Buyer’s Remorse Can Become Your Gain! 11 Proven Tips on How to Best Handle Post-Holiday Returns

Returns are unavoidable after the big holiday shopping rush has commenced. But the way you handle them can help you gain long-term customers.

Last year was a doozy for ecommerce. The pandemic drove shoppers online at such a fast rate that 10 years of online retail growth happened in 90 days, per Shopify data. Brick-and-mortar retailers took their businesses online. Consumers were turning to the Internet for everything from work-from-home apparel to groceries, many of them for the first time. Shipping carriers delivered more packages than ever before, experiencing holiday-level demand every day from March onward. Then, at the end of 2020, holiday shopping surged 35% year-over-year. Though some e-tailers were hit hard by the pandemic, others were thriving. Now, however, the growth spurts have likely stalled, and it’s crunch time for handling the post-holiday slump.

With more sales come more returns, and it’s officially returns season. Recent research shows there will be twice as many items returned during this post-holiday season, with costs for businesses reaching $1.1 billion. E-tailers need to be prepared—not only for the returns themselves but also for the opportunities returns present.

What can e-tailers do with the onset of post-holiday ecommerce returns? Read on to find out.

Make Post-holiday Returns Easy

The holidays are over, but the dust is far from settling. Shoppers still have to make their rounds to return items that don’t fit, don’t work or otherwise aren’t going to be kept. Navigating the many stores after a busy holiday season is stressful, and difficult ecommerce returns make the process even more inconvenient. That’s why 81% of consumers want hassle-free returns (with free return shipping) and why they’ll return to shop at the stores that offer it. But it’s not just the customers who reap the rewards—online retailers have reported a whopping 300% jump in sales after creating more convenient returns policies.

Up Your Customer Support Game

Just like with customer-centric ecommerce return policies, shoppers remember the brands that offer high quality customer support. Positive experiences, in turn, make shoppers more likely to purchase again in the future, even if they’re making returns right now. E-tailers can up their customer support game by training reps to efficiently handle the post-holiday returns rush. They can also make use of live chat or chatbots, a popular form of artificial intelligence, to handle basic incoming requests. Forrester research found offering chat boosts conversion rates by 40% and overall revenue by 48%.

Offer Free Return Shipping

Paying for return shipping is one of the most frustrating aspects of returning products bought online. Though 80% of consumers want free return shipping, only 11% of retailers offer it. This is yet another opportunity to stand out and make your online store shine by putting customers first and providing a positive experience. You’ll also be in good company. Shoe e-tailer Zappos does not charge for return shipping, and the company sings the praises of its customers with the highest return rates. Why is this? Those customers spend the most money—far outpacing the losses from return shipping.

Tempt Past Customers with a Discount

Discounts are one of the most powerful tools to keep in your ecommerce arsenal. Eight in ten consumers actively seek out bargains, and shoppers agree they drive both brand awareness and brand loyalty. So why not try to tempt past customers to come back and shop, even if they made a post-holiday return.

It’s more than likely that you have your customers’ email addresses, and you can track which ones recently made returns using an ecommerce CRM (customer relationship management) solution. Simply send an email with the following: an apology for the original purchase not working out, a request to give your store another chance and a small discount code.

Focus on Second-Chance Sales

By the time customers initiate a return, their minds have been made up. The original purchase is a lost cause, so e-tailers should focus instead on the second-chance sale. We have good news on that front. There’s a 64% chance consumers will make another purchase when they visit your site to process an online return.

The key is to make that second-chance sale as easy as possible. During the returns process, showcase your store’s best sellers and recommend the appropriate seasonal products, if you sell any. Get shoppers right back into the sales funnel and be sure your checkout system is optimized for speed and efficiency. It’s one of the top ways to boost ecommerce conversions.

Give Shoppers 60 Days to Return

Consumer confidence is everything when you’re running an online store. Shoppers can’t touch or try out your products until they’ve already made purchases, so they have to judge brands based on the customer experience. Customer-centric returns policies are a great way to instill that confidence and assure shoppers that even if their purchases don’t work out, there will be no hassle.

Part of that policy should be patience, as is giving your customers more time to make returns. The industry standard is a 30-day window, but leading retailers like Nike and Sephora give shoppers 60 days to make a return. Put your store in good company by widening your returns window, and you’ll find that the customers are more receptive to second-chance sales.

As we suggested earlier, showcasing your best sellers and seasonal products is smart, but showcasing recommended products is even smarter. Personalization is a powerful tool in all things ecommerce, and e-tailers can use it to curate products for each customer and drive revenue.

Curating recommended products is a proven tactic that is responsible for 26% of online stores’ revenue and 35% of Amazon’s. What’s more, 49% of customers have bought an unnecessary item that was recommended to them. It’s a no brainer to add this tactic to your post-holiday returns operations. Use each customer’s initial order information to determine which products they kept and recommended based on that.

Ask the Reason for Return

Though we’d love to promise that every return will result in a second-chance sale, that’s simply not the case. Many customers move right along after making their returns, but they can still offer you something valuable: Feedback. Asking the reason for return can help you gain insight into everything from your product quality to your website’s navigation. Use the data you get from your responses to inform your strategy moving forward. Who knows—your return rate could drop.

Utilize Retargeted Ads

Today’s oversaturated media landscape makes it hard to get (and keep) consumers’ attention. There is a constant barrage of new content to digest, and attention spans keep shrinking. That is why many e-tailers have turned to retargeted ads to keep their brands top of mind. Retargeting technology tracks shoppers’ behavior on your site and then displays advertisements on other sites based on that activity.

For example, if a prospective customer was browsing shoes on your site but then bounced to a social media platform like Instagram, ads for the very shoes they were eyeing would appear in their feed. E-tailers can easily set up these ads to retarget all site visitors, including customers who make returns. Seeing your brand again and again could inspire them to give your store another chance.

Use Returns Data to Identify Loyal Customers

Knowing your customers is an important part of every ecommerce operation. They’re the people whose pain points you aim to solve with your products, and they can guide you when you’re growing your business. They’re a valuable resource, but it comes as no surprise that your loyal customers stand above the rest in terms of value to your business.

Existing customers are easier to market and sell to, and loyal customers maximize your average customer lifetime, so you spend less on advertising overall. How do you identify these MVPs? One way is with an ecommerce CRM (customer relationship management) tool, and another is to utilize your returns data.

Beat Buyer’s Remorse with Exchanges

Buyer’s remorse is a real phenomenon, especially during the holiday season, that results in plenty of ecommerce returns. Instead of viewing those returns as losses, why not try to salvage them by offering exchanges? Once customers enter the reason for return, offer an exchange that makes sense based on the reason.

For true buyer’s remorse, you can offer a different product at a lower price point to satisfy the purchase “high” but alleviate the spending guilt. A riskier option is to upsell or cross-sell during the exchange, which has a higher payoff. You’ll save on the cost of the exchange and come out ahead because the customer spent more in the process.

Make Buyer’s Remorse Work for Your Store

Buyer’s remorse can become your gain with these tips for taking advantage of post-holiday ecommerce returns. And by making those returns a breeze with ReadyReturns, you can put your plan into action that much faster.

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