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4 Ways To Reduce Returns In Your E-Commerce Business This Holiday Season

December 12, 2022

Your E-Commerce business is always going to experience product returns, particularly in the middle of the holiday gifting season. In fact, January has been noted as the month with the highest amount of returns, making it one of the most stressful times of the year for E-Commerce brands.

If you don’t have a strategy for reducing returns, your customer service team can find themselves faced with tough situations and unhappy customers (think Mr. Grinch in his Cheermeister sweater – yikes!).

Plus, you may find yourself allocating more resources and manpower to processing the returns rather than finding alternative resolutions that work for the customer and save your business time and money.

Understanding Why Customers Return Products

Though there are preventative measures your E-Commerce brand can take to reduce future returns (we’ll be revisiting this later), your team needs to know what to do when they’re working with a customer who has already made a purchase and wants to return their item.

First, it’s wise to recognize that there are many reasons why a customer might want to make a return:

  • The item didn’t meet their expectation.
  • It arrived later than anticipated and is no longer needed.
  • The item was damaged or defective.
  • The customer received the wrong product.
  • Unfortunately, there are consumers who consistently return items – particularly clothing or apparel – that they had no intention of keeping.

Knowing these reasons can help you optimize your website to combat future return influxes, but keeping them in mind can also help your team better understand the customer’s ultimate goal.

Whatever the reason may be for the return request, having a plan in place for each one will prepare your team for how to process the tickets as they come in.

Why Should Your Brand Care About Reducing Returns?

With every return that is made to your business, you can lose up to 30% of the total cost of the item on simply managing it. From the shipping and general transportation costs to the manpower it takes to process each return and restock the items, it all adds up rather quickly and takes a toll on your business and your customer service team.

However, having a liberal return policy builds trust with customers and eases their worry around purchasing – so where’s the balance?

Truthfully, you can never fully eliminate returns from your business. But, you can implement our recommended strategies and tactics below to help reduce the number of returns your brand sees each year while keeping your customers feeling valued and satisfied.

1. Encourage Exchanges Or Store Credit Rather Than Full Returns

When the January blues kicks in, it can be pretty disappointing for customers to return items they received as Christmas gifts. Therefore, offering them an exchange for a similar product of equal value or even store credit can give them the opportunity to enjoy a satisfactory alternative while saving your business the profits it had made from the original purchase.

It won’t relieve you of all the costs associated with the labor and shipping of the exchange, but it will create a better experience for the customer and help protect your bottom line.

2. Extend Your Return Policy Window

The holidays are an especially chaotic time of the year, and typically, customers won’t be storming your digital storefront on December 26th to exchange their unwanted gifts.

Take advantage of this fact by lengthening your return policy to meet customer expectations (did you know that 63.58% of online shoppers expect retailers to allow for returns within 30 days of purchase?) and remove the sense of urgency around slim return windows.

Whether this change is implemented as a permanent fixture or a temporary perk around the holidays, extending your return policy will build customer loyalty to your brand and give shoppers time to reconsider making the return at all.

3. Implement Restrictions For Chronic Returners

You might not be surprised to learn that 30% of shoppers intentionally over-buy items from online stores because they know they can return them for a full refund (also known as “bracketing”). After all, it’s not an unheard-of strategy to purchase items with no intention of keeping them, either because the shopper intends to use the product once and send it back or because they wish to try on items in a variety of sizes and colors to find the best fit.

Unfortunately, these customers can cost businesses thousands of dollars in processing and managing their continuous cycle of returns. However, you can combat this by preparing your customer service team to anticipate these situations and advising them to make a note of repeat shoppers who make excessive returns.

If a pattern emerges that indicates you have serial returners on your hands, you can establish regulations for these specific shoppers that limit future return habits, or even go as far as to temporarily block them from purchasing with you.

4. Provide High-Quality Customer Service

If a customer can’t easily reach your team for help or support, they’re much more likely to return their purchase because they can’t rely on you to assist them if they have a problem with the product.

Your brand’s customer service team should be easily accessible by live chat, email, or phone, and your agents must be well-trained and qualified to handle any issue your customers throw at them.

By establishing a reputation of high-quality customer service, your customers will be less inclined to make returns because their questions and issues are addressed immediately.

What Can You Do To Proactively Reduce Returns In The Future?

Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to reduce returns before they happen.

  • Provide detailed product descriptions. For example, if your brand sells clothing items, highlight the materials/fabrics, color options, and care instructions in the descriptions.
  • Take high-quality photos and videos. Blurry or poor-quality images can detract shoppers from making a purchase and will likely increase your return rate if the product they receive looks nothing like the photo they saw online. Make sure each of your products has clear photos taken from multiple angles, and consider providing videos as well to explain the product or show how it works or looks in real-time.
  • Include sizing charts. Sizing can vary greatly depending on the manufacturer, so including a clear sizing chart will help your customers determine their correct size and reduce the number of returns your brand sees.

Check out this example of Alphalete Athletics’ sizing chart that even shows shoppers where and how to measure to find the right size.

A Sizing Chart On Alphalete's Website

Outsource Customer Service To Take Steps Toward Reducing Returns

Now that we’ve given you all of our favorite tips for reducing returns in your business, it’s time to consider if you’re ready to outsource customer service to help make it all happen.

With a strong team of qualified customer service representatives trained in Shopify, Gorgias, and other vital E-Commerce platforms and software, your brand will be better equipped to handle returns even during the busiest times of the year.

If you’re ready to invest in a high-quality customer experience today, book a call with our team and we’ll show you how to outsource customer service with our TalentPop agents and save money by reducing returns throughout the year.

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