As an experienced seller, you know that offering returns during the holiday shopping season is good for business. In fact, offering a forgiving returns policy can increase the number of items purchased—just another reason to get your returns policy finalized for the holidays.* But have you thought about what you’ll do when return requests start coming in?
While dealing with return requests may be the last thing you want to do, it’s by far one of the most important parts of being a seller. Keep to your clear returns strategy, from beginning to end, can help grow your business immensely.
There are easy ways to prepare for the possibilities of more returns post-holiday. Before we dive into the tips, there are three big-picture concepts you should take to heart:
Your returns strategy is yours.
What works for your business may not work for another. Take care when designing your returns strategy because it affects the seller feedback you get from buyers. Ultimately, it’s up to the seller to set their returns policy.
Always keep buyer feedback in mind.
eBay encourages sellers to consider 30-day returns. Accepting returns is the standard retail practice across other ecommerce businesses, and eBay encourages sellers to implement this strategy.
Communicate with your customers.
It’s not about just accepting returned items—it’s about retaining customers. Returns are an opportunity to provide your customers great support. The way you choose to handle when something goes wrong can either bring a customer back—or not.
Many sellers tell us issuing returns can feel overwhelming, especially during the holiday season! Returns don’t have to be nerve-racking. We’re sharing our seven best practices to help you manage post-holiday return requests like a pro:
1. Be prepared to respond quickly.
Respond promptly, courteously, and honestly. If you do end up issuing a refund, do so within two days of receiving the returned item. It shows good customer service when you carry a sense of urgency with returns.
2. Accept 60-day returns for the holidays.
Offering free or 60-day returns encourages instant buyer confidence and loyalty. This is especially true during the holiday shopping season. This type of policy can give your shoppers the buying confidence they need to make the purchase.
3. Be crystal-clear about return shipping.
Transparency is essential when it comes to your return shipping details. Your buyer should be able to easily understand where they stand in terms of who pays for what if they choose to return an item. This can save you time (and stress) when faced with a buyer question regarding the process.
4. Automate some returns.
Accelerate your return process by customizing or automating some or all of your listing’s return requests in your Return Preferences. For example, you can auto-accept returns request for items priced $10-50, and choose to review returns requests for items priced $50 or more. Sellers who accept returns, can automatically accept buyer's remorse returns.
5. Document all item details.
Always check an item that is returned back to you before issuing a refund. Recent seller updates account for the possibility of items being returned damaged, incomplete, or otherwise not in the same condition when you sent it. We suggest keeping detailed documentation on all your products in case a return happens, helping you easily conclude that an item has been returned in worse condition.
6. Plan for various scenarios.
Think about the types of returns you have received, and the potential reasons you might receive returns on the items you sell. It may be impossible to prepare for every scenario, but if you have a few internal policies in place, you can automate your process—or at least, take some of the stress out of making game-time decisions as each return comes in.
7. Create an returns operations plan.
Set your business up for success by categorizing returned items as soon as they arrive back to you. Separate items by what is resellable, what requires repair, and what can be listed as a markdown or end-of-year clearance. The point is to get items back up in your inventory, if possible.
Have you experienced some of these scenarios firsthand? Here are a few common seller situations and how to handle them:
Set it and forget it
A return is requested because the item doesn’t fit. There is a way to simplify this reimbursement process. Automate refunds for this type of return, and save yourself time and energy. Adjust your returns preferences to make this change.
An item you sold is broken in the shipping process. You’re left with a broken item that you can’t resell, and return shipping costs, too. Consider customizing your refund strategy to automatically refund the buyer, while also instructing them to keep the item they received. Expedite the refund for your buyer and save your business the shipping fees for the broken item.
Think outside the box
Let’s say you receive a return in an opened box that you can no longer sell as “new in box.” What’s a seller to do? This is where restocking fees are appropriate. Make sure you clearly state the restocking charge in your product listing, so the buyer is fully aware of the charge from the get-go. That way, your fees to restock the item are covered. Your restocking fee will be automatically deducted from the refund when the buyer chooses the return reasons.
Replacing a return
When a buyer sends back an item they’re unsatisfied with, you can replace the product with a satisfactory one. If the customer fails to return the original item, after you’ve sent the replacement, you are entitled to charge them for the original and the replacement item. If you can’t replace the item for the buyer (if you’re out of stock), give the buyer a full refund.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone—especially sellers! Make things easier on yourself, and get a post-holiday returns plan in place. Responding promptly to requests, and automating processes where you can can make your buyer very happy. It’s difficult to imagine all the possible return-scenarios a seller may encounter, thinking ahead can save you stress during this busy time of year.
*2016 Journal of Retailing
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