Best Practices for Post Holiday Returns
Nearly 20% of Americans will return at least one holiday gift, which translates to longer lines at the service desk. Planning now for the post-holiday return crush will help you deliver an excellent customer experience and profit from the increased foot traffic. The National Retail Federation (NRF) notes that return policies play a significant role in consumer spending in stores, so it is important to craft a return policy that is customer-friendly while preserving your margins.
Implementing best practices for holiday returns requires a blend of pre- and post- purchase solutions.
Consider relaxing your return policy for the holiday shopping season.
Crafting the perfect return policy for your unique store operations is an inexact science and a fine art. Effective return policies balance the cost of returns, including return abuse and fraud, with customer convenience, which prevents lost sales. Most retailers base their return policies on a mix of customer data and intuitive business sense, although an econometric model has been developed by marketing science researchers based out of the Kellogg School of Management. The researchers developed a model that quantifies the impact of a more or less stringent return policy on customer purchase decisions. The model also determines how much more consumers will pay for the privilege of being able to return merchandise. Not surprisingly, the greater margin of error there is in purchase, the more value customers place on a convenient return policy.
It is a very common practice for retailers to relax their return policies during the holiday shopping season. The NRF finds that about 1/3 of all retailers offer less stringent post-holiday return policies for this critical shopping season. Most national retailers' policies include the ability to return or exchange purchases up to thirty days after Christmas. While many independent retailers struggle to match this timeframe, failing to do so can cost them sales and customers. Most customers expect that any non-perishable products purchased during November and December will be covered under a fairly liberal holiday policy. In addition to building consumer goodwill and customer loyalty, a more lenient policy can be a source of differentiation in a competitive holiday shopping landscape.
Your optimal return policy will consider many factors including the industry standard for your merchandise, the actual merchandise you carry, your market position and your margin on the merchandise, your vendor's return policies and what your local competition offers for returns.
Prevent problems before they begin.
Making sure your return policy is visible to the customer is one of the easiest, and certainly the most cost-effective, “best practices” you can implement. Make your policy known both when a customer is making a purchase and at the time the return is made. Whether you require a receipt or the item not to be used or opened, prominently putting this policy at eye level will help to limit confusion and disputes. Lavi Industries can help with signage solutions and custom graphics that make implementing this practice a breeze.
Speed Up or Eliminate the Return Queue.
Beyond the stress of making a return, customers can be frustrated with long queues for processing returns. Effectively planning your queue can improve queue flow and customer experience. Implementing a Single Line Queue (SLQ) reduces average wait times and eliminates perceptions that waits are unfair, which is a source of irritation to many consumers. Lavi Industries offers easy-to-implement, cost effective call forward systems for single and multiple line queues that dramatically improve efficiency and queue flow.
Lavi Industries also offers a wide variety of station lights and retractable belt stanchions to optimize your queues.
A very budget-friendly solution to improve queue flow is to educate consumers in the queue about how to make their return go smoothly. In-line signage, such as a post top sign, encouraging customers to have their receipt and other documentation ready will make the line move more quickly and will be a more positive experience for the customer.
A virtual queue allows customers to shop for other items while waiting to return merchandise. Our innovative, budget-friendly Qtrac VR electronic queuing system enables customers to browse and receive notification when a service person is able to assist them with their return.
Collect and analyze return data to help prevent return fraud.
The National Retail Federation estimates return fraud and abuse is valued between $9.6 and $14.8 billion. Capture as much data as possible at the point of return so that a customer's return behavior can be monitored. NRF estimates return fraud during the holidays is 23% above full year rates, due in large part to 20% higher return rates and seasonal hiring practices. This has a $2.7 billion negative impact on retail profits during this critical selling period. Reducing sweethearting shrinkage through single line queues, training store staff and providing clear return guidelines can all help reduce fraudulent returns.
Educate your staff to promote exchanges rather than cash returns.
Training your staff to offer options other than cash back can have a big impact on overall profits for the store. When the holiday season is over, you may have to offer merchandise on clearance or as part of a post holiday sale. By encouraging customers to exchange products rather than receive a cash refund, you retain your hard won holiday sales.
Create effective systems for recovering the value of returned goods.
It is important to have an efficient method of retrieving value from the returned products. By processing the products quickly and sorting them by the quality of the return, the products can be restocked, discounted or disposed of.
Although returns are costly, it is important not to lose site of the consumer. Always provide information on the returns process to ensure that you do not damage the long-term relationship with the customer by making it more difficult than necessary to return products. Handling returns efficiently can be an opportunity to brand your store while ensuring that customer interactions remain financially beneficial. The experts at Lavi Industries are ready to help you prepare so you can convert holiday returns into positive returns for your store. Call us now at (888) 285-8605.