6 Tips to Get Ahead of Black Friday Returns

The weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) is a wonderful but hectic time in ecommerce.

In 2019, Black Friday in the U.S. brought in $7.4 billion. Cyber Monday added an impressive $9.2 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. This figure represents an overall growth of nearly 24% compared to 2018.   

But amid the excitement and rush of revenue is a glaring downside – BCFM returns.   


The Pitfall of Black Friday and Cyber Monday


Among our partner retailers, the Tuesday following the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales spike saw the second-highest number of returns per retailer of any day in 2019. It was second only to December 26th.   

Without the correct systems and processes in place, brands can quickly become overwhelmed by the influx of returns from BFCM and carry on throughout the holiday season.   

As a result, it forces some companies to prohibit or restrict returns on products bought during Black Friday sales. But rather than penalize the shopper, you can improve your return process to meet the higher than usual returns volume. 


6 Ways to Stay on Top of Black Friday Returns


Returns can cause friction in the customer experience, but returns are not simply a matter of service.   

Returns are, at the core, an operational challenge. To stay on top of BFCM returns, you need to balance the customer experience and operational processes

  1. Establish your Priority in Returns
  2. Solidify your Return Policy
  3. Standardize & Document your Returns Process
  4. Secure your Inventory Levels
  5. Determine the Right Shipping Provider
  6. Have a Plan for Waste


1. Establish your Priority in Black Friday Returns


To optimize your return process ahead of the BFCM surge, you need to know why you’re optimizing.   

Every return management strategy strikes a balance between managing the customer experience, expediting operations, and maximizing the recovery value of returns.   

The first step is to decide your priority – or blend of priorities – within the return process.   

If your main goal is to manage the customer relationship, you may want to process returns before they arrive with minimal inspection.   

But, if the top priority in returns is to maximize recovery value, you may choose to thoroughly inspect returns before initiating the refund, exchange, or store credit.   

While this is just an example, it illustrates how you must first determine your priorities as a business to optimize your return process.   


2. Solidify your Black Friday Return Policy


With your priorities in place, you can shift your focus to the returns themselves.   

The return process – and the customer experience – begins with the return policy. A return policy lays out the rules and procedures that dictate how returns work from the customer’s perspective.   

Through the return policy, you can set fair and reasonable expectations for customers, position your return process to satisfy your priorities, and avoid potential confusion before it occurs.   

If you plan on altering your BFCM return policy, we highly recommend that the changes are in place well before the BFCM sales spike. In addition, make sure the policy is visible in all relevant channels – both online and offline. Otherwise, you may create unnecessary friction among customers.   

The return policy is the starting point of the return process. It heavily impacts the customer experience and your operational efficiency.   


3. Standardize & Document your BFCM Returns Process


Now, you can focus on standardizing your return process.   

When your return volume spikes, you may have to bring on part-time staff or shift workers around as needed. But this isn’t the time to train new people on how to process returns.   

Thoroughly document your return process ahead of time so that any new employees can get up-to-speed as quickly and productively as possible.   

Consider breaking the process down so each worker or group of workers can focus on a particular set of tasks. For example, you could have one group process refunds and another process exchanges so that no one has to learn multiple workflows.   

Regardless, be sure to have contingency plans. For example, what will you do if a customer is upset?   

By formulating these plans before the Black Friday rush, you can maximize your efficiency when the time arrives.   


4. Secure your Inventory Levels


The supply chain is fundamental to ecommerce success.   

The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted supply chains globally, and many retailers are experiencing slower than usual sourcing leading up to the busiest time of year.   

Incorporate additional lead time into purchasing and production decisions. Plan what products you will promote over BFCM so you can stock accordingly.   

Be prepared to restock returned products as quickly as possible to get these items back into circulation. If necessary, consider upping your exchange inventory so that customers don’t experience an out-of-stock item when looking to make an exchange.   


5. Determine the Right Shipping Provider


Nothing ruins the excitement of a Black Friday purchase quite like a long wait for a product to arrive.   

And on the returns side, slow shipping dampens the customer experience. Poor returns shipping processes mean longer wait times, more irritation, and more emails to your customer service team.   

USPS is experiencing prolonged delays, and the sales frenzy has not even started yet. So, although USPS provides a lower-cost option to many growing businesses, do these savings make up for the slower shipping?    

As we approach the BFCM weekend and the Holiday season, you don’t want to be worrying about your shipping provider. 


6. Have a Plan for Waste


When planning for the Black Friday surge, waste might not be the first thing in mind. But, Black Friday heavily contributes to environmental concerns like air pollution and plastic waste.   

Be prepared to handle the excess waste that comes with returns – like 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 significant source of returns shipping. 

Consider how the different aspects will impact your business, and how your choices reflect your company values.


In Summary


The weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is an exciting but hectic time. With it comes surges of sales and the allure of profit, but BFCM returns can be overwhelming.   

Don’t let the challenges of returns take away from the BFCM sales rush.   

With these 6 tips, you can stay on top of Black Friday returns and set yourself up for success this holiday season. 

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