When you sell online, returns are a fact of life, particularly after the holiday season. In the latest Precision Report we look at strategies retailers can use to make returns convenient for customers while controlling costs.
Holiday shopping and peak shipping season is almost over. But as we move towards the end of December and on to the beginning of January, holiday returns begin to flood in. The returns season runs until around mid-March. During this time, online and omnichannel retailers handle as much as 45 percent of their annual returns.
Holiday returns season is as predictable as the pre-holiday peak season rush. But predictability does not mean unchallenging, and many retailers are loathe to invest in this. The outbound shipping process is a direct contributor to the bottom line, but the returns process is often seen as a drain on profitability.
When you sell online, returns are simply a fact of life. Around 30 percent of all online purchases are returned. This number rises to rises to 38 percent for holiday gifts and 40 percent for clothing. For comparison, only 10 percent of in-store purchases come back. Because of this, shoppers look for retailers that make returning unwanted goods easy. Nearly 80 percent of consumers want free return shipping, and two-thirds check the returns policy before ordering.
Why Returns Matter
If returns are important to your customers, they should be important to your organization. Customers want more than fast and convenient delivery — an easy, and generous returns policy is a differentiator for retailers.
Free returns at convenient drop off locations, inexpensive pick-up and returns labeling services that are easy to use are a big selling points for customers. However, a complex logistics process is often needed to make returns easy for the customer – especially without the right tools for shipping your products there and back.
Strategies for Streamlining Holiday Returns
Retailers need to plan for holiday season returns, just as they need to plan for peak season shipping. Here are three strategies that simplify returns and help control costs.
PLAN FOR RETURNS
Returns are inevitable. Customers may want multiple return options, but retailers should discourage the use of higher cost services. Ideally, retailers should nudge customers to select the returns option that make the most financial sense for them.
One way to do this is to place a returns label in the box prior to shipping. Should the customer decide to return, the included label encourages the use of your preferred return service.
Pre-printing labels also minimizes the possibility that returns are sent to the wrong warehouse. If you sell high-value goods, such as electronics, you want them to be returned to inventory before they become obsolete.
FACILITATE RETURNS WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS
Consumers want options when it comes to initiating and completing returns. With multi carrier shipping software retailers can provide the flexibility customers want. Your multi carrier solution should support a wide variety of return strategies. This includes dropping packages off at a shipping kiosk or carrier drop-off station, arranging for pickup at the customer’s home or office, and including returns labels.
Multi carrier shipping software also supports a Buy Online, Return In Store (BORIS) option. This is convenient for the customer and reduces the cost of facilitating returns. Retailers may also recover some of the losses associated with returns. Once in-store, a customer may make an additional purchase or decides to swap the original product.
Cross-border retail is growing. A study by UPS released in February 2018 found that 71 percent of shoppers in Europe made a cross border purchase in 2017. In 2017, 83 percent of online shoppers in Canada, 81 percent in Brazil and 78 percent in Mexico did likewise. In the US nearly half — 47 percent — of consumers made international purchases too. There are similar shopping patterns in the Middle East. Research from PayPal and Ipsos found that 61 percent of online shoppers in the UAE made an international purchase in the last 12 months.
Global trade drives revenue, but complicates returns. Some carrier networks handle returns better than others. Furthermore, options are not uniform in all regions of the world.
To appeal to global customers, it is important to work out a returns process that works as well for them as it does for domestic ones. Again, multi carrier shipping software can help. Retailers that use a single carrier for outbound shipments may need to consider alternate carrier networks for returns. With multi carrier shipping software, you can review the return delivery options of hundreds of carriers around the globe and select the services that will satisfy customers at the lowest cost to your organization.
About Precision Software – Trusted Global Trade and Transportation Execution
Precision Software, a division of QAD Inc., provides industry-leading global trade management, transportation execution and multi carrier shipping software solutions from a single, integrated platform. Preeminent industry leaders in every region of the world rely on Precision’s global support centers to leverage thousands of carriers and manage millions of shipping transactions every day. Our open architecture easily integrates with Enterprise Resource Planning, Warehouse Management Systems and legacy solutions. An ISO-certified company, Precision Software assists companies to minimize shipping costs, optimize first mile and last mile deliveries, automate free trade agreement compliance, avoid customs delays and mitigate the risks associated with dynamic trading environments to maximize their competitive advantage. Precision Software’s customers span multiple industries including banking and finance, life sciences, high technology, retail, industrial, automotive, higher education and public sector as well as logistics providers. For more information about Precision Software, visit www.precisionsoftware.com.
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