Amazon’s holiday gift to you: Signs of increased returns for the shopping season

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Amazon package

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Although I have yet to hear the first jingle bells muzak at my local hardware store, we have entered the 2023 holiday shopping season. One way of saying that is that Amazon increases its return time annually from its usual 30-day policy.

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For many products, returns must now be made by January 31, 2024. Today, it’s about 90 days, but the return window will shrink as the end of the year approaches. Amazon uses this extended return period to encourage shoppers to buy by reducing the risk of any purchase, and allowing gift returns after the holidays are over.

Amazon’s standard return policy (active from January to October) is 30 days. on it Return Process On the page, the company says, “You can return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days of delivery for a full refund.” The company allows replacement and exchange orders for damaged products where customers simply want a working version of what they ordered.

One of the reasons Amazon was able to grow from Jeff Bezos’ garage on Northeast 28th Street in Bellevue, Washington Half a trillion dollars in 2022 The company has been relentlessly focused on reducing the friction involved in the purchasing process.

In other words, Amazon makes buying stuff easy.

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Part of making buying things easier is reducing the risk of the purchase. Because buyers can’t see and touch the items Amazon sells, there’s always some question about exactly what you’ll get when you order. By offering easy returns, customers know that if their purchase doesn’t meet their needs, they can just box it up and send it back.


Screenshot by David Gewurtz/ZDNet

In fact, as an article in Supply and Demand Chain Executive, speaking to an audience of e-commerce operators, declares, “Your product return policy can determine global e-commerce success.” De-risking a purchase with easy returns certainly helps persuade consumers to buy, but it also poses a huge challenge when it comes to managing returns. Analyst firm Insider Intelligence believes that global revenue will exceed $620 billion this year.

But it’s not just about accepting product returns and issuing refunds. It’s also true that most returns don’t cost customers to ship them back. The retailer bears all those costs.

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And it works. We have Amazon Prime and my wife will rarely buy from a seller where she can’t get free shipping (and, by extension, free shipping on returns). I saw him spend a few bucks more on Amazon instead of eating shipping fees from another seller. Usually, this works out in his favor, as lower-priced items and shipping fees are often more expensive than Amazon’s items.

Thirty days is usually a fair return policy. This allows enough time to try something and then box it up to come back. But 90 days provides a greater degree of comfort to customers.

Amazon allows gift returns, just provide the order number. So customers can buy holiday gifts now, give them during the holidays, and know that their intended recipients will still have a full month after the New Year to decide whether to keep or return an item.

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Of course, all of this adds to Amazon’s holiday logistical stress, but it’s not like the company doesn’t mint Bezos Box during the holiday season. And while that may increase some risk that consumers will buy, use and return products with a 90-day window, it also spreads out the returns process, potentially providing some level of logistical relief to Amazon and its warehouses.

A sermon on unbridled holiday consumerism

‘Twas the season of gifts, when across the land,
Amazon has announced a policy, pretty big.
The return date has been extended, till the end of January.
A 90-day window, shrinking fast.

From Bezos’ garage, it has grown to a titan,
Half a trillion in sales, in twenty-two.
Easy purchase, low risk, strategy was clear,
Happy returns, no cost, no fear.

The standard was thirty, a fair stretch indeed.
Adjudicate, return if necessary.
But ninety brings comfort, it spreads joy and cheer,
Can be exchanged for gifts, well into the new year.

So buy now, and don’t worry about fit,
According to Amazon’s policy, it can be slightly swapped.
A return with ease, a return, no hassle,
At Amazon we believe, they earned it from us.

For e-commerce success, returns are key.
Market researchers agree and disagree.
So this holiday season, let your shopping cart be full,
Returns are easy, and always likely will be.

(Apologies to Amazon, Clement Clarke Moore and my incredibly tolerant editors)

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