We’re coming into holiday gifting season – and that means your brand may need to shift the way you think about returns.

If your typical returns policy is 14 or 30 days, that might be fine during the rest of the year, when customers are more likely to buy products that they’ll try out immediately.

But when your customers shop for friends and relatives for the holidays, they may buy presents more than a month before they plan to gift them – and the recipients may not open their gifts right away, either.

With a standard 14 or 30 day return policy, gift recipients may miss the window on taking back an item if it doesn’t fit or if they don’t like it. While that means you’re able to retain the revenue from that purchase, it ends up being a far bigger loss for your brand: What if the gift recipient was able to exchange the item for one that they wanted, and build a lasting connection to your brand? Instead, the gift will just sit in the closet gathering dust, and the recipient won’t be likely to consider purchasing from your store again.

Instead, let’s look at how and why you need to build a flexible return policy around the holidays.

Why offer a flexible holiday returns policy?

During “returns season” – the period just after Black Friday-Cyber Monday through mid-to-late January – brands see an average increase in return volume of 31%. 

Returns are common through the rest of the year too, but around the holidays, both the givers and giftees are more likely to take back an item. Maybe a customer found out that her mother already had a ceramic pot similar to the one she’d found a Black Friday special on, or a gift recipient got a sweater from her dad that she knows she’d never wear out of leave the house in. 

Whatever the case, people may not be as ready to process a return immediately after purchasing or receiving an item during the holidays as they might be during ordinary circumstances. They’re likely to be traveling, and may need time to work out what they want to keep or not. 

Refusing to accept a return because it doesn’t arrive back within your standard return window will only alienate that customer, ensuring that they don’t shop with you again. 

Instead, consider offering an extended returns window for purchases made within a certain time frame – say, from Black Friday through to Christmas Day. If you normally offer 30 days, you might offer 60 – and offer an even longer window on exchanges. This will incentivize customers to give your brand another shot, especially if they haven’t purchased from you in the past. It can also encourage more customers to purchase your products in the first place, knowing that they have the flexibility to make returns based on their target timeframe. 

How to automate your extended returns policy

Of course, one of the problems with changing a returns policy is that it becomes increasingly difficult for your customer support team to keep track of different rules for different types of purchases.

Luckily, they don’t have to.

With an automated returns management solution like Loop, you can set up conditional logic that determines which items are eligible for a return or exchange, and for how long. 

When a customer wants to initiate a holiday return, they can go to your site’s returns portal and initiate their own return request. They’ll instantly see all of the products they’ve purchased from your brand, which ones are eligible for return, and when the last date is to return them. 

If some of the products were purchased before the holiday shopping season, they’ll be subject to your standard returns policy, and those bought during the holiday shopping season will be eligible for an extended returns window. Let’s say they’ve also bought some “final sale” products – though they’ll be able to view the purchase history, the option to return those products will be disabled because it’s against your store policy. They’ll be able to clearly understand the return policy for each unique purchase they’ve made, with no need to request customer support to review their options.

That makes extending your returns policy during the holidays a breeze – and empowers customers to gain confidence in giving your brand a shot, knowing that you’ll be willing to make things right if they don’t get what they want the first time.

Consider being generous all year long

Of course, there’s no need to limit the flexible return policy to the holiday window. After all, 67% of shoppers check the returns page before making a purchase, and they’re more likely to say yes to the dress if they can see that you’ve got a generous return window.  

For example, the ecommerce brand Brooklinen allows customers to make returns for a full year after purchase. So does the iconic outdoor gear and apparel brand L.L. Bean. Walmart offers a 90-day return policy on most items all year, as long as you’ve got your receipt.

Customers today expect generous return windows and policies – whether it’s the holiday season or not. By living up to their expectations, you’re more likely to get an initial sale – and far more likely to retain a customer by allowing them to make an exchange than by telling them they’ve passed the returns window.

Want to learn how Loop can help you optimize your holiday returns policy to retain more revenue and retain more customers? Check out a demo.