How to Optimize In Store Holiday Returns

How to Optimize In Store Holiday Returns
Refunds and exchanges are a natural part of the holiday season. Make the process seamless for your customers by adapting new technology and methods that can set your store apart.
by Square Jan 06, 2023 — 3 min read
How to Optimize In Store Holiday Returns

Returns and exchanges are a natural part of the buying process, especially when it comes to holiday shopping. That holiday sweater for someone’s cousin simply might not fit and that gold bracelet your sister had to have might already be in her jewelry box (because she just couldn’t resist). According to CNBC, retailers expected 17.8% of items sold during the 2021 holiday season to be returned, totaling over $150 billion worth of merchandise. Making returns easy and convenient for customers can help retain a large portion of this revenue to help you better serve your shoppers and maintain the financial health of your business. 

According to Forbes, buy online, return in store (BORIS) is among the most convenient ways to manage returns, with 54% of consumers preferring in-person drop-offs at a designated retail location. But customer convenience aside, there are plenty of other ways BORIS can make an impact.

The benefits of buy online, return in store (BORIS)

Improving the customer experience

We’ve already established that in-person returns are a highly preferred method for customers, but they can also help you discover other ways to manage the customer experience. Using customer data, look for trends in what particular items are returned. If there’s always an increase in shirt returns, consider ways to make your sizing chart or measurements more clear online and your size organization more effective in-store. Online this could be as simple as making your size chart more visible, and in-store it could be as simple as making sure your sizes are in order. For example, make sure all mediums are labeled as such (and keep the medium shirts from sneaking onto the small hanger).

There’s also the opportunity to send surveys to customers after they make a return and ask them how you can improve the experience. In a Doodle survey, 74% of shoppers said that U.S. retailers should do more to improve their returns experience. Learn exactly what your customers prefer and use it to your advantage. 

Managing your inventory

It goes without saying that returns impact your inventory. But using an inventory management tool that manages your stock count in real-time creates the opportunity for future sales. If you’re a store that uses omnichannel selling, returns made in-store can create an uptick in what’s available online. Imagine a customer searches your website for a popular candle and is greeted with an “out of stock” notification. The next day, the customer checks again to see if anything changes, and thanks to the added inventory because of a return, your candle stock increases to two or three. 

Instead of buying one candle, the customer may potentially buy more to prevent running into another “out of stock” notification. This helps keep your sales running smoothly and your customers happy.

Upselling and cross-selling

One of the best things about in-store returns is that it brings customers back into your store. If your customer is on the hunt for an exchange, they can browse the store for a different size or color and come across other items they want to purchase as well. If your customer simply wants to return the item for a refund or store credit, chances are they still may find something else they’ll want to purchase. In some cases, this new purchase can cost more than the original item and lead to a bigger sale

Maximizing in-person returns

Flexible return stations

Long lines are a turn-off for customers at any point in the shopping journey but especially when it comes to returns. They’re more than likely frustrated that they have to make a return and having to wait in a long line could add to the aggravation. Setting up flexible return stations throughout your store can alleviate the long line and make the return process (and even the exchange process depending on how it’s set up) simple. 

Mobile POS systems are a great way to set up flexible return stations throughout your store. Square’s mobile POS systems are able to process payments and issue refunds and gift cards so regardless of whether your customer wants to receive a full refund or store credit, your staff is able to make it happen just about anywhere in your store. 

Third-party drop off sites

Third party drop off sites are becoming increasingly popular for consumers which is good news for your business. If your store happens to be too far for a customer, they can easily drop off the item they want to return at a drop off site. The item still makes its way back to your store, and shoppers are still able to receive refunds. This process keeps your customers happy and can even help take some of the strain off of your staff to keep your store flowing smoothly.

Seventy three percent of customers who returned an item via a third party drop off site reported a 73% satisfaction rate – 10% higher than those who returned to a store. While the difference in preference could be impacted by different factors, the most important thing is that your customers are satisfied with their post-purchase experience. Positive return experiences matter to customers with 84% noting that it would encourage them to shop with the retailer again.

Prioritize your customers and the post-purchase experience by making returns and exchanges as simple and convenient as possible. Buy online, return in-store can have a real impact on your business, but it won’t matter if customers don’t know it exists. Use Square Marketing to educate shoppers on all of the ways your store is making shopping easier. 

The Bottom Line is brought to you by a global team of collaborators who believe that anyone should be able to participate and thrive in the economy.


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