Holiday Returns: Obstacle or Opportunity?
Today's conversations around customer experience typically center on the ideas and strategies for improving marketing and merchandising, seamlessly moving the customer through various channels, and providing exceptional service in-store and online. Very rarely do we hear customer experience conversations happening around the topic of e-commerce returns. However, with the holiday season and inevitable post-holiday returns pending, it's time to take a closer look at how retailers can optimize the returns process.
Retailers that are concerned about delivering the very best customer experience need to be thinking about every potential touchpoint. This extends from the first click all the way through to delivery and returns. If they master the returns process and provide an experience that's pleasant and well-received, they can even turn a cost center into a profit center by driving additional (possibly larger) sales.
I've outlined below a few best practices for optimizing the return process that will give retailers the opportunity to convert one-time holiday shoppers or gift recipients into brand loyalists.
1. Prioritize convenience. To do this effectively, retailers should use a prepaid return label so shoppers can easily return items by leaving them in their mailbox for USPS pick up, dropping them off at their local USPS location/blue box, or setting up free carrier pickup. This makes the returns process far easier for the customer while providing advanced visibility into what items are coming back to your warehouse.
2. Be consistent across channels and touchpoints. Too often, we see inconsistencies in the way retailers handle returns, such as not accepting online order returns in-store; accepting online order returns, but not refunding the full purchase price if the in-store price is lower; or requiring the customer to return on their own without providing a pre-paid label or option to download and print an online label. Being consistent across all touchpoints is critical to satisfying shoppers’ expectations.