In 2018, Black Friday/Cyber Monday week was the busiest week ever for online shopping according to CBS News. Increased online ordering reduces car traffic and customers inside of retail stores. It also leads to more returns sent back to online retailers.
In fact, many online retailers include a return label with orders that are sent out. Some industries such as clothing, can see up to a 50% return rate for online orders. Many returns are exchanges, creating double the shipping for the return and new product. Ups says returned packages hit a new peak in 2018. In one Wednesday after Black Friday UPS had 1.5 million packages returned.
This quick step-by-step guide helps to show easy ways to protect returned products. Protected products help to ensure a the maximum refund will be provided once returned.
Step 1: Contact the Seller
Once it is obvious the product needs to be returned, the seller should be contacted. Any online retailer will need to know the return is being requested. If the ordered product is returnable the return authorization process can begin.
The return authorization provides everything needed for the return. The authorization will have a reference number to indicate what the return is. The return authorization will also have a shipping address for the return. See the example return authorization below.
Step 2: Prepare the Product for Shipping
Preparing the product for shipping should focus on the product being re-sold. If the original product packaging is available, place the product and all components inside of the packaging. Try to close the packaging as it arrived new without causing any damage.
If the original packaging is not available, use something to protect the product during transit. A used box to protect and contain the returned product is better than placing the item loosely within a shipping container.
Step 3: Prepare the Shipping Container for Shipping
We highly recommend an exterior shipping container for returning ecommerce orders. The exterior container protects the primary packaging of the returned product. This will help to ensure the product can be re-sold and a full refund will be granted.
We recommend an exterior return container that is slightly larger than the primary container for the product. It is important to use void-fill to keep the product from shifting during transport. Traditional void-fill materials are bubble wrap and Kraft paper. If none are available, we recommend newspaper. The void-fill around the product will help protect from drops and hard handling.
Be sure to include any return paperwork necessary within the shipping container before closing the container. Use packing tape to secure the container edges to stay closed during transport.
After the shipping container is securely closed with products and paperwork inside, a label should be created. It is important to pay attention to the specifics of the return authorization mentioned in step one. Some companies prefer the return authorization number to be included onto the label. This will help reduce confusion when the product is received by the seller.
Step 4: Sending Off the Return
Each seller requires different specifics on the exterior container to properly process returns. Some sellers include a return label in shipped orders. Be sure to pay attention to the carrier the label was made with if it is included in the order.
If there is not a label included with the order, the three primary options are Fedex, UPS, and USPS. If you do not have an account with either of the carriers, we recommend USPS for returns. For smaller products under 20” on any side weighing less than 8 lbs. US Postal is often the cheapest option.
For heavier products, Fedex and UPS are comparable services. Proper labeling on the exterior of the box and the right packaging will help ensure the return arrives back to the seller.
Step 5: Follow Up Email
After the return package is sent, providing the seller with tracking information is always helpful. The tracking information allows the seller a reference for the package and the expected arrival. Some sellers will send out replacement products once return tracking is provided.
Within a few steps, online orders can be returned back to the seller for exchanges or refunds. It is always important to be familiar with the return policy of each company. Knowing which products can be returned and how to return them can save unnecessary headaches.