This Is When You Need to Be Ready for BFCM Returns

This Is When You Need to Be Ready for BFCM Returns
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As Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) approach, merchants gear up for a sales surge, aiming to maximize revenues during this peak season. However, that excitement comes with a rise in returns.

To navigate this crucial period effectively, merchants must have a fully optimized returns process before the holiday season begins. Additionally, the surge in returns leads to a higher volume of customer support tickets, highlighting the necessity of automating routine tasks. This allows support teams to focus on complex issues, ensuring efficient and effective customer service.

This blog will explore key strategies to help you manage returns this BFCM season.

Understanding the Returns Trend

In our most recent eCommerce Returns Report, we saw that December consistently has the highest volume of returns each year. This trend can be attributed to customers returning unwanted gifts during the holiday season or dissatisfaction with products purchased during BFCM sales.

The spike in returns during December is also driven by impulsive buying behavior. During big sales events like BFCM, customers often make quick purchasing decisions influenced by substantial discounts and limited-time offers. While this boosts sales initially, it can also lead to a higher likelihood of post-purchase regret. Customers may realize that they bought items they don't need or that don't meet their expectations once the excitement of the sale has worn off.

This impulsive buying and subsequent regret contribute significantly to the volume of returns seen in December. Retailers need to prepare for this surge by optimizing their returns processes to handle the increased activity efficiently while maintaining customer satisfaction.

This trend is reflected in the spike of returns around 30 days after Cyber Monday, suggesting a lag in customer returns for items bought during BFCM. This data underscores the importance of merchants having a fully optimized returns process ready before the holiday season.

So, how do we prepare?

Preparing for BFCM Returns

Before the peak season comes around, merchants should check off a few key tasks to ensure their returns process is ready for the influx of returns:

Review and optimize your return policy

Ensure your return policy is straightforward, easy to understand, and prominently displayed on your website. Consider offering extended return windows during the holiday season to accommodate customers who may be returning gifts.

Streamline the returns process

Simplify and automate your returns process to make it easier for your customers and your team. Use a centralized returns solution that integrates with your eCommerce platform, making tracking and managing returns easy.

Plan for increased customer support needs

Anticipate an increase in customer support tickets during December as more customers return items or have questions about their purchases. Automating routine tasks such as tracking returns and issuing refunds can free up support teams to focus on more complex resolutions (more on that later).

Optimizing Your Returns Process

Now that you have the pillars of your returns strategy, the next step is to optimize your returns process to ensure efficiency and customer satisfaction. Place yourself in your customers' shoes and imagine the steps they would take to return an item. Are there areas where you can streamline or improve the process? Here are a few key areas to consider:

Simplify return requests

Simplify the return process for customers by offering clear instructions and a quick online form. A complicated returns process can frustrate customers and discourage future purchases.

A simple return request process looks like this:

  • The customer fills out an online form with their order number, the reason for the return, and their preferred resolution (refund or exchange)
  • The customer receives a return confirmation email with instructions on how to ship the item back
  • The merchant processes the return and issues a refund or exchange accordingly

Simple. Only a few messages back and forth. And most importantly, it is easy for your customers.

Automate shipping labels

Merchants must streamline their returns process to efficiently manage this influx of returns. One effective strategy is to automate the creation of return shipping labels. By doing so, merchants can enhance the customer experience and reduce the operational burden on their staff. 

Benefits of Automating Return Shipping Labels

Automating the creation of return shipping labels offers several advantages:

  1. Efficiency and Speed: Automation significantly reduces the time needed to generate and distribute return labels, allowing customers to initiate returns quickly. This can lead to a more positive shopping experience and encourage repeat business.
  2. Consistency and Accuracy: Automated systems ensure that return labels are generated accurately and consistently, minimizing errors that can occur with manual processing. This reduces the likelihood of shipping issues and ensures that returns are processed smoothly.
  3. Cost Savings: By automating the return label process, merchants can save on labor costs and reduce the time spent on managing returns. This can lead to overall cost savings and better resource allocation.

Integrating Automation with Return Processes

Automation in returns goes beyond just shipping labels. Merchants can leverage automation in various aspects of the returns process to further enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. Here are some key statistics from BFCM 2023 demonstrating the impact of automation on different parts of the returns process:

  • Auto-approval: Automating return approvals led to a 100% reduction in processing time, vastly improving the customer experience.
  • Auto-mark as received: Merchants saw a 31%+ decrease in processing time, reducing wait times by over three days and maintaining customer trust.
  • Auto-refund: Implementing auto-refunds cut processing time by more than five days (43%+ decrease), resulting in quicker refunds and enhanced customer loyalty.

Offer multiple return options

While most customers prefer to receive a refund, some may opt for an exchange or store credit.  Our data showed that retailers who enabled three or more return resolution options had a more than 30% revenue retention rate. Offer multiple options to accommodate different preferences and make the process more convenient for your customers. Popular options include:

  • Refund to the original payment method
  • Exchange for a different product or size
  • Store credit for future purchases

You can offer flexibility in how customers return items, whether it's in-store or by mail, to create a more personalized experience. Partnering with returns depots like UPS or FedEx can provide convenient drop-off options.

Make tracking transparent

Effective communication is crucial for handling returns. Customers appreciate knowing the status of their return and when to expect their refund or exchange. Offering a tracking number helps them follow up, while regular updates via email or SMS keep them informed. Additionally, displaying the return status on their account page adds transparency and peace of mind.

Handling Returns and Support Tickets in December

As noted, December saw a substantial rise in customer support tickets regarding returns. Automate routine tasks like tracking returns and processing refunds to address these efficiently. This approach will allow your support team to concentrate on more intricate issues requiring personalized attention.

To handle this influx efficiently, here are some tips:

Implement self-service options

Providing customers with self-service options, such as a comprehensive FAQ section or a dedicated returns portal, can help address common queries and reduce the number of support tickets. Ensure these resources are easy to navigate and regularly updated with the latest information.

Prioritize communication

Clear and proactive communication is essential during peak season. Keep your customers informed about the status of their returns and any potential delays. Regular updates can help manage customer expectations and reduce the volume of support inquiries.

Scale your support team

Anticipate the need for additional support during peak season and plan accordingly. Whether by hiring temporary staff or reallocating internal resources, ensure that your team is adequately staffed to handle the increased workload.

Use chatbots

Integrating AI-powered chatbots can help handle basic customer inquiries and provide immediate responses. This can free up your customer support team to focus on more complex issues that require human intervention.

A Centralized Returns Management Solution for BFCM

Pay attention to the importance of a well-managed returns process during BFCM. Following these tips and using a centralized management solution like AfterShip Returns can ensure a seamless and efficient customer and team experience.

A single, integrated solution with your eCommerce platform can streamline the entire returns process. This approach simplifies returns for customers, making it easier for them to initiate and track their returns. At the same time, it offers merchants valuable insights into return trends and customer preferences. With these strategies in place, retailers can focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience during peak seasons while minimizing the impact of returns on their business.

So, prepare for BFCM now to ensure a successful holiday season!