By Tobias Buxhoidt, Founder and CEO of parcelLab
Retailers are already gearing up for what is expected to be a busy Christmas shopping season. Despite worries of inflation, UK retail sales are predicted to grow by 1.7% this year – a shift representing over £10 billion in additional spending.
Brands are looking for ways to ensure customer satisfaction even during peak season, whether it be post-purchase communications, in-store experiences, and personalised recommendations. One crucial aspect that many retailers are overlooking holds immense potential for revenue retention and customer satisfaction: returns.
January looms overhead
The month of January is notorious in the retail industry for witnessing a surge in product returns following the Christmas shopping period. Customers are often scrambling between different retailers – navigating physical receipts, order numbers, and sizing exchanges to find the right product they’re looking for. Whether it be a fit issue or perhaps a family member that hasn’t seen your style in a while, retailers need to have a plan to deal with the post-holiday influx of returns.
It is crucial for retailers to refine their returns strategy starting as early as the Summer to ensure full preparation for what lies ahead. Retailers often focus on ensuring customer engagement before the initial purchase. But for seasons of heavy gifting, it is imperative to have a proactive returns management strategy that keeps customers informed on their options to ensure a delightful returns experience and maximise revenue retention.
Why a returns strategy is important
A recent study by parcelLab revealed that a staggering 92% of customers are influenced by brands’ return policies. What’s more, 54% of shoppers now expect access to the status of their return at any given time. With customer expectations increasing, retailers need to expand their returns offerings to ensure positive customer experiences that keep shoppers coming back to the brand.
Customers don’t like to be left hanging, and 62% of customers are unlikely to reengage with a brand after a poor or inconvenient returns experience. Ensuring customer satisfaction post-peak season should be just as top of mind for retail holiday planning. Returns are not the final step on the customer journey. Oftentimes, a well-managed returns experience will encourage customers to return to the brand for additional purchases or recommend to friends and family.
How to implement returns strategy
Upgrading your returns strategy ahead of the Christmas season is important to ensure smooth operations amidst the high demand. There are several options for retailers to upgrade their strategies, including:
- Proactively evaluating and enhancing processes: Looking at previous returns management successes and roadblocks is important to understand where your brand can improve. Creating an engaging and delightful customer experience is about providing your customers with all the tools they need ahead of time to navigate systems during peak season.
- Streamline operations: Oftentimes, returns processes can be clunky and require multiple steps from the customer. Pre-empting these challenges by offering customers detailed instructions and returns labels alongside their original order puts the power back in the customer’s hands to initiate returns themselves.
- Optimise customer satisfaction: Customers often experience order anxiety while waiting for their packages – the same goes for the returns process. To increase customer satisfaction, retailers can create a digital returns portal that allows customers to see the status of their return from when it leaves their hands to when their refund is processed. This transparency both boosts customer satisfaction and decreases where is my return (WISMR) requests, cutting down on overhead costs for customer service.
- Returns messaging: Returns are not the end of the customer engagement journey; they are an opportunity to secure a loyal customer. Framing returns as a chance for customers to exchange sizing or get a more suitable alternative empowers the customer to find new offerings they may have not seen before.
This Christmas shopping season is going to be a busy one – but retailers should think of this as an opportunity to increase brand loyalty and entice customers through a seamless returns process. Engaging customers with effective returns planning ahead of peak season can take an element of stress off a customer’s plate. Whether it’s a size that doesn’t fit or a less-than-ideal style choice from a relative, retailers can work to make sure everyone gets what they’re looking for this Christmas shopping season.