When managed correctly, peak returns could be an opportunity for retailers

by Heather Boyd, VP Global Marketing at Metapack

As online retailers set their sights on a pandemic-era peak season like no other, ecommerce orders are predicted to surpass the records already been broken throughout the year. However, the rise in order volumes will almost certainly be followed by a rise in returns.

The trouble with returns is, while they mean a great deal to consumers, they can also cost a great deal to retailers. They’re not commonly called the billion-dollar problem for nothing – according to KPMG, returning an item can cost up to twice as much as it does to deliver it.

Unless retailers have a plan in place to effectively manage the incoming influx of returns, they could quickly find their stellar peak sales eroded by shrunken profits and tied-up inventory. Retailers need a returns model that’s attractive for consumers, but also efficient, cost-effective and intelligent.

Offer a returns policy to convert

Before you conclude that offering returns is more trouble than it’s worth, consider the cost of not offering them. As more and more consumers expect free returns as a bare minimum, many will look elsewhere if you can’t give them what they want. According to Metapack’s own research, 69% of consumers consult a retailer’s returns policy before making a purchase.

Make sure your customers like what they see, or else they won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere. This means treating returns as you would delivery and providing them with a range of convenient options to send the item back, if needed. It also means stating your returns policy prominently on your homepage and product pages.

Take the strain off your reverse supply chain

Offering returns might be necessary in today’s ecommerce environment, but let’s face it – they’re difficult to manage. Unlike forward logistics, reverse logistics are unpredictable. The good news is, there’s a great deal you can do to build efficiency into your reverse supply chain.

Trying to manage returns manually in-house is often a costly mistake. Many of the retailers we work with turn to our returns management software to help them automate and bundle tasks – saving a great deal of time and money in the process. Software also has the advantage of providing a wealth of data transparency that can help retailers predict returns, and even plan for items to be sent on to the locations where they’re most likely to be sold.

From returns, to return customers

When retailers manage to provide a smooth and convenient experience, suddenly returns are no longer a cost burden, but a customer retention opportunity. According to Accenture, customers who enjoy flexible and transparent returns go on to increase their spend by an average of 29%.

For many customers, the worst part of the returns process is the anxious wait between sending off a parcel and receiving their refund. Providing accurate timeframes, clear communication and returns tracking can quickly restore peace-of-mind and increase a retailer’s likelihood of retaining the customer. If a retailer uses a dynamic solution like a returns portal to offer this service they might even be able to use personalized advertising capabilities to drive additional conversions.

When managed well, returns can be achieved with minimal cost, and minimal disruption to inventory. And that’s exactly what our own returns management software reduces helps our customers to do. It’s also one of the reasons why Metapack was recently awarded Best B2B eCommerce brand at the eCommerce Awards.

When done well, returns can actually be an opportunity for retailers – an opportunity to convert, and an opportunity to build loyalty with valuable customers. And in a peak season where the scale is set to be bigger than ever, the opportunities have never been so great.

Find out more about cracking the returns conundrum. Download Metapack’s Retailers’ Guide to Returns.

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