Is a profitable holiday season possible for retailers or will it be a logistical nightmare?

Anton Eder
30 October, 23

The festive season has always been a peak period for logistics activities within retail. With millions of shoppers planning to exchange gifts, the demand for goods increases exponentially. The need to plan ahead for retailers becomes paramount as they plan widespread discounts for winter sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and more. Retailers must also rise to meet the expectations of shoppers this year if they want to boost revenue during the busiest time of the year as living costs rise and disposable incomes are reduced.

One of the worst aspects to plan? Returns. Year after year returns are costly for retailers and come January, consumers will be expected to return billions of dollars of merchandise. Completely eliminating returns is impossible, but they can be reduced and utilized as a way to improve the customer experience. The first step is for retailers to consider what problems may arise during the returns process and how to strategise a plan now before peak season hits.

Clarify Returns Policies

Customers have come to expect a hassle-free returns process, making it difficult for brands to add restrictions without affecting the overall customer experience. A staggering 92% of consumers are influenced by brands’ return policies, and 62% will not be likely to return to a specific brand if they have a poor experience.

In an ideal world, customers would pick out the best gift each time for their loved ones. Unfortunately, we all have that person in our life that’s too tricky to shop for. Retailers can turn a potential frustrating experience into a positive with a returns policy that is easy to find, understandable and hassle free. Retailers, especially luxury brands, can consider offering complimentary returns to reduce barriers to purchase. Free returns alleviates concerns about fit or appearance when there is a higher price tag involved.

Minimise Customer Outreach

Don’t leave customers in the dark about a product or return post-purchase. This not only creates a negative experience for the customer but can also overwhelm your customer service teams with where is my order (WISMO) or where is my return (WISMR) calls and emails. The key is to make sure you are sending proactive communications on the status of their packages and returns, especially if delays occur.

Another option for the returns process is a flexible, self-service returns management portal. Having a dedicated area for your customers to receive answers about what is eligible for a return or replacement and how they can return it easily gives retailers the tools they need to quickly close tickets. It also keeps open communication with customers to build trust and provide a memorable experience.

Reduce Warehouse Processing Times

Returned products sitting around on the shelf will eat at any retailer’s profitability. Returned products require additional labor and material costs for inspection, restocking, and repackaging. It’s important for retailers to have a centralised platform for managing returns. The more real-time data on what’s in each package and why it’s being returned will reduce processing times and help warehouse teams navigate the complexities of reverse logistics.

Exceed Expectations

Giving customers options on where to return their product whether in-store, a carrier drop-off point, or having it picked up from their house will empower your customer to make the best choice for their needs. It also eliminates additional WISMO/WISMR inquiries if an option doesn’t work for a customer.

Wrong fit or size is considered the number one reason for a product return. For customers that might love the gift they received but got the wrong fit, retailers can encourage customers to exchange the item instead of returning it and asking for a refund. For example, providing a sizing chart and product availability will encourage customers to reconsider. A seamless exchange process could convert the customer into a life-long shopper. Upselling additional products that would look great with the product they received is another great way to promote further business.

A successful peak season is possible if retailers consider what problems they could solve now before peak season begins. By keeping open communication with customers, brands can focus on making it a festive season for everyone with easy returns policies, proactive communication, and quick processing times for employees and customers alike.

Bio: Anton Eder is the Founder and CoS of parcelLab, the only truly global enterprise post-purchase software provider, enabling brands to increase top-line revenue, decrease operational cost and complexity, and optimise customer experience. Trusted by over 800 brands, parcelLab actively manages the post-purchase experience across 175 countries and tracks shipping data from more than 350 carriers worldwide.

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