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Best Practices for Retail Returns

Posted by Emily Fanning on Jan 23, 2020
Emily Fanning
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Returns. It's an anxiety-inducing word in the retail industry, and January is where we see the highest volume, with upwards of $90 billion worth of merchandise purchased over the holidays expected to be returned this year.

But! No need to fright just yet.

Returns are inevitable, yet with the right technology and superior customer service, you can provide a great return experience for customers, thus promoting additional purchases and brand loyalty and trust. According to UPS's Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, 73% of shoppers say the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again, and 68% of agree that the returns experience shapes their overall perception of a retailer.

Here are a few necessities for delivering customers that seamless, transparent, hassle-free return experience:


73% of shoppers say the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again.


A fair and highly visible return policy

Fair is the key word — it should be so for both you and your customer. LL Bean's now infamous (former) return policy—lifetime guarantee — was overly generous to the point of being heavily abused, giving consumers the loophole to take back 30-year-old boots they found in their grandfather's attic for a new replacement pair. How do you find the balance between a policy that inspires customer trust, versus being too lenient and watching your margin take hit after hit? Be as specific and transparent as possible and consider all of these requirements, as they relate to your business or product offering:

  • Original tags still attached
  • Must be unworn/unused/unwashed/unaltered
  • No returns of final sale or clearance items
  • Customer will receive a refund or store credit for the amount paid, not the current sticker price.
  • Any free gifts with purchase received must accompany returns in order to receive a refund or credit.

In regards to return window, consider crafting a policy that inspires swiftness, but doesn't outright deny customers who wait a little longer; ie. receive a full refund if purchase is returned within 10 days, store credit if returned within 30. Tip: For online orders, note that the return window counts from the day the package is delivered.

Make sure your policy is posted everywhere — air on too many places as opposed to not enough! Cashwrap, receipts, online order confirmation emails, dressing room, checkout page, FAQ page. Do not give customers the opportunity to take advantage of you by claiming they didn't see it.

And when in doubt, grant the exception: no one wants a scene. Tell the customer you will offer a "one-time exception;" then, add a note to the customer profile in your POS, which helps you keep an eye on chronic returners.

Omnichannel point of sale

Customers don't just want convenience; they demand it. We've reached the point where even providing a prepaid return label is not enough for some consumers: the repackaging, infuriating packing tape, standing in line at the post office...suddenly it's clear why 80% of consumers would rather be able to return an online purchase to a physical location.

To ensure a positive buy online, return in store (BORIS) experience, retailers must have an omnichannel POS in which inventory and orders are synced across all of the enterprise's channels, be it ecommerce site, multiple store locations, or other selling channels. Brands and retailers should be able to reference any customer purchase—no matter where it took place—and accept the return from any store or warehouse. Moreso, the system must be able to recognize the original point of purchase, thus sourcing the return to the original sale location, while putting the inventory back into the physical location that accepted the return.


80% of consumers want the option to return an online purchase to a physical location.


Bonus: An omnichannel system with integrated ecommerce and synced inventory also gives customers the opportunity to research online first, helping to reduce returns in the first place.

A quick and streamlined process

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Springboard Retail next generation sneak peek: Return units from multiple orders within a single transaction!

The only thing less enjoyable than waiting in line to make a purchase? Waiting in line to make a return. The right in-store technology can also prevent this annoyance before it happens. A retail management system that offers mobile POS means retailers can quickly set up a new station and separate line dedicated to returns only.

Additionally, you want a POS that allows you to create a single return ticket from multiple orders. Picture the frequent customer who has shopped with you multiple times over the last month, perhaps even on multiple channels, and wants to do a bulk in-store return: Instead of creating multiple tickets for each item, you'll now have the ability to streamline the process and do everything within a single return transaction.

As brands and retailers, we need to accept the fact that returns will always be a part of business — especially post-holidays — but they are not the plague. As found by the National Retail Federation, 74% of consumers say they are likely to make an additional purchase while making an in-store return (here are a few ways to promote such), and a straightforward, generous, and seamless process is the end all to generating those repeat purchases and customer satisfaction.


Springboard Retail Users:

Learn how to run a returns report so you can analyze return rates for certain products, categories, vendors, and more, to better inform your future buying!

Read More

Topics: Customer Service, Retail Tips & Techniques