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B-Stock Solutions, a liquidation platform, predicts $90 to $95 billion worth of holiday gifts will be returned this season. While some of the returns can be resold, other products, including seasonal merchandise and damaged goods, result in supply chain costs for retailers.
Due to a combination of more lenient return policies and the growth in ecommerce sales, return rates have climbed in recent years. Although strong customer service encourages a no-questions asked simple return process, savvy retailers have learned to leverage the post-holiday return season to drive website visits, in-store traffic and incremental sales while collecting data for future use.
The following tips can help drive revenue during the post-holiday return season and throughout the year.
1. Be Transparent with Your Return Policy
Your return policy should be easy to understand and consistently enforced. During the holiday season, many retailers offer extended return periods, allowing gift givers to make holiday purchases throughout the fall. But often, some items, including electronics and games, have stricter return policies. No matter your leniency level, transparency is essential. Post your policy at checkout counters, in easy-to-spot places on your website and on receipts. Do everything you can to avoid unpleasant surprises for your customers and their gift recipients.
2. Plan a Post-Holiday Sale
Encourage consumers to handle returns in the best way possible for you by sculpting a “return” sale with terms that best meet your needs. Keep the time for the sale limited to drive returns during a specified period. And use in-store discounts to inspire exchanges. At a minimum, the right sale should encourage consumers with returns to browse and see what else you have to offer.
3. Empathize With & Learn from Your Customers
Try to understand why each customer is making the decision to return an item, and recognize the effort they made to bring it back. Ask customers what they’d rather see in a product or what they’re looking for so you can provide the perfect solution later on.
4. Act As a Problem Solver
After listening to your customer’s needs, suggest alternative products. Maybe a different size or color will solve the issue, or maybe a different item altogether fits the requirement. Offering another product on your shelves can boost sales and brand reputation, encouraging loyalty from consumers.
5. Build Your Database
For every return and exchange, make sure you capture an email address. Even if you’re stuck taking a straight return, you hopefully created a positive interaction and now have a consumer you can nurture for months to come.
6. Distribute Coupons
Stamp return receipts with coupons valid for a return visit. A compelling, limited-time offer can help drive a wave of new foot traffic later in the month.
Every year, UPS tracks “National Returns Day,” or the day when the highest volume of returns are dropped off for delivery. This holiday season, due to pre-Black Friday ecommerce shopping and simplified return policies and practices, UPS claims National Returns Day happened on December 19, marking the first time it was before Christmas. Is UPS right, or will there be a “National Returns Day Part 2” in January? No matter the answer, the retailers that win will be the ones turning this year’s return season into a windfall.