After the holiday shopping season comes the holiday returns season. If your business sold any holiday gifts over the past few months, then you should probably expect some people trying to return those gifts in the coming weeks.
It’s not necessarily a fun time for most business owners and their team members. But there are some things you can do to make it a bit easier. Here are some things to consider while you prepare for the barrage of post-holiday gift returners.
How Many Returns Should You Expect?
The amount of returns you’ll likely encounter depends entirely on the size of your business and the types of products you sell. Generally, retailers can expect a 5 to 10 percent return rate on in-store purchases, with a higher return rate of 15 percent for online purchases. Things like clothing tend to be returned even more due to sizing issues.
How Should You Prepare for Returns Season?
The best thing that you can do to prepare for returns is to expect them. Knowing that you’ll get at least some returns, consider having some extra staff members scheduled after the holidays so that the rest of your store doesn’t get short-staffed.
You’ll also need to have a set process in place for returns, and make sure that all of your team members know how to handle them. If they’re always coming to you for help or waiting for another team member to complete the process, customers are likely to get frustrated. Try to make the whole thing as seamless and quick as possible.
What Should You Include in Your Returns Policy?
Having a set policy for returns is one way to make the whole process a lot easier. Make sure customers know if they need to bring a receipt or any other proof of purchase. Consider the quality of the item being returned and how soon after the purchase customers need to make the return (ideally leaving some room for those who just received gifts that were bought months ago).
For online retailers, you need to make the returns process even more clear. Tell shoppers how and where they should send their items and whether or not you’ll cover the return shipping and under what circumstances. You also need to consider if you’ll offer full refunds, store credit or exchanges.
How Should You Respond to Returns?
There are so many different circumstances under which people make returns. But regardless of the reason, you need to acknowledge their feelings and try to offer a satisfactory solution. Sometimes, especially when it comes to gifts, people just don’t like the item because it isn’t their taste. So don’t take returns personally.
Ask if there was anything wrong with the item or if they had another reason for making the return. Then try to rectify the situation or offer a refund or exchange, depending on your policy. If there was a mistake with the product or buying process, you may even benefit from offering an extra discount or gift to make up for the misstep.
What Are the Most Commonly Returned Items?
Clothing or accessories tend to be returned at a much higher rate than other types of products. If your business sells such items, you may see a return rate of 20 to 30 percent after the holidays.
How Can You Make the Most of Returns Season?
Returns season doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom for your business. Even though you may end up taking a financial hit on some of the returns or exchanges, you can do your best to make the most of this time. The number one thing you should do is be friendly and try to handle returns in a way that makes your customers happy. If they are satisfied with the situation and your returns process, they may be more likely to shop with you again in the future.
You can also try to make the most of the increase in traffic by offering some specials or discounts to customers coming through the door or visiting your site. Not everyone who’s there to return something is necessarily going to take advantage, but you might benefit from a few impulse purchases.
Man with Boxes Photo via Shutterstock, Other Images: Tomohiro Ohtake, Muszkieterowie, Solomon203, Cumulus Clouds on Wikimedia
This is part of the Small Business Trends holiday article series featuring tips, advice and news about the latest holiday trends taking place in today's business world. Check out our Business Gift Giving Guide for more.More in: Holidays