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Returns are increasing. One out of three apparel items sold online are returned. When buying clothes online or through a mobile device, many shoppers will buy three sizes of an item to make sure they get one that fits and return the others. Returns have become an expected part of the shopping process. With good returns processes in place, independent retailers can learn to love returns and aggressively promote their returns policies as a differentiator.

Read our best practices for an efficient returns process.

Shoppers want returns to be hassle-free, expecting retailers to handle any complexities and costs. And with an increase in cross-border trading, returns management is becoming more complex and costly. As a retailer you need to bear in mind the costs of return logistics like postage, preparing goods for resale and making them available again on all your channels. How you handle returns can make the difference between making a profit or not.

With the holidays approaching it makes sense to make sure you have solid processes in place for handling a likely surge in returns.  

Here are three tips to help make sure you are all set to handle returns this holiday season:

  1. Be aggressive with managing returns, focus on getting products back into your sales channels as quickly as possible. Make sure you’ve worked out your returns process and trained your staff before it gets busy and becomes difficult to keep under control. 
  2. Offer a wide choice of returns methods for your customers. In addition to offering returns by mail and in-store, another solution to consider are independent collection points.
  3. Understand your returns. If a certain item is frequently being returned as faulty or poor quality you might want to stop selling it. Or if they are being returned as damaged you may need to improve your packing materials. Try to isolate the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Returns are no longer a nice thing to offer, shoppers expect them. Shoppers are demanding a seamless experience no matter the channel they buy from. A well thought out efficient returns strategy is a must-have for retailers looking for profitable growth. With a solid returns process in place, you can aggressively market this and give your customers another reason to buy from you rather than from someone else.

If you've not had chance, catch up on the rest of the 'Preparing for profitable holiday sales' series:

How prepared are you for Xmas 2014?
Supporting mobile shopping
Catching the early birds
Summer sales mean prepare for Christmas

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About the Author

Grainne is the Head of Campaigns at Brightpearl and leads the execution of Brightpearl's global campaign strategy. Having worked in the retail tech space for five years, learning more about how technology can help retailers grow is a huge topic of interest.