The Impact of Covid-19 and The Shift to Ecommerce on Returns Management
It is well-established that Covid-19 has led to a significant shift towards online shopping. The most recent data released shows that online retail sales in May in the UK increased 168% compared with the same period last years.
Many dynamic and agile businesses have responded to this shift by focusing on online channels. This could be selling directly through their own ecommerce platform, exploring potential opportunities on marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, or simply using their communication channels to stay in touch with customers. However, there are growing pains associated this type of significant organisational shift.
The returns process is one of the main points for this pain. It has the potential to spill over and negatively impact consumer engagement.
Many online retailers have struggled to manage returns effectively, especially for brands that sell on marketplaces. This is because of strict policies from Amazon, which can leave small businesses with very little flexibility.
Consumers are well aware that returns policies play a significant role in their decision to buy from a brand. Many consider the cost and difficulty of returns when making a purchase online.
Retailers and brands that are focusing on ecommerce in response to the pandemic need to remember that there will always be returns.
A dedicated team that is well-equipped to manage them during peak times is the first step in effective management.
In response to Covid-19, multiple retailers decided to extend their returns window in order to reduce accessibility to postal and courier services as well as to avoid delivery delays.
This is a very compassionate decision. However, it could lead to retailers being placed under additional pressure for extended periods of time. Busy returns periods can increase the workload of already stretched teams. It is important to have a strategy in place to manage these busy periods.
Velocity Commerce’s entire warehouse team is trained in processing returns. This is a double-edged blade as it allows for everyone to have a different role but also ensures that large numbers of returns don’t land on just a few people if they flood in.
There are certain categories where the rate of return is higher than others. Having a strategy to identify these types and adapt the management process to each one will increase efficiency.
Badly managed returns can also cause a negative impact to the environment. This can lead to a surplus of resaleable stocks going to landfill. A robust testing procedure to identify damaged and defective stock can make a huge difference in minimizing environmental impact.
You can also check the packaging materials to make sure the products are well protected. Customers may be put off if there is excess packaging.
There is no way to eliminate all returns. However, if you take a holistic approach that considers your customers and the environment, it will be possible to reduce their impact.
Velocity Commerce sells a variety products on Amazon and eBay for our partner brands. We also manage returns which is an important part of online retail.
Online retail is all about transparency. Amazon and eBay offer a lot of opportunities for retailers to share as many details as possible on their listings. You should take advantage of these opportunities.
The less likely your customers will be to purchase the details at the point-of-sale, the better.