could save you time.
  3. To speed up the return process, eBay recently started to automatically accept return requests and provide a return shipping label.
  • Review your own shipping and return policies on each marketplace to make sure they are up-to-date, clear and easy to follow.

Double-check your return address with each marketplace so returns go back to the correct place. Compare yourself to your competition. Are they offering more generous terms or a longer return period? It’s also a good idea to offer a longer return period just for the holidays to allow unwanted gifts to be returned. Surprisingly, research has shown that a longer return period actually decreases returns. Basically, the longer someone possesses the item, the more attached they get to it.

  • Review your customer service and fulfillment staffing levels from prior years.

Did you have days where you wished you had more people on your team? Were too many people out on the same day? Making sure you are staffed appropriately at the right times can ease the stress on all those involved, especially the closer you get to key cutoff shipping dates.

  • Make sure expectations are clear across your team.

Meet with your fulfillment employees to review your fulfillment processes and systems to get everything running smoothly before the rush of orders. Determine if you’ll need to ship on the weekends to keep up with demand.

  • Consider product exchanges.

A customer might have ordered the wrong size or color. If this is the case, encourage them to re-order the item while processing their refund at the same time.  You are saving the sale and the customer is left satisfied.

These tips are will help you properly prepare for the holiday shopping season and make the mechanisms of returns and refunds feel like a much smoother process for both you and your customers. Do you have another tried and true tip for managing returns over the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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