Written By: Zoë LeCain, Retail Engagement Manager
Post-Holiday Returns -
When the “most wonderful time of the year” quickly flips into one of the most challenging times of the year.
Successful retailers know how to plan for the roughly 25% of holiday gifts sold being returned after Christmas. Retailers know all too well that some of the biggest challenges of the holiday season start after their busiest weeks of the year.
The most lasting retailers are those who prioritize maintaining a positive customer experience throughout the peaks of holiday sales and valleys of post-holiday returns. It takes great planning and stamina for these brands to ensure that customers keep a positive impression of them, especially given that about 25% of holiday gifts they sell will be returned.
Those retailers who choose to embrace a standard of the “make a customer and not just a sale” mentality should do so by acknowledging the endurance and dedication of their store teams by incentivizing upselling exchange transactions. Come January, the store teams have spent at least the past 6 weeks working extended hours to sell, sell, sell throughout the holiday gifting season. Associates thoughtfully wrapped gifts and retailers and fulfillment partners rapidly picked and packed orders to ensure those precious packages got out the door in time to make it under the tree, all before Santa shimmied down the chimney. Now that the turkey is off the table and the presents unwrapped, the store teams and fulfillment partners must be prepared for the inverse flurry of returns. Retailers utilizing partnerships with third-party-logistics (3PL) should work with their 3PL partners to plan for returns processing at their distribution centers post-holiday just as much as they should to plan the order fulfillment demand spikes leading up to the holidays.
Another way to prepare for the influx of returns is to enable multiple methods for customers to efficiently and conveniently return their purchases without question or hassle. Integrating your tech stack with a returns-focused partner, such as Returnly or Happy Returns, will improve a typically inconvenient process for your customers by offering multiple locations and methods to complete their returns. In addition to working with a return service, retailers should have an explicit and flexible return policy clearly stated at every touchpoint with their customers – on their website, in-store, and on their sales receipts. It is also important to review this return policy with the store team, as well as for upper management to provide guidance to stores as to when it might be appropriate to make exceptions to the policy to best meet the satisfaction of their customers.
Connecting customer, product, transaction, and service data at every touchpoint in the shopper’s journey are essential to achieving retail business objectives. The next generation of retail stores will not differentiate between the ability to find, fulfill and service transactions based on the location of either the customer or the product. Creating these highly connected experiences requires a partner who understands how to bring those experiences and the data that drives them into a single, seamless experience for the B2B or B2C shopper.
While omnichannel digital transformation is key to the future success of retailers, it is still just as important to remember the fundamentals of brick-and-mortar retail by providing excellent customer service to keep your business moving forward. All too often, retailers can have their gains from holiday sales cleared out and their customers turned off for good if return preparations are not well-established.
In addition to a transparent return policy and ease of process, retailers should also encourage their store teams to save the sale by training on upselling exchanges. It is important for retailers to make sure they are considering all impacts of the sales and returns and by working with technology partners who comprehend foundational retail principles and who assess each retailer’s unique needs, will be on a better path to deliver positive customer experiences online as well as in-store. It is essential for retailers to work with their technology partners to cleanup product catalogs, orchestrate transfer orders to balance inventory across stores and warehouses, as well as any other virtual housekeeping duties so that data flows seamlessly between systems.
A great technology partner will help the retailer establish a strong digital foundation that can withstand the traffic surges and demand shifts as the seasons and the years change over.