5 Tricks to Make Handling Holiday Returns Faster, Easier and Cheaper

Pizza boxes

Modern customers want every part of their shopping experience to be flexible — especially when it comes to returns. They love knowing they can buy on the spot with the confidence that they can return their purchase, and easily get a refund, if they change their mind.

For retailers, returns are less of a convenient perk and more of a costly logistical challenge. Research estimates that returns in 2021 will cost retailers $33 of the price of a $50 item to process, up 59% from 2020. For merchants, returns are now not just the nightmare after Christmas — but all year round.

Combined with the current supply chain issues and skyrocketing shipping costs, returns are eating into the bottom line of businesses everywhere. If you run a retail brand, you need to take action – but where should you start? 

Here are five tasks to put at the top of your to-do list…

1. Reduce your returns rate

Returns are an inevitable part of running a retail business, but there are things you can do to keep returns at a minimum, such as: 

  • Optimize your product listings. More is more when it comes to providing your customers with information about your products. Demo videos, measurements, size guides, images and good quality descriptions all help customers make an informed choice that is less likely to result in a return.
  • Improve quality control. If some of your products are being returned because they don’t meet the quality expectations of your customers, a better system for making sure only top quality products are shipped is needed.
  • Survey your customers. Don’t be afraid to ask why your customers want to return an item — you can use their responses to make all-important improvements. 

2. Automate your returns process 

Returns can be labor intensive, and therefore costly — especially if much of the workflow is done manually.

Returns are an area of your business where automation can make all the difference. Brightpearl customers that utilize the power of the Automation Engine typically reduce errors, e.g. mispicks, by up to 65%. It might sound obvious, but reducing the error rate in your workflows will have a major impact on return volume . 

Additionally, automation can be a margin saver. From automatically keeping customers informed to updating your inventory as returns are processed, automation is the key to minimizing the impact returns are having on your profit. 

3. Have a clear returns strategy

With returns on the rise in line with e-commerce sales, it’s never been more important to have a clear returns strategy for your business. Invest some time working out the most efficient way to process returns, including:

  • How to communicate your returns policy to customers
  • How to use technology to speed returns up (hint: the right retail operating system will make all the difference)
  • What happens to goods when they are returned and how it is factored into your inventory demand planning in order to avoid waste 
  • What your efficiency targets are and who on your team is responsible for managing them

4. Monitor and analyze your returns 

It’s not enough to simply process returns. You need to analyze and understand your returns data. Start by tracking the most common reasons for returns — a good operating system will allow you to add codes to each reason so you can easily spot trends in custom returns reports. 

Regular analysis of your returns data will also enable you to spot so-called ‘serial returners’ (customers that frequently buy and return). Flagging these customers in your CRM system using contact tagging can help your marketing team avoid sending them new offers and discounts.

5. Ace your returns customer service

New customers that have a positive returns experience are more likely to become repeat shoppers, so it’s worth making the effort to ensure that when returns happen, customers get the service they want. This includes being kept informed on the progress of their return via email — don’t worry, this is easy to set up using Brightpearl.

If something’s gone wrong with an order, resulting in a return, it goes a long way if someone on your customer service team can call the customer to apologize and offer a gesture of goodwill. This can offset the cost of a return by turning a disappointed customer into a loyal one. 

Want to find out more about how Brightpearl can help you handle returns better? Book a demo today.