With the retail landscape shifting to the new normal due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it would be something to look forward to if the busiest and craziest shopping weekend of the year would be a make or break for the retailers feeling the pain of the pandemic lockdown.

Between 2013-2019, US retailers bagged more than a whopping $5 billion in online sales during the Black Friday weekend. Undeniably, this year too with the covid-outbreak, customers would be more inclined towards sweeping in the biggest discounts and outrageous deals online. And, though we are 120% sure that customers would dive straight into the retail frenzy and buy more than they would require, it would be better to plan ahead for the “I want to return this item” one-liners that will ensue afterward.

Better to be late than sorry! Even if you are a tad bit late to update your return policy for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020, here are a few tips to help you bring your A-game to the table for the returns and exchange orders that no doubt would knock your stores.

Return window: Though the standard return window for the items bought online is 30 days, you can go a little easy on your customers during the holiday season and stretch it to up to 60-90 days to help customers bring back Christmas gifts they don’t like. Make sure you are setting up specific guidelines for the product categories (electronics, digital software, gift cards, etc.) you are catering to avoid any confusion.  

eCommerce giant, Amazon welcome returns well into the New Year, allowing customers to send back products they don’t like by Jan 31st, 2021 with the added benefit of a full refund for the items shipped by amazon.com between Nov. 1st and Dec. 31st 2020.

Return cost: It can cost you twice the price of the delivery for a product to be returned to the supply chain. With impulse buying at its peak during the Black Friday weekend, get ready to be neck-deep in the returns and subsequent returns cost that can hit your revenue hard. So, before you go all out impressing your customers with free returns during the holiday season, be very sure if this means well for you, otherwise don’t.

  • Offer free returns for the items that are the result of your error.
  • Deduct the cost of return shipping from the refund initiated if the return is being made using the return label depending on the courier handling the return shipment.

Return methods:  With the surge in online shopping over the years during the Black Friday weekend, customers look forward to a flexible returns policy. Give customers a little freedom on how they wish to return their order. Major eCommerce brands like Apple have established a self-return portal for customers to tackle the chaos of the holiday season returns.

  • Customers can submit a return request mentioning the web order number, contact details, and address. On receipt of the mail, a Return Material Authorisation (RMA) number will be provided.
  • Customers can print return labels sent via an email and attach it to the returned item.
  • Return items can be dropped off at any Pickup Point location within 5-days for hassle-free returns.

If you are in search of a return software that we know you would need to go about automating your return process this holiday season, AfterShip Returns Center is for you with the self-service returns portal, return to the store option, drop-off at FedEx or Walgreens (the US only), and discounted USPS return labels as some of its benefits. Check out in detail how AfterShip Returns Center can be your saviour this season here https://www.returnscenter.com/.

Non-returnable items: Half-opened grocery items, computer and electronics, digital merchandise, live plants, wearables, and predominantly, gift cards are some of the product categories that major online retailers have a strict no-return policy against. Nevertheless, brands do give an option of exchange in the unlikely event of a damaged, defective, or different item delivered to the customer within a specific time frame.

When setting up non-returnable rules,

  • Be very specific about the items that are eligible for returns to avoid last-minute mayhem.
  • Set up clear rules regarding the items that can be exchanged and for what.
  • Be clear about the condition the item should be in, original packaging, paperwork, and accessories included.
  • Decide whether you are entertaining multiple returns for the same order to reduce return shipping costs.

Refund and exchange: There is no denying that retail products prices reach their all-time low during the holiday season, the prices can go even lower come the next morning. Result? Stream of returns and consequent refunds. So while customers are legally entitled to a full refund in 30 days if the product is faulty or they are unsatisfied with the quality, online retailers can turn these returns into potential sales with flexible exchange options.

  • In the events of damaged, defective, or unsatisfactory products, let customers exchange for the same product or the different product.
  • Give customers in-store credits or gift cards to further encourage them to shop more from your store in the future
  • For the in-store as well as online returns allow a refund to be processed to the original method of payment along with the expected processing time.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are an opportune time for eCommerce businesses to multiply their sales and increase their revenue, without a well-communicated and executed returns policy in place it can be a pretty stressful phenomenon. Set clear expectations for your customers, staff, and yourself during this holiday season, and be vocal about your return policy to transform the returns and exchanges into new opportunities for sales, profits, customer loyalty, and retention.