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How to Cope with Holiday Returns

Holiday Returns

Holiday ReturnsMerry Christmas, sellers. Now you can start gearing up for holiday returns! In fact, online sellers have already been seeing an increase in requests. We turned to some online shipping services for tips on how to cope with the inevitable influx of holiday returns.

Make sure your internal returns process is ready for the increased volume, advised Katie May of ShippingEasy, who said returns may be up to a third higher than usual this time of year.

This may mean setting up a formal returns processing line if you don’t normally use one, she said, as well as planning for additional staffing or overtime. It also includes getting the items back in stock, returned to the manufacturer, or otherwise appropriately dispositioned. And, May reminded merchants – it includes ensuring the right replacement product gets sent to the customer in the case of exchanges.

However there may be some opportunity to squeeze some lemonade out of lemons when it comes to unwanted returns. May recommended seizing promotional opportunities. “The returns process is full of interactions you can leverage to deepen customer engagement. Consider, for example, offering promo codes on your return labels or in return-related email exchanges,” she said. In addition, “gift recipients who were not previously in your marketing database who return items can be prime candidates for future promotions.”

What about returns of valuable items for customers you want to keep (and keep happy)? Rafael Zimberoff of ShipRush suggested merchants consider Call Tags for returns of high-margin products. “A Call Tag is a request to the shipping carrier to go to a location and pick up a package (to then return to you or a third party). There is a fee for this service, but you save the customer the hassle of dropping off a package (and sometimes paying a fee to do so, if it is a private mail box service).”

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As we reported in the AuctionBytes Blog last week, ShipStation’s Krish Iyer warned UPS is implementing its new 2018 rates on Christmas Eve this year rather than waiting until January, and this can impact returns. “Keep in mind that if you printed a return label before this date, you likely expected a certain price/rate,” he said. But with rates going up on December 24th, “If you didn’t account for it, then it can have a significant cost that you simply were not prepared for.”

He also noted that UPS raised certain fees such as stop charges and pickup fees. “If someone isn’t careful, pickup fees when initiating a return when using UPS could be something that was an unanticipated charge,” he said.

ShipRush’s Zimberoff said sellers should be aware they have the option of using Scan Based Return Labels. Unlike prepaid returns, postage is not deducted until the label is actually used – if it’s not used, you’re not charged. Zimberoff said merchants report that 10 percent or more of return labels are never used, so this can save sellers some money.

ShipStation‘s Iyer said merchants should revaluate their returns policy especially in light of changes made by Amazon, which introduced the “returnless refunds” option for sellers earlier this year – he called it a “keep it” philosophy for sellers who don’t want or can’t receive an item back. Amazon also extends its return window for purchases made during the holiday.

Zimberoff echoed this sentiment – “Do you really need to screen returns?” He said it’s worth considering a simple, “open door” approach – for example, “No questions asked within 15 days
of purchase.”

“This makes it easy for everyone,” he said. “No thinking required!”

Whatever returns policy you have in place, make sure it’s clear to customers and to employees, ShippingEasy’s May warned merchants. “While it’s too late to change your policies, you can definitely revisit your package-return-related webpages to ensure that they articulate those policies as clearly as possible, and that the online returns-initiation process is as straightforward as possible for customers.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

One thought on “How to Cope with Holiday Returns”

  1. No big deal for us. We closed all our stores the sunday before thanksgiving. With sales on the downward slide we probably didn’t lose anything as we enjoyed 5 weeks in Florida.

    All those that stayed open will now have to kiss the backside of the buyers ebay has trained to whine and cry.

    Happy refunding season sellers. See ya all in January

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