Current Issues

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

'Tis the Season for Post-Holiday Product Returns: Are You Prepared?

24-Jan-2018
'Tis the Season for Post-Holiday Product Returns: Are You Prepared?
With the holiday buying fever behind us, the avalanche of product returns is now underway. Given that £17billion worth of goods was bought online during the Christmas shopping period, from Black Friday to Boxing Day – it can be expected that the frenzy of returns will hit many retailers hard. Since 15%-20% of goods bought online are normally returned, that means that £2.5billion worth of returns is expected, according to research from LCP Consulting.

The expected surge in returns was so great that Royal Mail even dubbed Tuesday 2nd January, ‘Take-back Tuesday’, as returns were expected to double compared to December’s daily average return figures. Online item returns are expected to be particularly high following a change in shopping behaviour within British households. 90% of households now have access to the internet, compared to only 57% in 2006 and 86% in 2016; online shopping has in turn seen a sharp increase with 77% of adults buying goods or services online, compared to only 53% in 2008, according to research from the Office of National Statistics.

However, despite the sheer number of returns expected and received every year, many retailers are still not putting enough emphasis on developing and implementing efficient return strategies. A customer’s return experience is as important as their sales experience; today’s customers expect flexibility, convenience, and transparency in their return experience. Moreover, further research from Royal Mail indicates that nearly half of shoppers (47%) said they would be unlikely to shop with a retailer again if it charged for returns, and three in five shoppers expect to receive free returns regardless of the amount spent, and said they would switch retailers if it wasn’t provided.

Clearly a frictionless and quick returns process is vital if retailers want to retain customers; after all, Royal Mail research also concludes 60% of shoppers would be less likely to shop with a retailer again following a difficult returns experience. The impact of a good versus a poor customer experience shows that return policies are no longer just part of a company’s back-room logistics strategy—they’re now a valuable lever for brand equity. Companies with a suitable and generous return policy are often the ones with the highest number of loyal customers, and these successful retailers are likely to offer a range of services to ease the process.

Features such as returns tracking capability, which 73% of consumers said they would prefer to have access to; along with prepaid returns labels included within the delivery; and re-sealable packaging can have a crucial impact on how seamless the customer experience is. Royal Mail research uncovered that 81% of consumers expect and prefer for returns labels to be included in the delivery, and nine out of ten would consider themselves likely to shop with a retailer again if re-sealable packaging was provided. This attention to detail, along with speed, guidance and visibility are crucial in the eyes of today’s consumers. 95% believe it’s important to be notified when their return has been refunded and 75% believe in the importance of guidance about which returns label to use and the speed at which the return is refunded.

Amazon, John Lewis, IKEA, are all known for exceptional returns policies that are as simple as their purchase process, and shoppers have taken notice. IKEA, for instance, has a 365-day return policy and John Lewis a 90-day policy. In today’s highly competitive retail market, hassle-free return policies and quick processing are essential to win over new customers, keep existing ones loyal and, ultimately, turn a profit.

In addition to providing a personalised return slip and a prepaid return label, among other features to ease the process when the delivery goes out to the customer, here are five tips online retailers need to consider to reduce the friction of their return:

1. Make the return process as transparent as the order process
Even today, there are still ecommerce players who make the return process as difficult as possible for shoppers by hiding (or not even listing) their return policy for orders, not providing status updates immediately by email, or not notifying the customer when the returned goods have been received. Customer service cannot be deliberately neglected, and constant communication of status should be on the forefront of retailers’ minds, no matter what stage the order is in.

2. Speed up your return processing
To build confidence and rapport, the shopper should be informed the moment the returned item has been received. Speed is on the side of the retailer as well; goods need to be seen as available in inventory and approved for sale to generate revenue. The quicker the returned item is checked for integrity and re-introduced into the system, the faster sales soar.

3. Keep goods handling and customer service separate
If most returns are managed using a standard process, they won’t need to be reviewed by a customer service agent. The small number of returns that do need special treatment can then be kept separate for customer service attention. By splitting the returns process this way, most returned goods can be put back into inventory much faster, and even shipped more quickly if ordered by another customer. For example, by providing an online portal where consumers can initiate a return, the retailer knows from the moment the return is created what items to expect to receive and when.

4. Use automation
Two areas where retailers can speed up the returns process using automation are reimbursement and inventory management. After a return is processed, the amount owed to the shopper should be automatically reimbursed or credited to the credit card or PayPal account. Also, new inventory should be updated immediately via a warehouse management system in the online store and all sales channels to establish the opportunity for the next sale.

