10 Tips to Help You Prepare for the BFCM Returns Rush 2023
Starting with BFCM (Black Friday Cyber Monday), the holiday returns rush season is fast approaching. With the holidays come new shoppers exploring your store for the first time and repeat customers buying more. What’s not to love?
With the rush of new sales and new shoppers comes a lingering wave – the wave of returns.
However, returns don’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, they can be the biggest reason you thrive during the holiday season – if you’re prepared. Which is why we’ve put together 10 tips to help you stay above water during the returns tsunami and the 2023 holiday season
Holiday Returns by the Numbers
Before we dive into tips to help you thrive during the holidays, let’s talk about why preparing your post-purchase systems and ecommerce operations matters.
During the holidays, online purchases are returned at double the rate of in-store purchases. All in all, about 1 out of every 8 sales ends up as a return during the holidays. Only 10% of those returns make it back on the shelves.
Not to mention, returns are expensive. Factoring in labor, transportation, warehouse costs, etc, the costs of returns are projected to go up 7-10% this holiday season. Put another way, on average, returns cost retailers 2/3 of the original price of the product.
If you’re not prepared, returns can turn holiday cheer into holiday woes.
Luckily, we’re here with some best practices to make sure you’re set up for success this holiday season!
Tip 1: Review Your Return Policy Early
Return Policies aren’t something you set and forget. They should be dynamic and shaped based on feedback from your team and from your shoppers.
For the Holidays in particular, shoppers need time. Shoppers could be out of town, they could be busy visiting family, whatever the case, giving shoppers time to return their items helps with retention and increases customer lifetime value.
30 days is okay, but 60 days may be better. Not to mention, you want to space things out for your customer support and warehouse team so they aren’t dealing with a ton of returns in a short amount of time.
Tip 2: Update Your Site before Black Friday
Your return policy helps with conversions. 8 out of 10 shoppers review a return policy before buying, so including your return policy on your home page, not buried away in your help center, will help with more sales.
Similarly, including your return policy on product description pages might just be the difference between a shopper buying from you or from your competitor.
Have special policies specific to purchases made during Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Make sure to call those out with clear instructions on return periods, special buys or unique product offerings.
Review product pages for those that have a high return rate. Perhaps you need better images or an updated item description to accurately describe a product. Maybe a new sizing chart is need to minimize size bracketing and returns.
Tip 3: Optimize Ad Campaigns
Returns help you promote sales that stick. How? With returns data.
Take a look at what products are coming back and why. For your ad campaigns, turn down ad spend for products that don’t have high sales or that have high return rates. Allocate those dollars to high-selling products with low return rates.
That way, you won’t have to worry about burning through your marketing budget on products that wind up back in your warehouse. Not to mention, it gives you time to look into why shoppers are returning certain products so you can take corrective action.
Tip 4: Make Sure Inventory is Ready
Make sure you have a central source of truth for your inventory. If inventory levels get out of whack, you may inadvertently oversell, or you may lose a shopper from a poor experience.
Plan what products you want to promote during sales spikes. You should also be prepared to restock returned products as quickly as possible so that items can get back into circulation.
Set up automated workflows based on product dispositions or RMA authorization. These steps will eliminate inefficiencies from manual tasks in your return-to-stock and inventory process.
With the right returns management tools in place, you can even set inventory thresholds so shoppers can’t exchange for items you don’t physically have.
Tip 5: Make Sure Your Team is Staffed and Knows What To do
The holidays are intense, and you may need to bring on part-time seasonal staff, or shift workers to manage the influx of returns. But this is not the time to train new people or document new processes on how to process returns. Now is.
Thoroughly document your returns process ahead of time, so that any new individuals can easily get up to speed as quickly and productively as possible.
Tip 6: Make Sure Your Return Center is Ready
Make sure your Return Center has a clear call-to-action for people who received gifts. Gift returns may be a different workflow than other return types (exchanges, refunds, store credit, warranties) so make sure shoppers know where to go to return their gift.
In addition, once shoppers go through their gift return, make sure your return center is set up to offer them new products – whether that’s exchanging for something similar or exchanging for any item in your catalog.
Take advantage of custom CSS to brand your Return Center to match your company guidelines. The post-purchase customer experience should be a continuation of your brand’s look and feel and not an afterthought.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to create a loyal customer.
Tip 7: Set up Automation in Advance
Let’s face it, manually emailing with shoppers, dealing with phone calls, and closing support tickets can be exhausting when returns volume goes up. Having to log a return in a spreadsheet or copy and paste it into a help desk takes a long time and causes headaches. Not to mention, it is expensive. With inflation, employee labor costs are rising, and automation saves on time spent on manual tasks.
Automation leads to savings in labor, time, and helps your team solve customer problems faster – leading to them becoming loyal and buying more from you.
Automation keeps your team above water and your shoppers happy.
Tip 8: Get Your Warehouse and Ops teams Involved
With items rolling back to your team and your warehouse, you need a way to make sure the right items are making their way back. Meaning, your warehouse and ops team need to be able to record the dispositions of products coming back and relay that back to the rest of the business.
In addition, warehouse and ops teams need to know the status of each return and where each return is in order to tame the chaos. They also need to know what to do with each return. Should it be liquidated? Re-stocked? Make sure your team has a process and knows what to do with each return and that everyone is on the same page.
Tip 9: Have A Plan For Waste
Returns leave a massive impact on the environment. Be prepared to handle the waste that comes with returns, such as boxes, packaging, and discarded products.
For example, maybe you don’t need customers to send back damaged products. In that case, you could prevent a large source of returns from being shipped.
Consider how the different aspects will impact your business, and how your choices reflect your company values and carbon footprint
Tip 10: Have A Plan For Reviewing Returns Feedback
Sales tell you what shoppers like. Returns tell you what shoppers do not like. Use that information to double down on what is working and fix what does not.
Analyzing returns data not only helps you make corrective decisions on the fly, but it will help you for the next return season as well!
Tying it All Together
Returns are coming. Don’t let the challenges of returns take away from the rush of sales and holiday cheer.
Preparation is key for weathering the holiday tsunami of returns. However, you don’t need to prep alone. We’re here to help you every step of the way.
Get in touch and see how we can take your returns game to the next level BEFORE BFCM and the holidays creep up!