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Amazon Holiday Returns: What Online Sellers Should Expect

With the 2017 holiday shopping season upon us, Amazon holiday returns are at the top of sellers' minds. That's because a higher than usual number of returns is always to be expected this time of year, since most items purchased during the holiday season will be for gifts, and not everyone will want the gift they received.

The tradeoff is that you'll likely be doing a higher number of sales for the holidays, so the extra returns shouldn't hurt your business — as long as you're selling your customers quality products.

Here are a few things you need to know about Amazon holiday returns and how they may affect your business this year.

Knowing these things ahead of time will help your business thrive and keep your customers coming back — even if they returned an item — all while keeping your store safer by making sure you're in compliance with Amazon's policies and promises to its own customers.



Amazon holiday returns policy versus normal returns policy

The first thing you need to know by heart is Amazon's holiday return policy.

Understanding Amazon's returns policy is crucial for buyers and sellers, as it affects them both.

Amazon normally has a 30-day, no questions asked return policy, and any seller who participates in the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program is subject to it.

This policy changes during the holiday season, giving customers and gift recipients until January 31 to ask for a refund or store credit on a defective or unwanted item.

If you're part of the Amazon FBA program, the holiday return policy applies to you. If you're not part of this program, you are allowed to set your own return policies.

Buyers are encouraged to read the return policies of any seller who doesn't use Amazon to fulfill their orders. Amazon also encourages all sellers to have customer-friendly return policies.

If you're not part of Fulfillment by Amazon, the longer holiday return period does not apply to you, unless you choose to adopt it.

Most returns must be unopened, or at least unused and/or undamaged in order to be accepted. This is especially true in the case of food or supplement items. Amazon does not accept returns of these items if they have been used, and does not expect its sellers to, either.



Is there any way to avoid Amazon holiday returns?

No business likes to get returns, but it's important to understand that they're inevitable.

While you're bound to get returns every now and then, even if it's just from people who didn't understand what they were ordering until they received it, you can take some steps to ensure the number of returns you receive is minimal.

• Make sure your product descriptions are detailed and accurate

• Take photos of the product that show it from several different angles, and that show the product as it is

• Use the best keywords so customers find you easily

• Be prompt to respond to customer service questions

• Ship the product right away

• Package your product so it is not likely to get damaged in shipping

• Put tracking on your product when you ship it so you can be sure it gets there

• Use competitive pricing so your customers won't find a better price on the same product from another seller

A solid repricing platform is the best way to always stay on top of your competitors and increase sales while reducing returns, as shoppers won't be as inclined to return something because they found it priced better elsewhere. Repricers are an invaluable investment, especially if you sell a lot on Amazon.



Are certain product categories more likely to get returns or restricted from getting returns during the holidays?

Toys and games, as well as clothing, are the most likely products to be returned during the holiday season, but this is true for any retailer.

Kids get toys they don't like, or they get the "wrong" toy — something they didn't want, such as if they wanted one video game and someone mistakenly got them a different one.

Clothes are often returned because people don't like the style and don't intend to wear it, or the size is wrong.

If you're selling in either of these categories during the holiday season, be prepared for more returns there than in the other categories you sell in. You can offset the increase in returns in those categories by offering more items in other categories.

If you only sell in one category and it is a high return one, make sure you keep a large amount of product in stock, ready to be repriced as soon as a competitor rises or lowers their price on the same item so your customers can make even exchanges from you instead of returns.

Staying well-stocked and competitive in your pricing establishes customer loyalty, which is always a good thing.

On another note, certain items cannot be returned to Amazon or can only be returned to third-party sellers. The image below (from Amazon) explains this in detail:

Amazon holiday returns - Items that cannot be returned



How to make the return experience more positive

When you do get returns this holiday season, make it as pleasant for your customers as possible. This will get you positive reviews, return customers, and the confidence of new customers who are considering buying from you.

Always make refunds with a good attitude and no questions asked, as long as the product is returned to you in good condition. You may even take it a step farther and not require the customer to return the item to you to get the refund. Some sellers do this, and it establishes customer loyalty.

You can also offer customers that make returns:

• coupons on other items you sell

• an automatically lowered price on a similar item

• store credit

• an even exchange

Whatever you can do to make the return process pleasant for your customer —even giving them something extra when they do it — will get you the good reviews that will get your store more exposure, and theoretically, success on Amazon.

Remember, for every return, there is a potential new sale, and a new satisfied and loyal customer.



What should sellers know about Amazon's Return Dissatisfaction Rate metric?

As of November 2015, Amazon introduced a new metric for customers called Return Dissatisfaction Rate that measures the sentiment of customers based on how a seller handled their returns.

Here are some frequently asked questions about Return Dissatsfaction Rate.

You will receive negative points on your return metrics if you:

• Do not respond to a customer within 48 hours of receiving their return request

• Have a customer who leaves negative feedback about their return with you

• If your product is eligible for return and a refund, but you do not issue one and refuse the return request

While these metrics will not negatively impact your account standing with Amazon yet (Amazon admits that this may change in the future), it will give you an idea of how well you are serving your customers when it comes to returns.

If you're not serving your customers well in this area, they may not come back, and their negative feedback may warn others away from your store.

Essentially, you should remember that returns are a part of any retail business. It does not mean you will be put out of business unless your product is a bad one, or your customer service regarding returns is bad.

If you serve your customers well with returns, they will serve you well with repeat business and positive feedback.


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