As with any holiday, there are likely to be some uhm.... dare I say... unwanted gifts. Whether it is because the item didn't fit right or the gift giver was just plain asleep at the wheel, there will be a gamut of reasons for returns.
You, as an online retailer, in order to be successful will want to make it as easy as possible for customers to return their items. Retailing is hard. E-commerce is even harder.
These days, customers are changing how they are spending their retail dollars.
Most purchases are still made in a brick-and-mortar store, however, customers are not browsing the store like they used to. They tend to figure out what they want by the recommendation of a peer or through online research, then go to the store to buy it and move on with the next thing on their to-do list.
So how can YOU make your customers more loyal to your brand when they are ready to spend money? By being the first on in their minds when it comes to your product category. In order to do that, you need to delight your customers - exceed their expectations. One of the ways to do that is by offering easy returns.
This is no foreign concept to the big box retailers. However, many small boutiques are hesitant to offer such easy returns because they think that they cannot afford it. Let me give you the hard truth- you cannot afford not to offer easy returns. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that a customer will abandon their shopping cart is because of a difficult return policy.
So how do you create an easy return policy?
Be reasonable about what and why your customers can return their merchandise.
Offer to pay for return shipping.
Allow the customer to return the item for a refund, or exchange it to solve the problem if the issue is something simple like a damaged item you still have in stock, or the item was just the wrong size.
DO NOT do store credit. Don't force the customer to keep their money with your store.
Use services on you site such as a fit guide to help customers order the right size.
Use services such as Gift Wizard to help gift givers do easy gift giving, but the customer gets to go online and choose product variables such as color and size to minimize your number of returns.
Use services such as LincCare to handle your returns process for you. This automated customer service option will allow your customers to return items at their convenience through their email receipt or message you for more information. LincCare will process and handle the return, including the shipping label. Once you get the item, you just have to verify the information, the product received and then manually process the refund by the customers payment method. However, most of the work has already been done for you.
Life happens. Products don't arrive on time, products arrive broken in shipping, things don't fit because customers don't have the ability to try things on, etc. Be reasonable about under what circumstances your customers can return their merchandise.
Yes- some people will try to take advantage of your return policy. There is no iron clad, fool proof return policy. However, the vast majority of people are not going to try to take advantage of you. In fact, being more than helpful when they have a problem ensures the next time they have a need in your product category you will be first of mind and they are likely to purchase from you again. Be a scrooge about your returns policy and give them a difficult time for trying to return an item and you lose a customer for life, along with everyone they tell on Facebook or Twitter. There is no customer tells 11 people about a negative experience. These days, customers tell 11,000 people about a negative experience. The choice on which experience they have is up to you.