In the past few years, we’ve seen the eCommerce industry grow with a hockey-stick curve as more and more people buy online from the comfort of their homes. Many eCommerce sales come from the fourth quarter of the year, the festive season. Yet, lurking in the shadows of these whooping sales was that nearly two-thirds of holiday shoppers made at least one return.

With eCommerce returns often hitting rates between 25% to 40%, a stark contrast to the modest 8.9% in brick-and-mortar stores, managing this deluge becomes a make-or-break challenge for eCommerce businesses.

But here’s the silver lining: a well-crafted return strategy can be an invaluable asset, fortifying brand equity, bolstering customer loyalty, and maximising profits.

Understanding and executing return strategies is critical in a marketplace where giants like Amazon have revolutionised customer experiences with their lenient return policies.

This guide is all about harnessing these challenges of product return as an opportunity through some actionable strategies to manage returns and exchanges during the high-octane festive season.


Why Efficient Return Strategies Are Essential


In online retail, the path a customer traverses post-purchase, especially when they have second thoughts about their acquisitions, plays a pivotal role in defining their relationship with a brand. Consumers who experienced friction in their return process think twice before shopping at that particular retailer again.

Therefore, an efficient return strategy is similar to a brand’s promise of trustworthiness. It communicates to the customer that their satisfaction is paramount, even if it means revisiting a completed transaction. A smooth, hassle-free return process can work wonders in assuaging customer dissatisfaction, ensuring they leave a positive impression even if the product wasn’t to their liking.






Top Strategies for Managing Returns and Exchanges During Festive Season Sales


Making the Return Process Transparent


Consumers often make impulsive purchases amidst the festive sales, but as the initial exhilaration fades, they begin second-guessing their decisions. Here, if your brand’s return policy is buried deep within a website, full of jargon or elusive words, the customer’s trust diminishes, and the brand’s image tarnishes.

On the contrary, when a return policy is transparent, easily accessible, presented clearly, and positioned prominently, it exudes a brand’s confidence in its offerings. This ease of access isn’t just a logistical detail; it’s a psychological anchor, assuring customers that the brand stands by them, even when they change their minds.


Speeding Up Return Processing


Every moment a returned product lingers in the return pipeline, it’s an opportunity lost. Amidst the festive season, consumer demand peaks, and inventories deplete at unprecedented rates. The quicker a returned item is verified for its integrity and reintroduced into the inventory, the sooner it becomes available for another customer.

This rapid turnaround minimises the stock-out period, reduces package delivery time, and maximises the chances of the item being sold at its optimal price.

Moreover, the ripple effects of speeding up return processing permeate deeper, directly impacting sales and customer trust. When customers opt for a return, they’re in flux, caught between their initial purchase thoughts and the subsequent change of heart. If their return gets processed swiftly, it instils a sense of confidence. This results in not only being more likely to make a replacement purchase, but the positive experience might also entice them to explore more items, driving up their basket value.


Segregating Goods Handling & Customer Service


At first glance, handling goods and customer interaction might seem intertwined, almost inseparable. But dig deeper, and the distinction becomes clear.

Goods handling is primarily an operational function focused on the physical aspects of returns—from inspecting the condition of returned products and reintroducing them into inventory to managing warehousing and logistics. During peak sales periods, when return volumes can spike, the efficiency of this function is crucial. By segregating goods handling, businesses can hone in on operational bottlenecks, swiftly process standard returns, and ensure that inventory levels are continuously optimised for sales.

On the other hand, customer service embodies the informational facets of returns. Here, the customer’s experience is shaped, where their questions are answered and their concerns alleviated. Customers seek clarity, assurance, and rapid resolutions amid the festive rush.


Harnessing the Power of Automation


When a customer decides to return an item, an automated system immediately calculates the reimbursement based on the original price, the product’s condition, and any applicable return fees. This process ensures that our customers receive accurate refunds without any delay. Instantaneous processing of return requests fosters trust among our customers.

One of the most crucial aspects of returns is inventory management. An item returned is a potential sale if reintroduced to the inventory swiftly. Automated systems can execute real-time inventory updates. So, as products come in, they’re immediately reflected as available stock.

Moreover, when complemented by AI and machine learning, automation morphs from a reactive tool to a predictive powerhouse. With the vast amount of data generated from sales and returns, machine learning algorithms can identify patterns.


Adjusting Return Windows and Policies


The festive season is characterised by heightened purchasing decisions, often impulsive due to heavy deals and discounts. A longer return window can serve as a psychological cushion for the buyer, making them more amenable to taking purchasing risks, knowing they have ample time to reconsider. It’s a signal that whispers, “Go ahead, buy it. If you change your mind, we’ve got you covered.”

