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’Tis the Season for Returns

With the Holiday rush behind us and both Black Friday and Cyber Monday a distant memory, a new season for retailers is just beginning. That’s right, when all those regrettable gifts from in-laws and mis-sized sweaters go back where they came from — with the express expectation that they’ll be returned or exchanged without a hassle. According to the National Retail Federation, 8% of total sales are returns — and that number will only rise alongside online shopping, as 1 out of every 5 items bought online is returned.

Returns are an increasingly crucial element of the customer experience. The rush and excitement of buying is replaced by frustration and boredom, and customers want the return process to be over as soon as possible. As a result of their rising frequency, customers have come to expect clear and agreeable terms — the lower the bar to return, the more likely they are to buy. UPS’s research even shows that 15% of customers will abandon their cart if the policy isn’t clear.

Providing a better return experience might feel like hiking uphill in a headwind, but the retailers that are able to overcome the logistical complications will see real rewards. Not only will shoppers be more inclined to buy, they’ll also shop some more if they have to return. UPS also found that 70% of online shoppers made another purchase when returning in-store, and 45% bought something extra when returning online.

Prioritizing the return process means connecting your view of the customer across your service teams and fulfillment partners. However, that prep will be invaluable once the return season is in full swing. Kustomer client DSTLD—a digital-first retailer that sells high-quality, affordable denim and basics—found that laying the groundwork for their exchange process in the offseason paid dividends in terms of customer experience over the holidays. “We’ve created a new process for exchanges to make completing them even easier. As a result, our customers receive their item even faster than before, giving them a better customer experience and helping us stay competitive. Then, when the winter season gets closer, we hire seasonal workers to meet the influx of demand.” Said Laura Gramlich, DSTLD’s Customer Experience Manager.

Returns are, increasingly, inevitable. But with planning, you can deliver a demonstrably better return experience, encouraging customers to shop without fear of a harrowing trial when they get to the service desk. This leads to more willingness to buy, and they may even add a few extra items to their cart as they bring back back a pair of jeans that wouldn’t have fit in middle school. And, by enabling your service teams and streamlining your view of the customer, Kustomer can make that return experience that much better. ’Tis the season!

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