For the majority of retailers, the holiday season falls into two timeframes: the long period of preparation leading up to the season, followed by the short burst of intense activity.
While Black Friday remains the busiest day of the shopping year for brick-and-motor locations, Cyber Monday has become the online equivalent for digital retailers. With Cyber Monday just two weeks away, you need a well-thought-out plan for product returns in place.
Holiday sales are predicted to increase by over 4 percent this shopping season to an estimated $616 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Digital sales are expected to grow from 8 percent to 11 percent this year, more than double the forecast for brick-and-mortar locations.
Of course more sales means a higher return rate. During the 2013 holiday season, over 10 percent of holiday sales were returned within 90 days of purchase, according to a survey conducted by the Retail Equation. Overall, holiday returns amounted to over $58 billion dollars in lost revenue.
Considering the scenes of long lines, rude and impatient shoppers and the occasional riot that often accompany Black Friday, it isn’t surprising that more an more consumers are turning to Cyber Monday as their preferred method of savings shopping during the holiday season.
However, there’s a level of uncertainty that comes from buying a product online. What happens if the product that arrives isn’t what the customer expected? What if the customer has a frustrating experience trying to assemble the product? Online retailers must answer the question of how to reduce product returns in order to keep sales and profits on the rise.
Here are a few tips on how your online business can help reduce the number of Cyber Monday returns you get this holiday season.
Provide Customer Support
The amount of support a customer receives is a vital part of his or her overall shopping experience. Being prepared to answer any questions the customer may have prior to the purchase of a product will help to increase customer satisfaction and reduce the number of returns. Customer support can come in the form of an up-to-date FAQ page on your business’ website, a live chat for buyers or a call center staffed with customer service agents who understand how your product works.
Is your business adequately staffed to handle the demands of the holiday shopping season? With the chance to develop life-long relationships with customers through positive shopping experiences, many big retailers are aggressively increasing their holiday shopping staffs. Macy’s, for example, plans on hiring an additional 86,000 seasonal employees, roughly a 4 percent increase from the 2013 holiday.
As your business braces for an onslaught of orders on Cyber Monday, make sure your warehouse or shipping department is adequately staffed and ready to handle all transactions. This means having the right number of workers and products on hand, as well as ensuring all products and product sizes are correctly shipped to customers. Make sure to thoroughly train seasonal staff members to avoid costly shipping delay or errors. Products that do not arrive on time have a much higher likelihood of being returned.
Provide Accurate Images and Product Descriptions
Buying a product online takes a significant amount of faith since a customer can’t touch or even look at what they’ve just bought. This makes accurate product descriptions and images a must for any online retailer. Inaccurately portraying a product in hopes of driving sales is a great way to ensure a large percentage of sales end up returned just a few months later.
Examine your return data from last year to determine which products had the highest rate of return and consider changing their description and images accordingly. Work closely with your customer service department to determine the top questions consumers ask about your products and add this information to the product FAQ and description page. Accurately representing what the consumer can expect to receive will help drastically reduce returns in the future.
There are many benefits to having a product return plan in place for the holiday shopping season, including: improved customer satisfaction and retention. Something every retailer can enjoy all year long.