With record online sales, online sellers should prepare for record returns, and Amazon knows this better than anyone. Over the years it has created new ways to make it easier for buyers to return items, and today, it issued a press release touting “free, convenient, and easy returns at more locations.”
One change it made this year was to extend the time period allowed for holiday returns for any reason, and it highlighted this fact: “New this year, customers can make returns until January 31 for items shipped between October 1 and December 31—giving customers more time to decide on whether to keep that gift or not.”
It’s also allowing customers to return goods at more retail locations without requiring them to package them up for shipping. “Amazon is helping make returns even easier at over 500 Whole Foods Market stores across the country by offering a box-free, label-free return option. This option is also available at other locations including Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star, Amazon Fresh grocery stores, Amazon Go stores, UPS Store locations, Kohl’s, and more.”
Libby Johnson McKee, Director, Amazon WW Returns, ReCommerce and Sustainability, said: “Our hope is that by offering so many return options—from tens of thousands of drop-off locations to shipping an item back—as well as more time to think about making a return, customers can relax and shop with confidence this holiday season.” Amazon customers can review the company’s return policy on this page of the Amazon.com website.
Amazon’s press release is a marker that the holiday shopping season is waning and the holiday returns season is ramping up, and third-party services are offering advice to merchants on how to make it less painful.
Stamps.com published a post this week on the topic. Among the advice it offered was to look at returns for patterns: “Your return page should allow customers to explain why they are making a return; this will provide valuable insight that you can use to improve your business.”
Feedvisor, which provides services for Amazon merchants, offered advice specific to returns on that marketplace in a post this week. Among its advice: “Be proactive. By keeping the line of communication open with customers and constantly acting on feedback and reviews, you can improve your products and consumer experience on an ongoing basis, instead of dealing with returns in a case-by-case manner as they happen.”
A recent letter from an EcommerceBytes reader who sells on Mercari elicited comments from other sellers about the challenges of returns across all platforms.
One reader likened fraudulent returns to shoplifting: “Sellers who sell ‘professionally’ must be prepared to deal with what is essentially ‘shoplifting’. Because it happens – whether or not one’s ‘venue-partner’ of choice has any ‘additional protection’ in place.”
With record-breaking amounts of online shopping this holiday season due to the pandemic, shipping delays are also record-breaking. That in itself can lead to higher return rates, as we reported in, “Survey Finds Delivery Delays Lead to Returns.”