E-Commerce | 23. November 2021

How online merchants can manage the flood of returns after Black Friday

Returns are annoying for customers and merchants alike. There are several processing options that the merchant can choose. An overview. by

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Black Friday week 2021 has started! Initial forecasts for this year’s Cyber Weekend assume a turnover of 5 billion euros in Germany. For e-commerce merchants, this means they have to be more than ready and precisely preparing their product range, prices, structures and all other processes for it! Part of this preparation should also be the optimal handling of returns, which unfortunately accumulate after these mega sales days. Returns are not only annoying for e-commerce merchants, but also involve a lot of effort. Of course, it would be best to avoid them right from the start or to keep them as low as possible. However, once they are there, quick action is required to avoid creating even more expenses. We provide tips and advice.

Reasons for returns and how they can be avoided

Customers often get carried away by super bargains on special sales days, only to regret their purchase a short time later or find an even better offer elsewhere. In addition, on these days there are also more returns in connection with defective goods, items with the wrong size or products where the quality is simply not convincing. As an online merchant, you should take preventive care to always display products as accurately as possible in the shop system. Detailed descriptions of size and material as well as sufficient picture material are important here. In some cases, small product videos are also excellent. In addition, customer reviews should be checked and displayed. A positive experience report can influence the customer’s decision to buy. Customers should get an accurate impression as possible of the goods they are buying. Further tips on how to prevent returns and improve customer loyalty can be found here.

Precisely define the returns process

In order to cope with the flood of returns, it is advisable to plan, test and implement the entire process in advance. If possible, this should be done in a period when sales are calmer, in order to keep mistakes to a minimum. In this way, it can be considered to employ additional staff or to train and educate employees accordingly. Returned items must be inspected, checked for functionality, repaired and cleaned. A decision must be made as to whether the item should be offered for sale again or shredded. The criteria for this must be determined in advance. In the case of a resale, it must be determined through which channel and at what price the item should be offered again. All defects should be well documented and included in a resale.

What to do with returned and inspected goods?

If the items have been inspected and are ready for resale, marketplaces, auction platforms or shops that specifically sell B-goods can be used. Here, each merchant must check individually which platforms are best suited for him and his assortment. For example, there are portals that focus on technical products and others that offer clothing and accessories.

It is also possible to sell B-goods and returns via your own shop. Here, special attention should be paid to complete documentation of complaints and good customer service. The customer should be informed in detail about the defects of the product so that the next return does not follow immediately. The more often the same item is returned, the less chance there is of selling it again. In the end, the item has to be written off, even though effort was put into the sale. Annoying for customers and sellers and an absolute loss for the merchant.

Engaging service providers

If I as a merchant cannot handle the returns and their inspection myself, service providers can be engaged for this purpose. One way is directly via the respective logistics service provider and without any expense for the merchant, as the articles are no longer returned to him. But beware: this is usually where the highest losses occur for the merchant. The articles are collected unchecked on so-called mixed pallets and sold to remnant merchants or wholesalers for sometimes a tenth of the actual value of the goods. In addition, goods are often simply shredded in this way, which is not at all in the spirit of sustainability. Therefore, merchants should carefully check whether this is the right way for them.

Regardless of whether it is via their own shop, resale platforms or service providers: the merchant should make sure that the returns do not block their warehouse, cause additional costs and that customers can count on the quickest possible return shipment.

Technical support for the handling of returns

Software solutions can facilitate the efficient processing of returns. These assist in finding the optimal resale option and sort the goods directly after arrival. This makes it easier to set priorities, because a resale must be carried out quickly, as new versions of products can quickly appear on the market. AI-based systems can also help find the best resale price. They automatically evaluate data from a wide variety of marketplaces and draw conclusions about the best price choice.

Of course, these solutions can also be used for regular merchandise and support the merchant in his entire sales process based on data.

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