Preparing your return strategy for the 2020 holiday season

4 minute read

The holiday season has always brought an influx of orders for online retailers, and this year will be no exception.

In light of COVID-19, online shopping has experienced an increase in popularity, and 48 per cent of shoppers mostly or exclusively plan to shop online for the holidays.1

Online sales go hand in hand with online returns. Ensure your business is equipped to meet shopper’s expectations and build loyalty well beyond the holiday season through your returns policy.

Your returns policy will make or break your shopper’s decisions to purchase

In a recent survey, 64 per cent of online shoppers said they would choose one retailer over another based on their flexible returns policy.2

Your customer’s shopping experience extends far beyond their purchase. Delivery and returns are a big factor in their decision to buy, so take the time to ensure your returns policy is rooted in serving your customers. Clear delivery timelines and easy return processes will help your brand build goodwill, strengthen confidence in your business and ultimately win sales.

Here’s what you need to do to succeed both during and beyond the holiday season.

Minimize returns while securing the sale

Great returns policies make returns easy, but you don’t want to encourage frequent returns.

To minimize returns without sacrificing customer experience, here are some pre-purchase steps that e-commerce customers say minimize the likelihood of product returns:

  • Provide more accurate and detailed product descriptions. More details lead to more informed purchases. 40 per cent of online shoppers said that they could have prevented a return if they were given more accurate and detailed descriptions prior to purchase.3
  • Provide more accurate product measurements. Exact measurements will help online shoppers understand how a product will fit into their lives even before it is delivered.
  • Include more or better pictures of items. Give shoppers a complete view and full understanding of your product. Different angles, realistic product placements and interior images are all things that can instill buyer confidence and prevent any surprises upon delivery.
  • Provide a size chart specific to each item. One-size-fits-all doesn’t always apply. Item-specific size charts can help diminish returns. 37 per cent of online shoppers said they’ve had to return items because they didn’t fit.4

Not only will this information help minimize returns, but additional details about your products can help convert browsers into buyers as well.

For more holiday insights, read our blog.

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Key elements of a best in-class returns experience

During the 2019 holiday season, 62 per cent of online shoppers paid more attention to return policies.5 With more consumers projected to shop online this year, it’s important to ensure you’re offering the best returns experience possible. Based on our customer research, here are some elements to consider:

Make it clear

Make your returns policy easy to locate and understand. Feature key policy changes, like an extended return deadline during the holiday season, directly on your home page. This small change could boost your shopping cart conversion rates – 30 per cent of online shoppers cited a concern over the returns policy as a reason for cart abandonment.6 The clearer your policy, the more likely customers will shop with you.

Make it simple

Offer a simple returns process. Consumers evaluate how straightforward your returns experience is before they make their gift purchases. This is especially true during the holidays, as they want their family and friends to have an easy process when exchanging or returning gifts.

I requested a return and then a shipping label was emailed to me. I sent it back for an easy return, and the money was credited back to my card quickly.

Canadian online shopper

Make it convenient

Consider extending your returns window during the holidays. During the pandemic, 34 per cent of online shoppers picked one retailer over another because of their extended return window.7 Expect this number to be higher throughout the holiday season as customers look for longer return periods so their recipients have time to return gifts, if needed.

Think of extending returns for purchases made from late November onward into January, or even early February. Keep in mind that due to the increased amount of online orders, returns may take longer to reach your facilities than in years past.

It was easy to go online and get a prepaid shipping label. I just repackaged the item and dropped it off at a post office. I appreciate having return shipping paid, it makes online shopping with this store a real option.

Canadian online shopper

Make it flexible

Give customers options that let them decide how they’d like to make their returns. For example, offering both in-store and mail returns gives customers flexibility and builds confidence you can translate into future purchases.

The option to return items by mail or courier was an influencing factor to 40 per cent of shoppers when deciding which retailer to shop with, while 25 per cent of shoppers look for in-store return options!8

The best experience I’ve had is when I ordered online with free shipping and then was able to bring the item to the store to process a return/exchange. They were friendly, apologized for the defective item and offered a free replacement delivered to my home or a full refund.

Canadian online shopper


Make it easy for customers to get a return label from you, either on-demand or right in the box. This goes a long way in creating the right experience. Our Returns Guide provides in-depth benefits and tips to set up both label options – helping you decide which strategy works best for your business.

Taking the time to evaluate and polish your returns policy as the holiday season approaches will help your business. In addition to encouraging holiday shoppers to shop with you, you can build brand confidence and customer loyalty by providing a returns experience tailored to the wants and needs of online shoppers.

1 2 6 7 8 Canada Post. 2020 Spring Survey, 20-208, June 2020.
3 4 Canada Post. 2019 Canadian Online Shopper Study, CPC 19-201, April 2019.
5 Canada Post. 2019 Holiday Shopping Behaviours, 19-225, January 2020.

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