Optimizing Your 2020 Holiday Returns Processing

Online holiday shopping

2020 holiday shopping is already in full swing – happening earlier than ever before. In addition to making early purchases, many other consumer buying trends are looking different for Q4, including holiday returns. This also means companies are looking at their fulfillment process in a different way. Here is some of the latest news reported by industry experts:

RetailMeNot recently shared these findings about the 2020 holiday shopping season:

  • Three out of five consumers say they plan to spend the same or more this holiday season.
  • Nearly a third will shop earlier to avoid inventory issues and shipping delays.
  • Holiday deals won’t be consolidated into single-day shopping events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Brands and retailers have already launched serious savings opportunities, with more to come through December.

In a recent shopper survey conducted by Inmar Intelligence: 

  • 81% of shoppers plan to do more holiday shopping online than in prior years.
  • Nearly 40% of shoppers said they will do all of their holiday shopping online this year.
  • 74% are concerned about COVID-19 exposure from in-store holiday shopping.

The consumer buying experience won’t be the only thing that’s different this holiday season. Inmar also reported that 67% of shoppers plan to ship holiday returns instead of returning them in-store. This is mostly due to the perceived risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Optimize Your Holiday Product Returns Processing

The holiday shopping season is always a time for more returns, and this year the volume should be exponentially higher in light of current consumer shopping habits. Many brands and retailers will reap the benefits increased online sales, but they must be prepared for the onslaught of product returns.

Here are 4 ways to optimize your 2020 holiday product returns processing and ensure you minimize the profit loss that often comes with returns management.

Customer making a product return

1 –  Have a Clearly Defined Holiday Returns Policy

Many brands and retailers are extending their return policies for holiday purchases in order to accommodate early shoppers and recipients who might receive their gifts later than usual.

More than half of online shoppers review a returns policy before making a purchase, and that number is likely even higher for holiday purchases. If you plan to have an extended holiday return timeframe, make sure your policy is clearly defined and easy to locate on your website. It will make it easier for your customers to make their initial purchases and will also increase the chance of future purchases.

2 – Focus on Internal Organization 

Besides having a clearly defined returns policy for customers, it’s critical to also have best practices in place for your internal returns processing. This includes being organized and having well-defined procedures for handling returns as they arrive. Categorizing by product type, product condition, even size and packaging can help speed up the internal handling of returns.

It’s also critical to plan for a peak returns flow which will be much higher than the norm. This could include making sure enough physical space is allocated for higher return volume, which will keep things running efficiently and keep returns clutter and product damage to a minimum.

This holiday season, another important part of your organization plan should include health and safety measures for workers who are involved in managing product returns. Social distancing protocols will need to be in place to ensure your facilities remain safe, fully operational and in compliance with local regulations and government ordinances.

Worker returning products to a fulfillment center

3 – Get Returned Items Back in Stock Fast

Once returns start coming in, have a streamlined process for receiving returned inventory and getting it back in stock. This might require product inspection, repair/refurbishment, or repackaging. Whether you’ll be reselling an item as new or refurbished, moving the returned products back into inventory will help to minimize loss from the return.

Product returns processing can also generate a lot of waste – so smart waste management is important. Have a plan for how workers will handle with trash removal and the recycling of certain materials.

4 – Have a Solid Technology Framework

The technology framework for product returns processing is known as a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) system. One of the best ways to ensure you have a good online RMA solution in place (which will help you tackle steps 1-3 above) is to enlist the help of a 3PL.

PFC’s RMA portal is used by many of our clients as an integrated value-add tool within their ecommerce channel. It gives their customers a simple and efficient way to make returns and track the progress of the return once it leaves the customer’s hands.

A good online RMA system also provides powerful reporting tools that can be used to identify reasons for returns, possible fraudulent activity, and other potential issues that might be negatively affecting your returns management.

Contact PFC Fulfillment

Get ahead of the game with your next round of holiday returns – contact the experts at PFC to discuss and strategize your future returns processing program.

Category: Fulfillment Insights