The continued growth of e-commerce places even more pressure on logistics providers to meet and exceed customer expectations through the holidays and into the busy returns period.
In the logistics industry, we often talk about the importance of preparing for the busy peak period in the lead up to Christmas Day. But the preparation does not stop once the gifts are under the tree. The holiday surge, characterised by upticks in volume, foot traffic, staffing pressures and more, carries on well into the new year as shoppers return and exchange their holiday purchases.
The continued growth of e-commerce places even more pressure on logistics providers to meet and exceed customer expectations through the holidays and into the busy returns period. In fact, recent data from UPS forecast a record-breaking year for e-commerce returns globally, with millions of returns expected through the UPS network through to January.[i]
The customer returns experience is not to be overlooked. In fact, 73 percent of online shoppers in the UK indicate that the returns experience affects their likelihood to make a purchase again with the retailer[ii]. Luckily, there are lots of steps that businesses can take to plan ahead for the post-holiday returns period, such as extending their returns policies, providing easy-to-reach customer service options, retaining seasonal helpers into the New Year and informing customers about possible delays.
As a leader in logistics, UPS knows that the key to managing the holiday surge, including the returns season, is preparation. Here are our top tips for businesses to prepare for their first returns season:
1. Find efficiencies in your shipping
Efficiency is key to a successful business, particularly when it comes to the holiday season and making sure an influx of returns doesn’t overwhelm your business. This shouldn’t come at the expense of the environment though, and there is no reason your business can’t succeed in both. Everyone should be doing all they can to contribute to a sustainable future - one way being through providing your customers with reusable and recyclable packaging suitable for returns.
Saving the shipping materials that you receive and reusing them for your own future shipments can cut down on waste by a significant amount, not to mention savings on costs.
Businesses should also look to make sure their packaging is the right size for what they’re shipping; the empty spaces in and between packages can be the black holes of efficiency. Keeping your shipment packaging to the right size can maximise efficiencies in your packaging and shipping, reduce your damages and also add an element of sustainability to it.
2. Consider your returns labels
Your customers expect reliable returns and meeting their needs can increase their loyalty to your business. Logistics providers like UPS can work with businesses to make the returns process easier by providing different return label options that will ensure you have control and visibility over your returns shipments.
Options can include a printed return label in the original outbound shipment or offering electronic return labels that can be emailed directly to your customers to print and affix to the return packaging. By providing these return shipping options through a trusted service like UPS, you can have full sight over incoming return shipments and reliable tracking information to minimise mistaken return shipments.
That perspective can increase your efficiency, let you react more quickly, and positively impact your bottom line.
3. Make collections and drop-offs easy
In the same way that customers expect easy and alternative delivery options, retailers need to provide flexible and easy returns options for customers.
UPS’s 2019 Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study found that 73% of shoppers surveyed said the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again, with proactive communications, flexible return options and transparency among the key elements that customers expect of a great returns experience.
To help ensure a great returns experience for your customers, services like home collection can help ease the stress and effort of dropping off a parcel for returns. For added flexibility, retailers can also work with UPS to provide access to the company’s network of easy UPS Access Point locations across the UK for a quick and easy drop-off experience.
While the retail landscape continues to evolve, logistics providers work in the background to make sure that business needs and customer expectations are met, throughout the year. The key is to be prepared and stay focused on customer requirements – and get ready to start the process all over again as soon as the Christmas lights come down.
[i] UPS Forecasts Record-Breaking Holiday Returns Volume, 2019. https://pressroom.ups.com/pressroom/ContentDetailsViewer.page?ConceptType=PressReleases&id=1572638946840-613
[ii] UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, UK, 2019