5. Consider returns as an important customer service practice
One could argue that the “return” burden has been lifted from consumers’ shoulders. Today, it’s become the responsibility of the retailer to offer convenient and simple return options for customers. The bottom line is that customers care about returns. Retailers that provide a complete end-to-end customer service experience incorporating flawless returns processing are more likely to see repeat customers and increased revenue.

As the industry continues to learn lessons from each holiday season, smart ecommerce players who take these tips into consideration will be ahead of the curve with a more sound, common sense return policy and processing strategy.

Click Here to Add Blockchain to Your Order
7 hours ago
The Pressure for Perfect Processing: Get in Charge of Chargebacks
1 day ago
Successful Freight Match Takes Intelligence
1 day ago
KFC delivery woes show the value of supply chains in modern business
2 days ago
With an "analog supply chain," the resulting lack of agility will cost you
3 days ago
Are UK shoppers falling out of love with the internet?
6 days ago
How to Prevent Weather Fluctuations from Taking Your Supply Chain by Storm
1 week ago
With Pressure Rising, 3PLs Can Improve Internal Efficiency
1 week ago
Perfecting the illusion of a single, seamless retail experience with Networked Order Management
1 week ago
Efficiencies should begin at the printer
1 week ago
Battle Of The Sexes: Views Divided Between Gender Pay Gap And Career Damage From Having Children
1 week ago
The UK’s Productivity Puzzle: How Updating Technology Can Bolster Manufacturing Output
1 week ago
What is on-demand warehousing?
2 weeks ago
Why Change-Hungry Young Generations are the Key to Unlocking Growth
2 weeks ago
A longer view from the inside: Infor GT Nexus Commerce Network customers look beyond 2018
2 weeks ago
Cross-border Logistics: Complex but Inescapable
2 weeks ago
UK manufacturing growing, but starts to slow from price pressures
2 weeks ago
The Future of Consumption: A Question of Trust
3 weeks ago
Three New Year’s Resolutions Retailers should be making for 2018
3 weeks ago
Stronger Sterling suggests UK economy is in better shape than expected
3 weeks ago
Vehicle Shortage Continues To Worsen According To TimoCom’s Transport Barometer
3 weeks ago
Calling all business communications!
3 weeks ago
Gartner Says Self-Service Analytics and BI Users Will Produce More Analysis Than Data Scientists Will by 2019
4 weeks ago
Now Brexit may end 14-day ‘cooling off’ shopping returns
4 weeks ago
In the future, retail is all about embracing "temporary"
4 weeks ago
Europa Road Maps Out 2018’s Main Challenges
4 weeks ago
The Stress Factor: What the Online Rhetoric Doesn’t Tell You about Business Growth
4 weeks ago
Food Safety Belongs in the Supply Chain
1 month ago
Your business already uses e-business – are you using it to your benefit?
1 month ago
Guidance for Employers on the General Data Protection Regulation coming into force in May
1 month ago
Four Predictions for Supply Chain Operations to Kick Off 2018
1 month ago
Supply chain visibility 2018: You can’t hit what you can’t see..
1 month ago
Analysts Support a Single Model for Sales and Operations Planning
1 month ago
Industry 4.0 – Seize the Moment (in small steps)
1 month ago
Kuebix Makes 2018 Transportation Predictions That Will Shake-Up the Supply Chain
1 month ago
Looking Ahead at CRM Trends for 2018
1 month ago
Driver Shortage The Biggest Challenge Facing The Road Transport Sector In 2018 Says Paragon Survey
1 month ago
A View on Blockchain for Business—Transformational Blockbuster for 2018, or ‘Slow Burn’?
1 month ago
The State of Food & Beverage Labeling
1 month ago
2028: What Work Will Look Like a Decade from Now
1 month ago
UK manufacturing sees continued growth
1 month ago
Logistics in 2018 will be an anxiety-inducing war of tech vs. economics, and that’s great
1 month ago
GateHouse Telecom Sees ‘Connectivity’ Dominating Satellite Communications in 2018
1 month ago
Home Depot’s rumoured XPO Logistics take-over ‘bad news for UK brands’ warns ParcelHero
1 month ago
Why inkjet is the printing technology of the future
1 month ago
Is it ALL about the last mile?
2 months ago
Open your presents early urges ParcelHero! Faulty Black Friday purchases must be returned by Christmas Eve
2 months ago
Auto Manufacturers: Be Ready for Recalls
2 months ago
Three Business Rules to Forget in the Digital Era
2 months ago