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5 Tips for Managing Holiday Returns

The holiday shopping season is a make-or-break time of year for most eCommerce brands. But a successful holiday retail season requires more than just racking up sales. It also involves managing holiday returns in a way that extends the brand experience and strengthens customer relationships.

The Impact of Managing Holiday Returns on Purchase Decisions

Too many online retailers gear up for holiday sales and then fall short when it comes to managing holiday returns that inevitably happen in late December and January. While brick-and-mortar retailers experience return rates in the 5 to 10 percent range, it’s not uncommon for online retailers to experience 10 to 15 percent return rates – and that number skyrockets to 20 to 30 percent for apparel.

eCommerce brands that aren’t prepared to handle the sudden influx of returns after the holidays do so at their own peril. Even though most customers understand that retailers are swamped with post-holiday returns, they have no patience for brands that fail to process returned merchandise quickly and accurately.

According to UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper research, more than 60 percent of online shoppers research brands’ return policies before completing an online transaction. Translation: The return process matters to your customers and if you blow reverse logistics during the post-holiday season, many customers will think twice before placing another order with your company.

Post-Holiday Reverse Logistics: Advice for eCommerce Brands

How important is managing holiday returns for your brand? Dotcom Distribution data finds 74 percent of consumers reporting that a hassle-free return policy can persuade them to buy from an online retailer, regardless of whether or not they have purchased items from the retailer in the past.

You need a strategy to handle reverse logistics after the holidays. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Make it easy for customers. From your customers’ perspective, post-holiday returns should be simple and seamless. Prepaid return labels, flexible return shipping options, and other details improve loyalty by making it easy for customers to return unwanted items and receive either a refund or replacement.

2. Automate reverse logistics processes. The surest way to create an unsatisfactory return program is to rely on manual processes. Automated tools and warehouse technologies reduce the amount of time it takes to process returns (a big plus during the post-holiday rush) and improve return accuracy, ensuring that customers receive their refunds as fast as possible.

3. Accurately forecast staffing requirements. Even automated return processes require human intervention. But many online retailers don’t scale staffing to accommodate post-holiday returns. If you can’t accurately forecast staffing requirements or return volumes, it’s critical to work with an experienced third-party logistics provider to make sure that you have the people in place to handle high return volumes.

4. Use real-time reporting to monitor return status. It’s extremely frustrating to lack visibility to the status of returned merchandise, especially when problems arise. Real-time reporting mechanisms offer the tools you need to accurately track and monitor the status of returns so you can avoid roadblocks and provide customers with the information they need when they need it.

5. Create an intelligent system for receiving returned merchandise. Not all merchandise is returned for the same reason. While some returns can be reintroduced to inventory, other returns (e.g., broken or defective items) can’t be resold. By organizing and separating returned merchandise, you can avoid snafus and more effectively manage saleable product levels.

It’s Time to Get Serious About Managing Holiday Returns

At Dotcom Distribution, we know that managing holiday returns is a critical part of the holiday retail season. As a leading third-party logistics and fulfillment provider for eCommerce brands, we appreciate the pressures you face before and after the holidays, and we’re ready to help transform your return process into a business advantage.

To learn more post-holiday reverse logistics with Dotcom Distribution, contact us today.

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