Karin Ballestrazze
January 3, 2014 | Karin Ballestrazze

How to handle post holiday returns

If you sell wine online, the holidays are over and it's now your least favorite time of year: return season. Whether people received a gift they didn't want or customers mistakenly ordered too much wine for the holidays, your employees have to process returns and coordinate wine shipping, especially for exchanges.

While we know you would rather have no returns, not being prepared for the inevitable can cause your winery to lose future business. There are a number of mistakes wineries make during the post-holiday rush that can be costly. 

For example, if you don't have enough employees on the schedule to process returns, new shipments can be delayed, leading to "rampant customer dissatisfaction", noted in Entrepreneur. Even if your e-commerce fulfillment is excellent, shoppers don't want to wait weeks for their exchange to arrive. The staff members who process returns also need to be able to use their judgment when it comes to handling returned wine. Beyond your employees, your e-commerce platform needs to be advanced enough to manage returns and exchanges with adding workload or causing delays. 

In addition to return processing, you should make sure your policy is in an easy-to-find spot on your website and is laid out in straightforward terms. If certain purchases are not returnable, this needs to be outlined in a clear location when customers are making purchases. Another way to avoid ambiguity is to 

list the return policy on the checkout page. In addition, you need to ensure your policy isn't too limiting so customers have enough time to send products back.

Streamlined return policy is the key to customer satisfaction
Returns are a growing annoyance for online retailers. In fact, 60 percent of Internet shoppers returned something in 2013, which is a 51 percent increase from the year before, according to Practical Ecommerce. Despite these scary figures, 95 percent of customers are likely to make future purchases from retailers that offer an easy return process. While you can't avoid returns completely, it's important to make them as pain-free as possible for everyone involved. The majority of shoppers will refer friends or family members to an e-commerce vendor after they have a good experience returning or exchanging a product, so it can pay off for you in the long run. 

View returns as an opportunity, not a hassle
In the perfect world, all of your customers would be satisfied all the time and would never want to send e-commerce purchases back. But unfortunately, this isn't the world most wineries are situated in, so you have to be prepared to be flexible and accommodating when it comes to exchanges. As annoying as returns can be, they can be used as a chance to build customer satisfaction and upsell in certain product categories. As previously mentioned, shoppers are more likely to return to an online wine store when they have a good experience with a return. Repeat customers tend to spend more per purchase. In addition, exchanges can be treated as a selling opportunity. Though it isn't ideal to process returns, they have some advantages. 



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