Most retailers are on a holiday high right now, watching the cash register ring and the sales add up as a result of all their hard work during the first ten months of the year. And while their heads are down executing on this critical season, it’s important to still be looking forward and mapping out the months ahead.

When January rolls around, returns season starts in earnest, and in many ways retailers shift gears from selling in Q4 to primarily managing and planning in Q1. But it doesn’t have to be this way – with the right post-purchase strategy, retailers can ride the holiday sales wave well into the new year.

The post-purchase experience of shopping online includes critical touchpoints for retailers and brands that are just as important as browsing and buying. Instead of looking at returns as just a necessary process that they need to manage, returns can be used as an opportunity to delight customers, built long term loyalty and ultimately, continue driving sales.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Convenience.
    First and foremost, returns need to be easy for customers. A good way to start is by including return labels with the original shipment or, to save on needless printing, implement a simple process to generate print-at-home return labels. If you’re able to offer free returns shipping, that’s even better – and don’t worry, many of the strategies here can help offset those costs. In fact, offering free returns, may help convince a shopper to make a purchase in the first place. Next, make it as easy as possible to actually ship the package. Working with the U.S. Postal Service – which already visits every address every day, and has blue boxes and post offices for drop-off everywhere – is a great way to do this.
  • Fast exchanges & credit.
    When shoppers buy something new, they want to have and use it immediately. But the necessity of a return may temper some of that excitement, and you want shoppers feeling good at every interaction with your brand. This is why it’s so important to make the process as quick as possible. One way to do this is by moving returns processing closer to the customers by utilizing regional facilities. If you’re able to inspect a package faster, you can ship an exchange or issue credit faster too. Immediately getting credit into a customer’s hands means that they can begin planning their next purchase, and processing returned items faster means that you can quickly get them back into active stock and ready to be resold before the season’s over.
  • Communication.
    Staying in contact with customers and passing along information at every step is critical throughout the entire process. This even starts before they make a purchase by ensuring you have a returns policy that’s easy to find. Remember, policies like free shipping may be the deciding factor on a purchasing decision, but that’ll only be the case if shoppers know about it. Once a package is shipped, push notification to your customer to set expectations on where their return is, and when they’ll receive a credit or find an exchange on their doorstep. These extra touchpoints provide excellent opportunities to build loyalty while market additional products to your best customers.

The holidays have always been a rewarding time for retailers, and by implementing some of these strategies they can make sure those rewards roll into the new year. Offering a post-purchase experience that delights customers can be a gift that keeps on giving for everyone.

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