5 Simple Steps to Turn Holiday Returns into New Year Revenue


‘Tis the season of those dreaded holiday returns. In fact, some estimates say that up to one third of all online holiday purchases are returned by shoppers in the following month. So, as a store owner, you have two options: are you going to let your business lose sales or are you going to turn those returns into revenue generators for your online store?

How you handle returns, whether they are over the phone or via email, is a huge opportunity and can go one of two ways: 1) boost sales and create a loyal customer who advocates for your business on your behalf or 2) pour fuel on what is likely a pretty hot and vocal customer, and then reap the aftermath of their wrath.

Roughly 95% of customer will buy again once they’ve experienced a positive return from a brand.

Roughly 95% of customers will likely buy again once they’ve experienced a “positive return.” Your website helps to begin this process by utilizing a returns FAQs page and an easy and obvious Contact Us option that helps guide customers down an action funnel. For example, Gina King, brand manager of online store Veppocig, prepared a standard set of frequently asked questions regarding her store’s returns and exchanges process. Doing so helped to alleviate call and email volume, and helped to keep the conversations that couldn’t be answered with an FAQ page more focused on the specific problem itself.

Once you have your online return information ready to go, you’ll need to get a plan of action in place for more difficult exchanges. This week, in our #SellMore video series, we’ll be diving into the processes, best practices and actionable takeaways many online stores  implement during the holiday return rush to generate a green revenue stream and kick off a new year.

When running an online business, it is essential have a process, especially for any business function that involves a customer touchpoint. When it comes to returns, a determined process is absolutely necessary. A return can either build your brand or break it down, and every single customer sentiment matters as you expand and scale.

Here, we’ll walk you through the necessary steps, best practices and takeaways to help you implement a return policy that ensures high customer satisfaction that will lead to improved customer loyalty – even if they don’t keep the product.

Step 1: Listen, and listen well.

This is Customer Service 101, and may seem basic, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless. Whether you receive a return request via email or over the phone, focus on listening. Your customers will divulge a great deal of information without you having to ask a single question. By listening, your customers will not only feel validated (as they well should), but you’re going to gain a huge opportunity to understand the real issue at hand, which will help in assessing the best remedy for each individual situation.

Step 2: Ask clarifying questions (but only a few).

After a customer has shared his or her issues with the product, make sure to ask any unanswered questions you may have. For instance:

  • Do they need help assembling the product?
  • Do they need help learning how to use the product?
  • Why is the item being returned?
  • What is wrong with the item?

Be sure to first ask questions related to helping the customer alleviate his or her current issue with the product before jumping in to making the return process smooth and successful. You don’t want to miss an opportunity for product satisfaction by simply not offering the help.

Step 3: Offer meaningful suggestions.

Once you have a full understanding of why a customer is trying to return something, you’ll be able to identify situations where an alternative product or solution may be appropriate. For instance, does the customer simply need a different style, color, or size of same same product? That can be done. Or, perhaps a different product on the site will better suit their needs. That, too, can be arranged. A meaningful and easy exchange experience is a win-win both for your customer and your sales.

A meaningful and easy exchange experience is a win-win both for your customer and your sales.

If an exchange doesn’t suffice, try offering a partial discount rather than a full refund for a return. This way, you won’t lose the entire sale and the customer will be able to keep the product. Be sure to only offer this, though, after understanding the customer’s issue with the product. If the product needs a full return, offering a partial discount is a tone deaf deal. Always keep the best interests of your customer in mind. 

Step 4: Try the unexpected upsell.

No, I don’t mean try to sell your customer on additional accessories for the product they already want to return. Instead, offer in-store credit or gift cards in lieu of a full refund. This tactic will ensure that your customer comes back to the site and purchases another item.

Offer in-store credit or gift cards in lieu of a full refund.

This is a great way to beef up customer loyalty, though be careful in using it and don’t force this option on your customers. In the end, you want the return experience to be as painless as possible. That said, if the customer wants a full refund rather than in-store credit, allow them that request. 

Step 5: Always satisfy the customer.

Unfortunately, not all returns can be remedied. This means that after you’ve exhausted the above selling opportunities you may find that some customers simply want their money back, and that’s OK. By walking through the above steps, you’ll have given the customer all possible return options, and have allowed them to choose the option that works best for them. If they were irreparably unsatisfied with a product, you may even consider sending the customer a small gift card as an “I’m sorry.” This may help to bring them back to your site and give your brand another shot.

Do you have any tips or tricks in turning a return into a sale that you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments section below.

Tune in next week for our next #SellMore series video and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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