Lean Supply Solutions (www.LeanSupplySolutions.com), a leading e-commerce logistics provider, is weighing in on the amount of commercial returns expected for online retailers this holiday season.
Although projections estimate that the 2015 holiday period will be worth a combined $64.7 billion to e-commerce operations, customer returns are expected to take away $19.4 billion—over 30% of this amount. (Source: Dua, T., “How retailers are combating e-commerce returns this holiday season,” Digiday, November 20, 2015; http://digiday.com/brands/retailers-combatting-ecommerce-returns-holiday-season/.)
“Returns are not always avoidable,” admits Tom Krzepkowski, chief operating officer of Lean Supply Solutions. “Much of what is purchased tends to be for someone else, which is why gift receipts exist. But there are still steps retailers can take to reduce the number of holiday product returns.”
One of the advantages brick-and-mortar stores have over online vendors is that customers are able to physically inspect and interact with items before purchasing. When buying online, customers only have pictures to go off. This makes it easier for them to be dissatisfied or disappointed with the received product.
“It could be bulkier, heavier, not the right size, harder to hold, or any other discrepancy that’s hard to tell from just an image,” Krzepkowski explains. “Presentation is very important for online stores. Allowing customers to view photos of the product from all angles and see it in use through pictures or videos can help provide a better sense of the item in question.”
Fit- or size-related concerns for clothing are responsible for roughly 17% of e-commerce returns overall. Without the ability to try on clothes, it can be harder for customers to adequately gauge how something might fit a particular person or body size.
“Some companies offer online models that can show how a piece of clothing might fit a certain body type or height,” Krzepkowski offers as an example. “But companies do not need to use something that sophisticated. Steps as simple as offering a comparison image can help give customers a better sense of how something might fit their intended recipient.”
Somewhat paradoxically, improving the return process can also help companies during this holiday period. Customers are more inclined to do their holiday shopping with e-commerce retailers who offer lenient return policies, allowing satisfied purchasers to more easily outweigh unsatisfied returns.
“It’s also useful to understand that it only counts as a loss if a customer makes a flat return and not an exchange. Businesses can work to devise methods that encourage this latter action instead,” Krzepkowski concludes.
Lean Supply Solutions is a third-party logistics provider that uses its Lean Methodology to help clients by overseeing all elements of the supply chain. They have unique set of tools and processes to facilitate end-to-end return management processes for e-commerce orders, making it that much easier to get the right “fit.” More information can be found on its web site at www.LeanSupplySolutions.com.