Online shopping is great, but the stress of returns? Not so much. eCommerce returns are a hazard for any online retail business, especially around the gift-giving flurry of the holiday season. Any smart online retailer will have a plan in place for managing the post-holiday return rush, so make sure you're prepared for it.

Product returns are frequent for online stores becaues customers aren't able to try and test products prior to purchase. But, a high eCommerce return rate can add up to huge, unexpected expenses for online merchants. The Christmas season sees a particularly high volume of holiday returns as people send back gifts that are the wrong size - or just unwanted.

If you're smart about it, you'll have a few strategies in place that'll help reduce your site's eCommerce return rate. Here's a closer look.

What Percentage of Christmas Gifts are Returned?

Studies show that approximately 17 percent of Christmas gifts are returned by the recipient. And, according to UPS, the eCommerce return rate is three times higher than what physical shops experience. In certain categories - like apparel and electronics - ecommerce returns can be as high as 30 percent.

12 Ways to Reduce Holidays Returns in eCommerce

Further research has shown that approximately 65 percent of all eCommerce returns can be avoided by the retailer. With sizing, colors, and product descriptions all a potential minefield for error, it's not surprising that online retail has a high rate of return. Here are a few ideas for how to cut your post-holiday return rate.

  • Be Clear about holiday return policies: Holiday returns are inevitable. But to avoid frustrations - for both yourself and your customers - it helps to make sure your holiday return politices are very clear before the point of purchase. This is especially true over Christmas when gifts may need to be returned without receipts. Do you have a guidelines in place for gift returns? If not, now's the time to start thinking about these.
  • Be Sure of Product Quality: Another way to reduce your eCommerce return rate is to ensure the quality of the products you sell. If you sell products that don't meet the mark, you'll be left with unhappy customers who won't waste any time in returning your products after delivery.
  • Use High-Quality Images: Research shows that approximately 23 percent of product returns are the result of inaccurate website descriptions. To counter this, make sure to upload high-quality images that show details features  of your products to ensure your customers have an accurate idea of the products they're ordering.
  • Adjust Product Mix: Often, many returned products are part of one particular category. To minimize your eCommerce return rate, find out if there are any particular categories that are causing you problems. If you can identify these, you can adjust your product mix to try and reduce returns.
  • Optimize the Product Descriptions: You want to make sure that your customers get as good an idea as possible of the products you're selling, and this means you'll need very details product descriptions. Be specific about sizing, materials, colours, fit, and other important details.
  • Honesty Is Key: Don't waste time misleading your customers. You'll only end up with bad reviews and low sales volume. Avoid editing images too heavily and describing your products inaccurately. You want to make sure your customers have an accurate idea of the product they're buying.
  • Utilize Product Reviews: Online shoppers rely mostly on customer reviews when making the devision to buy things online. With the honest opinions left by previous buyers, these customers will be able to determine if your product is right for them. They can also find answers to questions that you might not be available to respond to immediately.
  • Provide Customer Service and Support: Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you and your representatives. Offering good support through calls, live chats or emails can significantly minimize returns.
  • Offer On-Time Delivery: This is especially important if you offer time-sensitive products. If a customer has to wait a long to for a product to be delivered, they might end up buying it from somewhere else and later returning yours. The possibility of returns is higher if customers aren't able to use the products when they need them.
  • Check Products Before Shipping: You've got an order list as long as your arm? Great. But before you pack and send them off, take the time to check all your products for damage or other issues that may lead to a customer returning them. That final check can go a long way in reducing your eCommerce returns.
  • Mind Your Packaging: Do your products arrive broken? Wrinkled?  Chipped? If the answer is yes (even once!), then it's time to reevaluate your product packaging. If your products are in any way fragile, then the packaging has to be protective as well as attractive. If your products arrive at their destination in good condition, they're less likely to be returned.
  • Set Up FAQs: Having a dedicated page to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and providing answers to them will significantly reduce returns. Focus on questions around on your product descriptions and be as detailed as possible with your answers.

Don’t Take a Holiday from Cutting Your eCommerce Returns!

Managing you eCommerce returns is one of the keys to having a happy holiday season.

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