Reducing Costs During High Return Season: A How-To Guide

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the winter holiday season fast approaching, it’s inevitable that your eCommerce business will experience an increase in sales. With that comes increased levels of returns. Research has showed that 30% of all online orders are returned.

Returns can take a real toll on your revenue, so it’s essential that you take action and adapt your strategy to reduce returns costliness.

We at Flinke have compiled this guide to reduce the likelihood of orders being returned and to minimise the financial effects of returns on your eCommerce business.


Package more effectively to reduce the risk of damage

Delivering your customer’s orders to them in perfect condition is an essential part of the fulfilment process and is instrumental to customer satisfaction.

A study into consumers’ reasons for returning purchased items found that in 2020, over 80% of consumers returned an item due to it arriving broken or damaged. Therefore, safe and sound delivery of goods should be your eCommerce business’s utmost priority during the holiday season if you want to keep costs at a minimum.

An excellent way to prevent damage to any orders sent out is to improve the quality of your packaging. High-quality packaging increases the likelihood of your customer’s satisfaction and ensures that should the item be returned, it gets back to you in one piece for recirculation.

Here are some best practices for order packaging that you should apply to your eCommerce business:

  • Use packaging that fits the product

The box you use to package your customer’s order should be large enough to fit the item/s and any protective materials, but not too large that there is a lot of space for items to move around in. Packaging orders in boxes that are too big inconveniences customers and increases shipping costs.

  • Use the correct protective packaging

More delicate or expensive items will require more protective packaging like bubble wrap to minimise compression or damage. Some items will only need protective wrapping or cheaper materials like packing peanuts. To avoid incurring extra costs, assess which items require additional protection beforehand and create a list that includes the type of packaging for each product.

Improve your business’ returns policy

Putting more obstacles in the way of returns and having a strict returns policy will discourage customers from shopping with you again. Returning an item to your store should be a straightforward process that can be completed within minutes. Make sure your returns policy is transparent by being upfront and clear about which items are returnable or partially refundable. This should reduce the likelihood of return in the first place.

Recover revenue from returns by encouraging exchanges

You can still recoup profits depending on how you deal with returned orders. There are several strategies that you can employ to recover value from returns. This includes 

    • Encouraging exchanges over returns: Make exchanges preferable by ensuring that they are quick and effortless. Before your customer returns their item/s, suggest similar items or alternative styles, colours, and sizes. This way, your customer might be inclined to order another item from your business rather than return their original order.
    • Providing incentives for choosing to exchange rather than return: You can offer free shipping on exchanges to encourage your customers to select this option. You could also offer discounts and promotions on exchanged items.
    • Giving your customers more time to exchange items: The return window of most eCommerce businesses is 30 days. You could have a competitive edge over other businesses by elongating the exchange window and shortening the return window to two weeks. This gives customers more of an opportunity to browse your store and make an exchange rather than seek a refund.


Optimise your inventory management

A well-organised and orderly inventory management system is vital for any eCommerce business during this high buy and high return season.

You should be tactical about stocking specific products and restocking to ensure that customers don’t face the dreaded ‘out-of-stock’ pop-up when they attempt to buy or exchange an item. Therefore, ensuring that your inventory management system or the system used by your partner’s fulfilment centre has the infrastructure to get returned items back into circulation as quickly as possible is vital to avoid losing out on any profit.


We hope this guide helped you to navigate the difficult task of reducing returns and prepared you for the high return season. We have also composed a guide on preparing your business for Black Friday and Cyber Monday; check out our blog here.

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