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3 Tips to Reduce Cyber Monday Returns

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For most retailers, there are two sides to the holiday season: long periods of preparation, followed by short intense bursts of execution. No day is more intense for online retailers than Cyber Monday.

As Black Friday remains the apex for brick-and-mortar stores, Cyber Monday has become the digital equivalent for online retailers. With it less than two months away, now is the time review your Cyber Monday returns plan.

The National Retail Federation has forecasted that holiday sales will increase more than 4 percent to $616 billion this year. In addition, online sales are expected to grow 8 percent to 11 percent, more than twice as fast as brick-and-mortar purchases.

According to a survey conducted by the Retail Equation, here's how returns stacked up for the 2013 holiday season: More than 10 percent of holiday sales were returned within 90 days of purchase. And holiday returns cost retailers more than $58 billion in revenue.

As Cyber Monday becomes increasingly popular among consumers, ecommerce retailers provide a purchasing experience from the convenience of a screen, instead of in the long lines associated with Black Friday.

But an online product order comes with a level of uncertainty. What happens if the product arrives and it's not what the customer expected? Or what if the customer has a frustrating experience with assembly? How can product returns be reduced to keep sales and profits rising?

Here are three tips to follow now to reduce the amount of Cyber Monday returns:

Related: Can Topple Amazon This Holiday Season

1. Offer customers support.

Support is a vital element of the customer experience. Being prepared and answering questions in advance of a purchase will help to prevent returns and increase customer satisfaction. This can mean providing an updated frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on a website, a live chat for buyers or knowledgeable call-center agents.

2. Set proper staffing.

How is your business prepared for the staffing requirements of the holiday season? With the customer experience at stake, big retailers are not taking any chances. Macy's has topped the list this year with an expected 86,000 job openings, about a 4 percent increase over the 2013 season.

As your company prepares for the influx of online orders, make sure the warehouse is prepared to handle Cyber Monday transactions. This includes assuring adequate amounts of workers and products, as well as shipping the correct products and sizes to customers. Take the time to train new staff properly to avoid shipping errors or delays. Products that do not arrive in a timely manner stand a greater chance of being returned.

Related: Into Shape Before the Holidays (Infographic)

3. Provide accurate product descriptions and images.

Without a physical product to touch, online customers are forced to draw their own conclusions based on site descriptions and images. Portraying products in an accurate and pleasing way is vital to closing sales and keeping them from returning to the warehouse a few months later.

Take the time to figure out the products that had a high return rate last year and amend their descriptions and imagery. Work with the customer service team to identify the top questions asked about your products and add this information to the product page and product FAQ. Accurately representing these products will prevent returns down the road.

Providing a video of the product in motion is even better. The closer you can bring your customers to the experience of shopping in the store, the fewer returns you'll have as a result of improper product perception.

The benefits of having a preholiday returns plan are many: improved client satisfaction and retention and an overall increase in customer lifetime value. This is a gift smart retailers can enjoy all year long.

Related: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Website for Cyber Monday

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