As outlined in the policy book, businesses can identify certain items as non-returnable during a sale. Such items may include products with a history of high return rates, low-profit margin products, and items that lose value after being opened or used. Businesses can protect their profits by designating these items as non-returnable while ensuring a positive customer experience.


Implementing Free Return Spending Thresholds


A free return spending threshold is the minimum amount a customer has to spend to qualify for free returns. It’s similar to the free shipping thresholds but focuses on the post-purchase phase. The brilliance of this strategy lies in its dual impact. It subtly encourages consumers to purchase more. After all, if a customer’s cart value is just a tad shy of the threshold, they might be inclined to add another product, ensuring they can return items without incurring extra costs. This nudges up the average order value, a win for businesses.


Encourage Exchanges Over Refunds


The festive season, with its rush of sales and discounts, can be a double-edged sword for retailers. While the influx of orders and soaring revenues is welcomed, the aftermath of potential returns can hit hard, both logistically and financially.

Exchanges are substantially more favourable for businesses. When a customer opts for an exchange, the capital remains within the company’s ecosystem, ensuring that the sale, in some form, is retained. Refunds, on the other hand, represent a reversal of revenue and often come with additional costs – payment gateway fees, processing charges, and not to mention the potential loss of the product’s value over time.


Use Returns as a Marketing Strategy


It’s easy to think of returns as a logistical nightmare or a dent in profitability. However, savvy businesses are flipping the script, turning returns into a powerful marketing tool. By emphasizing positive return experiences and even showcasing them, brands can create a unique selling point that resonates with customers.

By highlighting stories of satisfied customers who had effortless return experiences or sharing testimonials of individuals who exchanged products and found something even better, brands effectively tell their audience, “We care about your happiness, not just the sale.”


Track Customer Return Data


By meticulously tracking and analyzing return data, businesses can glean reasons that go beyond the superficial. Is a particular size of a clothing line being returned more often? Maybe it’s not true to size. Are electronics from a certain batch having a higher return rate? Perhaps there’s a quality control issue at the manufacturing level. By identifying such trends, businesses can address the root causes, ensuring better customer satisfaction and fewer returns in the future.


Use a 3PL to Manage Fulfilment


For nascent eCommerce startups, festive season sales often translate into a surge in purchases and a potential spike in returns and exchanges. As businesses compete for prompt deliveries and efficient return management, handling everything in-house can seem overwhelming. Here, a third-party logistics company, or 3PLs, can be your backstage crew in this, ensuring that everything runs smoothly, even when the spotlight intensifies.

If you don’t know which 3PL service to choose, you can also deal with logistics aggregators, such as NimbusPost. Shipping aggregators serve you with multiple 3PL courier service providers for peak seasons through a single platform and help calculate shipping and return rates, reduce RTO for eCommerce, and other added advantages. They come equipped with the technology and strategies to process large orders and returns efficiently, especially during the festive season.





After understanding the above strategies, hope it becomes abundantly clear that these post-sale interactions, far from being mere operational hassles, are tickets to brand elevation, customer loyalty, and increased profitability.

In eCommerce, it’s easy to be trapped by growing front-end sales, often overlooking the potential that lies in post-sale interactions. However, recognising and harnessing the potential of return and exchange management is the key to standing out and will grow your eCommerce business this Christmas. Try NimbusPost and trust how your business can efficiently manage returns and exchanges during the upcoming high-voltage festive season.




How do you avoid sales returns?


To avoid sales returns, implement these strategies:

Provide Accurate Product Descriptions: Ensure clear, detailed, and accurate product listings with high-quality images and measurements.

Offer Size Guides: Include comprehensive sizing charts and fit guidance for apparel.

Enhance Customer Support: Offer live chats or virtual assistants to address queries before purchase.

Use Quality Packaging: Ensure products are delivered undamaged with secure packaging.

Encourage Customer Reviews: Authentic reviews can guide potential buyers in making informed choices.

Implement Quality Control: Regularly inspect inventory for defects.

Provide Clear Return Policies: Transparency can set correct expectations, preventing unnecessary returns.


What is the sales return policy?


A sales return policy outlines the conditions under which a retailer accepts product returns from customers. It specifies the duration within which returns are allowed, conditions for refunds or exchanges, and any associated costs. An effective return policy balances customer satisfaction with profitability, often enhancing brand trust and loyalty. During festive season sales, businesses may adjust these policies to manage increased return volumes efficiently.


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