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The peak selling season for many eCommerce stores is rapidly approaching. And, with it, the busiest time of year for returns too. If you want to be better prepared to deal with these returns – and reduce your costs associated with them – then keep reading.

Why peak season returns are important

With leading bank Citi predicting that UK inflation rates could hit 18% by early 2023, it’s more important than ever that you not only handle returns correctly but that you do so in a way that saves you money.

Incorrectly handling returns during peak season could have a significant impact on your eCommerce store’s profitability.

Not only can a clear, transparent returns process save you money, but it can also improve customer loyalty – something which is going to be crucial should the economy take a further turn for the worst.

How to reduce the costs of your peak season returns

With those points in mind, let’s look at some ways in which you can reduce the costs associated with your peak season returns.

Avoid returns altogether

This isn’t necessarily going to be suitable for all types of eCommerce stores, however some retailers are now opting to avoid returns altogether – instead, allowing customers to keep the item in question.

This is a strategy which mainly lends itself to retailers who sell lower-value items or fast moving consumer goods. In these scenarios, the cost of the return can be higher than the value of the item itself.

Not only does this remove the need to deal with returns altogether, but it can also help build customer loyalty.

Encourage in-store drop offs

If you have brick and mortar locations in addition to your online store, then one of the most effective ways you can reduce the costs associated with peak season returns is to encourage in-store drop offs.

Not only does this BORIS (Buy Online Return In Store) returns strategy reduce costs associated with logistics and shipping, but in fact many customers actually prefer to return their items to a physical location.

According to a study by shipping provider UPS, 45% of Europeans prefer to return items in person to a brick and mortar store.

Use pre-printed return labels

With around 30% of purchases made during the peak season being returned, it makes sense to plan ahead and include pre-printed return labels within order packages.

Not only does this make the returns process far easier for the customer – thus encouraging customer loyalty – but it can help you to reduce costs by pre-selecting the most cost-efficient shipping service based on the customer’s location.

Using pre-printed returns labels can also speed things up once the package arrives back at your warehouse. By adding relevant information to the return label, you and your team will be able to more efficiently process the return back into your inventory.

Deliver parcels on time

This may seem like a no brainer, but when it comes to the peak season, people are almost always buying presents for a particular date.

If your shipping provider is unable to deliver parcels ahead of those dates, then you’re going to experience a flurry of returns – and their associated costs.

After all, who needs Christmas presents after Christmas?!

You can preempt any delivery issues by using shipping providers that use tracking software, meaning you can spot the early warning signs of delivery issues. Based on those tracking updates, you and your customer service team can communicate with customers and try and resolve any delays.

For example, perhaps the customer would be willing to collect their parcel from a storage locker instead? Or the product could be sent from a different distribution centre in order to arrive on time.

Optimise your packaging

The peak selling season sees a truly vast number of parcels and packages being handled by shipping providers.

This means that during peak periods, your packages are potentially going to be spending more time in transit, going through more stops along the way, more handling by busy delivery drivers and more moving and sorting in general.

As a result, the chances of damage to packages is much higher during the peak period.

Naturally, damaged packages are not only going to be viewed poorly by customers who receive them, but they’re much more likely to result in returns – and with that, higher costs for you.

You can reduce these costs and returns by ensuring that packages sent out during the peak period are fit for purpose. For example, if you’re experiencing a level of damage-related returns for products which are shipped in padded envelopes, it may make sense to send these items in boxes instead.

Whilst optimising your packaging in this way may lead to some increased costs for packaging materials, these costs are going to pale in comparison to dealing with returns and damaged products.

Lengthen your returns timeframe

One way in which you can reduce the costs associated with peak season returns is to make sure these returns aren’t made during the peak season!

Let us explain…

By extending the amount of time that customers have to make returns during the peak season, you can reduce the burden on your returns processing team.

You’ll effectively be spreading out your returns into the quieter post-peak period.

Ordinarily, if you stuck to your standard returns period, you’d find you have a huge number of returns to deal with during an already busy period. In many instances, you may have to take on additional temporary staff to deal with these returns.

Lengthening your returns timeframe eliminates the need to scale up manpower, thereby saving you money.

Outsource your returns handling

If you want to truly unlock savings regarding your returns, then it can make sense to outsource your returns handling.

Third-party logistics companies are focused on handling returns in the most efficient way – meaning they can reduce the cost of your returns significantly.

Specialists like 3PL are adept at handling returns for multiple major eCommerce brands and because they deal with returns at high volumes, they benefit from economies of scale – which are passed on to you.

Speak to 3PL about your peak season returns today

For more eCommerce returns, fulfilment and logistics advice, read the 3PL blog

Top 10 Tips for Planning for eCommerce Peak Season 2022 | How to Plan for Peak Season Returns | How to Choose the Best eCommerce Fulfilment Service for Your Business