Using Holiday Returns to Connect with Consumers and Grow Sales

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!

Ready or not, here they come! Many of those holiday purchases that were so painstakingly packaged, tracked and fulfilled at record speeds will soon be boomeranging back to you. If last year’s numbers are any indication of what’s to come, we can expect shoppers to return more than 7 million packages in January.

Yes, holiday returns and refunds have become as common a tradition as feasting on a big, juicy bird. But thankfully, there is a silver lining. With the right practices in place, those post-holiday returns can become an opportunity to begin new relationships — and strengthen old ones.

Here are several ways you can use holiday returns as a springboard for growth heading into 2018.

Start with Transparency

Did you know that 75% percent of holiday shoppers check return policies before making a purchase? They’ll look on your website, on receipts and at the point of sale. Whatever you choose to allow, it’s important that it be clearly stated in places of prominence.

When selling on marketplaces, the peak holiday season is a time to be on the lookout for any changes to policies — such as recent ones at Amazon and eBay.

Make It Painless

The less friction involved with a return, the more likely a customer is to shop with you again. Before you decide to get creative with credits or launch straight into upsells, consider this:

While it may be tempting to issue store credits instead of full refunds, that practice makes 57% of shoppers uncomfortable with e-commerce sellers. Other big turn-offs include short return windows, a lack of free return shipping and inconvenient shipping options, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook.

Among shoppers who experience these hassles during returns, 64% say they’d be hesitant to buy from the retailer ever again.

So, there’s that.

Be Generous

Look at it this way: If your return and refund practices differ significantly from your competition’s, there’s a good chance the brand loyalty race will end quickly. Be generous, and you could be the one to pull ahead.

Generous return policies can have such a positive impact on brand perception that many retailers now publicize it as a competitive advantage.

Athleta has been known to connect with consumers through its give-it-a-workout guarantee, which allows customers to bring back items they don’t love — even after removing tags and sweating at the gym. Zappos and REI are famously known for giving customers a full year to return items for a full refund.

Do lenient return policies like these lead to more returns? Yes. But researchers have found they’re often even more likely to lead to more sales.

Get Everyone Onboard

You devoted a lot of time and resources to getting holiday shipments shipped, tracked and on doorsteps in time for holiday celebrations. Now it’s time to give your returns some similar time and attention.

In one UPS study, 70% of online shoppers made an additional purchase when returning an item to a store. When processing a return online, 45% bought something else. In other words…

Empower your customer service team to delight consumers, and you may just increase the chances they’ll return one item to purchase another.There you have it: A four-step plan for using this year’s holiday returns and refunds as an opportunity to grow future sales and connect with more customers!

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