How to Best Handle After-Holiday Returns

Here’s the basics on how to best process returns with your online store, including reviewing your return policy, mastering the process in your shopping cart software, aligning with your warehouse and learning best practices for the future.


Oh, the final days of December. They’re supposed to be all about winding down, taking down the tree and removing the lights from the front yard. Relaxing activities, right? Wrong. For those of us in ecommerce, selling online doesn’t stop with the holidays, especially with customers returning their merchandise for one reason or another.

So what do you need to do to fully prepare for this holiday after-party? Take a look.


First and foremost, study your return policy

What happens if the goods are returned as damaged? Does your policy state if the item needs to be returned in its original packaging? How much time does your customer have to send the item back to you? How does your refund process work? Knowing these answers, among others, is a great first step to streamline any questions that arise.


Review how to process your returns in your shopping cart software

Each shopping cart software works a bit differently, but we’ve crafted ours to easily process returns. Here’s a quick review on how to do so with your Volusion store. (For more information, check out our knowledge base article.)

  • First, find the order’s ID number. Click into the order, find the ‘Items Purchased’ section and locate the return item. On the far right side of the item, see the column titled ‘Qty to Return.’ In that box, enter the quantity your customer wants to return and click “Save Changes.”
  • Once the item is returned, click “Inventory -> Receiving from your admin area.” From the first drop down menu, select RMA#. In the text box beside it, type in the RMA# and click “Prepare.” This will pull up all the details of this RMA.


Help your collaborators help you

If you’re using an outside fulfillment warehouse for your products, our friends at Shipwire have put together a great checklist of things to consider. Some of these include:

  • Clearly label any returns.
  • Make sure your customers send the returns back in safe packaging. Consider providing return packaging and shipping for high value items. You don’t want a buyer wrapping an expensive product in a brown paper bag and hoping it survives.
  • Make sure there is an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization, your pre-approval for the return shipment) number for the warehouse on the outside of the box and inside the box.
  • Short and concise return reasons on the outside and inside of the box.
  • Make sure that the products have SKU’s noted on the box and the product.
  • If a buyer sends a return back to the warehouse without proper labeling, don’t expect it to be quickly discovered. It will likely sit in the “unknown returns” pile until after the heat of the holiday returns season is over and it can be sifted through.


Follow-up and learn your lessons for next year

This is really important to help save time in the future. Find out the primary reasons for returned merchandise and see if there is anything you can do to address the situation. Perhaps you need to revisit your product descriptions to better explain the product or better outline your product options within your online store.

It’s also important to learn the lessons from your current return policy and make any necessary changes moving forward. Also, be sure to track the amount of time and money spent on the entire returns process to make things more efficient in the future.


Hopefully you won’t experience too many returns and can enjoy the true holiday after-party: New Year’s Eve!



Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

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