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The Gift of Hassle-Free Returns

December 18, 2007

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were a strong start to the 2007 holiday shopping season. According to National Retail Federation, more than 147 million consumers hit the stores on Black Friday weekend, a 4.8 percent growth from last year. And online shoppers spent a record $733 million the following Cyber Monday, according to comScore Inc., a leading internet market research firm.

While this is great news for e-tailers, one thing is inevitable: holiday exchanges and returns. And with such a robust shopping season, it's possible that a robust return season will follow.

Retailers have to provide a hassle-free shopping experience from start to finish to attract and retain consumers--and that includes an easy return process. In fact, a painless return process can help keep the online momentum strong through the season and the new year.

According to the fourth annual survey sponsored by Austin, Texas-based returns processor Newgistics Inc. and commissioned by Harris Interactive, for the third year in a row, at least nine out of 10 direct shoppers cited a convenient return policy as very important, important or somewhat important in deciding to shop with a new or unknown online or catalog retailer. Additionally, 69 percent of respondents said they aren't likely to shop again with a direct retailer if the return process is inconvenient. Furthermore, 68 percent of respondents said the ability to make a return from home was very important or important when deciding whether to shop with an online or catalog retailer.

Given these statistics, here are five tips for a hassle-free return process:

Melissa Campanelli is a leading expert in small business e-tailing. She is also the co-author of several books on e-business, including Open an Online Business in 10 Days, as well as editor-in-chief of eM+C, eMarketing and Commerce, a Target Marketing Publication, which covers the world of e-commerce and e-marketing for traditional marketers.