Countless companies all over the world rely on the holiday season for a significant amount of their annual revenue. It can be a windfall for many businesses, but what happens when consumers decide that it’s time to return their gifts? Post-holiday returns are a fixture for every business but for the online retail business, the volume can be even greater and many companies are only now able to come up for air following a busy returns season.
Statistics show that on average 30% of eCommerce customers will return items purchased compared to just 10% of brick and mortar customers. The cost of this to online retailers is substantial, with estimates suggesting that returns are causing losses of up to and over $24 billion every year, in the U.S retail industry alone.
So what steps can you take to make sure that there are fewer returns next year than last? Let’s examine some strategies that might work.
Making the Policy Clear
Many online businesses have opted for a quite generous returns policy on the basis that it may encourage more sales. Consumers will often refer to a return policy before they make a purchase decision, as the more guarantees available, the less risk involved for them.
This overly relaxed approach from companies can backfire, however, and lead to an increase in returns abuse. Instead, companies should look to design a returns policy that is fair and reasonable, but that protects both the customer and the business as much as possible.
When writing a returns policy, the basics must first be taken into account. For example, what items can be returned? Can a full refund be awarded or is it an exchange only policy? In what condition can items be returned? How can a customer initiate a return or exchange? How long is the return window of an item? From here, you can add special clauses such as how sales items or holiday items will be treated.
It is common practice to develop a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) so that customers who need more information on the returns policy can access further details with fewer demands on communication from the retailer.
One of the most efficient ways to reduce post-holiday returns is to guarantee on-time delivery. Who wants to receive a Christmas present weeks after the fact? An online business should be delivering products on time during the holiday season. A gift that arrives several days late isn’t the same.
What does this have to do with returns? The answer is simple: if your company isn’t sending out products on time or using a reliable carrier, then families may end up purchasing products from somewhere else and returning yours. Obviously, this would be terrible for your business. If you always aim to ensure on-time delivery, however, chances are you will reduce a portion of post-holiday returns.
Protect Your Products
One of the most important aspects of eCommerce is making sure that the package gets to the customer safely. Of course, this can’t be accomplished unless the packaging is up to the job. It is impossible to prevent all damage when it comes to shipping, but online businesses may want to consider investing more in customised, high-quality packaging. This is especially true for fragile or more valuable items. It’s important to understand what specific void-filling and impact-protection materials make the most sense for your product ranges.
Basic cardboard might be an inexpensive way to package objects, but making the switch to a single-wall or double-wall corrugated box can significantly cut down on damaged shipments. Investing in damage prevention is another important factor in decreasing post-holiday returns.
There are all sorts of advantages when it comes to outsourcing fulfilment. First, it allows your online business to streamline the entire fulfilment process, which means that you can focus on other aspects of the business. For example, an online business can now focus on selling and marketing to scale their business, knowing that fulfilment is taken care of.
Outsourcing fulfilment can also help online businesses reduce operating costs, extend their reach, and improve its customer service throughout the delivery process. If your online business is scaling quickly, it can be stressful and overwhelming to expand fulfilment operations. Outsourcing fulfilment leverages experts who have relevant experience and understand best practices.
Benefits like fast and accurate picking, specialised packing expertise, and efficient workflow all help to reduce returns. Over time, outsourcing fulfilment may even help improve customer loyalty, keep your staff productive, and manage seasonal fluctuations better than doing everything in-house. It may even give you a leg up on the competition.
One fool-proof method to reduce post-holiday returns is to collect holiday data from past years and determine where there are opportunities for improvement. Ask questions like:
- How many items were returned?
- What were the most common reasons for return?
- What feedback was received by customers and staff regarding holiday season operations?
With both statistical data and personal feedback from customers and staff, it becomes easier to pinpoint where problems occurred. There should be enough information to implement new workflow strategies, communication tools between business and customer, and ways to ensure product integrity through the whole lifecycle. With consistent use, these changes can positively impact eCommerce fulfilment all year round.
Look At The Bigger Picture
When it comes to reducing post-holiday returns, businesses need to look at the bigger picture. It does not always come down merely to a poor product. Look at all the factors in play and study the data. Preparation is half the battle and by following the main steps above you will be well equipped to reduce post-holiday returns next year.
Thinking of outsourcing your fulfilment in order to minimise your returns and free up valuable company time next year? Speak to our team today about our order fulfilment services. Call us on +353 1 902 9510 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re standing by to help.