By Al Gerrie, Founder & CEO of ZigZag
Black Friday…peak season’s opening ceremony.
The flame of discounts and unmissable deals has signalled to consumers to fill their online baskets; but for retailers, the games are just beginning.
For many retailers, Black Friday marks the start of peak volumes, logistical headaches, strained warehouses, sleepless nights, and more returns than they know what to do with.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled my ten ways to stay on top of your peak returns. Advice that will keep your returns moving smoothly, your customers happy, and your costs under control.
1. Expect record-breaking returns volumes
Retailers gearing up for the usual busy end to the year can expect to see return volumes surge. In the 6 weeks following Black Friday weekend, many retailers will experience return volumes that are 70-100% higher than the same period in, for example, March.
Black Friday weekend last year saw return volumes shoot up by 17% on its 2021 counterpart across the globe, and the UK experienced increases of around 10%. It is very likely that return volumes will continue this upward trend, particularly with 35% of consumers stating they are more likely to return products due to the cost-of-living crisis. So, be prepared for another blockbuster peak season.
2. Plan for peak days
The peak days for returns in UK this year are expected to be Monday 4th December and Tuesday 5th December, where returns will likely be 5-8% higher than the already astronomical volumes set by Cyber Monday and Tuesday 28th November. This will be closely followed by the following Monday and Tuesday. Notify your warehouses and distribution centres so they can plan workforce schedules around these peak days as returns rush in.
3. Monitor your returns data
Peak season is definitely the time to start paying close attention to your returns data. Intuitive returns partners, such as ZigZag, can offer reporting functionality that will help your business identify toxic products, highlight poorly performing carrier services, and even uncover data discrepancies causing delays at customs.
4. Make your returns policy clear & easy to find
Our study of UK consumers found that 84% of consumers check the returns policy before making a purchase, with 53% of them deciding not to shop with the retailer if they didn’t like what they saw. So, it is vital to optimise your policy, make it concise and easy to read, and then shout about it!
5. Get customers refunded quickly
The vast majority of customers are not fraudsters. Retailers that reward their shoppers with fast refunds build customer loyalty and encourage them to get back on their site and start shopping again sooner. 72% of consumers expect a fast refund, so slow processes will ultimately exasperate customers and, once again, increase enquiries for your Customer Service Team.
6. Move to paid returns
For many retailers, the decision this peak season will be whether to start charging for returns. In 2021, 92% of returns were free over the month of November. In 2022, only 32.5% of returns were free throughout this same period.
We expect many more retailers to make the move this peak, so if you’re considering paid returns, you’ll be in good company. We also have not seen any retailers make the move back to free returns after charging and no reports of consumer backlash.
The increase in the adoption of paid returns is a healthy sign for retailers looking to recoup profit on the returns journey, because as the retail industry knows all too well: there is no such thing as a ‘free return’.
7. Offer multiple carrier services
Unfortunately, retailers can never be in complete control of their carrier services. Whether due to sudden snowfall or workforce strikes, or even just delays due to unprecedented volume, logistical headaches are often unavoidable. We recommend partnering with multiple carrier services and solutions, so even if one is experiencing issues, your customers have other options. This minimises frustrations felt by your customers and reduces the burden on your Customer Service Team.
8. Implement Return to Store
One of those options should be Return to Store, if you have brick-and-mortar stores at your disposal. Return to Store is one of the preferred options for 40% of UK consumers, and the outright favourite for US consumers. It can be utilised as a free option to lessen the impact of a switch to paid returns and provides a convenient option for consumers. It also has the added benefit of driving footfall to your store and increasing the chance of upsell.
9. Save the sale
Returns are not the end of the transaction. Far from it. 44% of returns were processed across 2022’s Black Friday weekend due to sizing issues. A problem easily solved by a Live Exchange feature. ZigZag’s Live Exchanges encourages consumers to swap their return for another size or colour, thus saving the sale. ZigZag also has a Refund to Store Credit feature that promotes keeping cash in the business and offers an attractive solution for products bought as gifts. There’s still time to go live with these features before the January wave of returns.
10. Digitise your returns solution
Customers don’t want to print labels – they want QR codes. Retailers want to reduce warehouse processing times too. To do that you need a returns portal. ZigZag can help with all of the above. From our expansive logistics network of 1,500 carrier services to our Draper’s-Award-winning Returns Reporting Hub, ZigZag is a market-leading returns solution that can empower your business, delight your customers, and improve your sustainability.
Send me a message directly if you want to discover more about how ZigZag can transform your returns process over peak.