Attracting customers with exchange policies

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Christmas business Attracting customers with exchange policies

Published on 19.11.2019 by Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

The holiday shopping season is just around the corner, with the potential for generating considerable sales revenue. And retailers’ exchange policies play a crucial role in this respect.

As we all know, not every present under the Christmas tree gives the recipient as much joy as the gift-giver had hoped for. And that’s frustrating for everybody involved. But retailers can reduce the disappointment by offering smart deals.

Extend your returns period

Customers within the European Union can change their minds and withdraw from a contract of sale within 14 days. Christmas presents are typically bought several days ahead of the holidays, so recipients can return them at the earliest between Christmas and the turn of year.

Even though Switzerland doesn’t operate a comparable policy in online retail, retailers should ideally act as partners to their customers in the run-up to Christmas and grant them an (extended) right of return. This is especially true when serving customers from abroad.

Most major retailers in Germany (Otto, Conrad, QVC etc.) have been doing so for many years. This benefits not only the customers, but also the retailers themselves as it saves them having discussions with consumers trying to assert their rights far too late and requests being handled on a case-by-case basis. More importantly though, consumers who feel that they won’t be stuck with (unwanted) goods after Christmas tend to buy more.

But there are two things to bear in mind if you decide to introduce such a customer-friendly option. First of all, the returns policy should be set out in your Terms and Conditions. To avoid unnecessary discussions, the description must be as precise as possible. Be clear that the returns policy exclusively applies to intact merchandise and that refunds will only be granted for the value of the goods but not for shipping costs.

Also remember that retailers only benefit from this special service if customers know about it. Consider shop banners and teasers as well as a newsletter to existing customers as advertising measures.

Make sending returns easier

Make the returns process as simple as possible. To make things particularly convenient and compelling for the customer, you could enclose a matching parcel label with a consignment. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to offer free returns. But not every household is equipped with a printer nowadays and providing a return label prevents additional stress for the customer.

You should also ask about the reasons for the return on the return slip. Such information can provide valuable data in cases of doubt. It can help you identify imprecise product descriptions, for example.

Retailers who operate high street outlets in addition to an online shop can allow returns at their nearest store, for example. This is also a way of drawing customers back into the shops, with the prospect of them choosing something else on-site. Or they may respond to year-end deals.

Align your processes with returns

It goes without saying that exchanges are only smooth and convenient for customers if retailers have adjusted their internal processes to the returns. Order and invoice dates must be checked to ensure that only eligible products are processed. Readily available text modules for e-mail communication simplify internal handling. And of course employees must also be convinced of the benefits of such processes.

Don’t forget, of course, that customers will reward your goodwill. Even if they don’t make a return purchase, they’ll certainly recommend you to friends and acquaintances or add posts on social media – something that’s pretty valuable nowadays.

Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

Stephan Lamprecht has been following e-commerce developments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for two decades as a journalist and consultant.

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