4 Ways to Crush Returns Season This Year


Learn how eCommerce brands can get a better grip on returns (and generate more revenue in the process) by engaging the NOW customer.

This year, up to $70.5 billion worth of holiday purchases are expected to be returned to retailers. That is a huge number and customer service teams are bracing themselves to handle their piece of the record-breaking total. 

Not only have NOW customers—today’s “always on” consumers— been flocking online in record numbers, the options for brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic have been even more limited. In the absence of the ability to try on clothes in a fitting room, smell a perfume sample, or test the springs in a mattress, it’s safe to assume that many consumers spent the season over-purchasing, knowing they have a generous return policy to fall back on. 

source CBRE

Over the years, our team of customer service experts here at Simplr—who have collectively handled hundreds of thousands of eCommerce return inquiries—got together to tackle retailers’ most common question: how can I crush, and not be crushed, by returns season?

From a variety of interviews, we uncovered four ways that customer service professionals can put themselves (and their companies) in the best possible position to have a successful returns season.

Prevent retail returns in the first place, with 24/7 pre-sale live chat

This might not feel helpful if you’re currently swimming in returns right now, but one of the best ways to have a successful returns season is to avoid returns in the first place. A knockout pre-sale live chat strategy in place is the way to do it.

Remember the NOW customer? They love to be engaged. In fact, customers who are engaged by a brand tend to make purchases 90% more often, and spend 60% more per transaction than customers who aren’t engaged. And with online shopping, nothing is more engaging than a human agent, available at any time to help customers with whatever they need.  

When a NOW customer is engaged and supported through their purchase, they’re more likely to make better-informed decisions, which can reduce the likelihood they’ll return the product later. 

Simplr partners like Princess Polly and Steve Madden use 24/7 human-staffed chat to connect with shoppers and support pre-sale needs; and this does two things: it can increase conversionsin some cases by several percentage pointsand helps prevent so many returns in the first place!

Have a flexible, transparent return policy 

Simplr Specialists see a lot of tickets from frustrated customers who feel blindsided by a company’s return policy. Hearing that you’ve missed the return cutoff or accidentally auto-renewed a subscription for another year can really bring out the rage typing. (Admit it, you’ve been there!)

One of the best ways to avoid angering your NOW customers (at any time of year) is to always have your return policy front-and-center on your support page, purchase page, and in customer emails. 

This might seem like a no-brainer, but based on the volume of tickets our Simplr Specialists handle related to this point, it’s definitely an area to review. 

Take this example below from Princess Polly. Their extended return info is linked in a premium spot on their website’s home page. Additionally, their Returns & Exchanges page lays out all the information a shopper would need in order to initiate or check on a return or exchange: 

Remember: the NOW customer moves quickly, so it’s always a good idea to put information in front of them as frequently as possible. And, especially in this crazy year, flexibility is key. The more flexibility you can offer, with extended timelines or returns options, the better. 

Offer self-service return options

Part of understanding the new NOW customer is understanding when and how to engage with them in different ways. When it comes to returns, many customers just want a quick and easy way to make it happen on their own so they can move on with their lives. 

In fact, according to Zendesk, 48% of Millennials are more likely to look for ways to solve problems on their own.

Another fact: when self-service returns are working well, this also frees up agents to focus more on pre-sale opportunities, which can help capture more revenue and avoid more returns. 

As an example, Steve Madden has an easy-to-use return portal which guides the shopper easily through the experience. And it doesn’t hurt that they showcase more products in the process! 

Speed up your email response times

Email is a great channel to manage returns. But, it’s got to move fast or you risk frustrating your customer—who may decide to take their future business elsewhere because they’re aggravated or feeling neglected. 

As part of Simplr’s mystery shop of 790 online brands earlier this year, we discovered that the average email response time was 48 hours. That’s way too long for the NOW customer! 

According to a recent report from Toister Performance Solutions and SuperOffice, 31% of shoppers expect a customer service email response within 1 hour. 

We know that consumers value responsiveness in CX and that they’re comparing your CX to the best experiences they’ve had. So then it’s not totally surprising—even if it’s kind of scary—that 4 in 10 consumers say they’ve dropped an online retailer due to poor customer service. 

But there’s so much opportunity here to engage those NOW customers in the moment with faster email responses that will stand out from the average. 

What’s your returns season outlook?

There’s a reason the word “unprecedented” has been so overused over the last year. Whether it’s in business or our personal lives, we’ve never seen anything quite like the world we’re navigating now. And despite the pains and challenges, there are glimmers of opportunity for companies to make changes that engage more customers and strengthen the business for the long haul. 

We may be in uncharted territory in terms of the volume of online shopping and projected holiday returns, but what we know for sure is that the NOW customer is here, and they are expecting you to be on your A-game. 

So, how are you feeling heading into what’s likely to be the biggest returns season in history? Connect with the Simplr team to share your returns season outlook (or blow off some steam during this stressful time!)