[Guest Blog] Tips for a smooth returns process during COVID-19 disruptions

The last month has been one of the most testing in recent memory for the retail industry. Both retailers and carrier services alike are facing unprecedented challenges and pressure across their business, and may continue long into the summer. 

Brick and mortar stores have shut across the world and distribution centers have slowed or ground to a halt. Unsurprisingly, clothing sales fell immediately after the UK government announced lockdown measures, but have since shown signs of recovery online. With consumers left with few options, and carriers services largely performing very well, we expect the shift to shopping online we were already seeing pre-coronavirus to continue to accelerate. 

Against this backdrop of coronavirus-inspired disruption, returns have perhaps taken a backseat for some retailers. It may not be business as usual, but here are some recommendations for managing your returns:

  • Move to paid or subsidized returns — Costs may rise in some cases for carrier services, but paid returns could help recoup some of the costs and preserve cash in these challenging times.
  • Extend your returns policy period — Affording your customers the chance to return later, when supply chain disruption may have reduced, will improve customer satisfaction with minimal effect on the rate of returns.
  • Adding collections from home — With many customers self-isolating and most parts of the country still on lockdown, the safest and most practical return option is collecting directly from a customer’s home.
  • Offer instant refunds — The biggest drain on customer services are questions when a customer can expect to be refunded. ZigZag’s solution helps you identify returns in transit so you can pre-empt the refund process, especially for low-value goods, allowing you to save on customer service costs and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Handling in-store returns online — Brick and mortar closures will cause issues for customers returning goods bought in-store, drop us an email to discuss ways we can help with processing the return of in-store purchases.
  • Uphold your reputation — Provide clear and up-to-date information on how you are handling your returns. While you may not gain customers by doing this, you certainly could lose customers with an unclear and frustrating returns experience that adds additional hassle to their lives.
  • Consider holding goods in-country — Reduce your costs and the overall impact on carrier services. ZigZag can then help you fulfill directly to new customers in-country.
  • Take a look at your grading process — With stock marooned in different countries, it’s important to have a consistent and accurate grading process. Surcharges are being implemented by carriers and warehouses for stock in storage; so for damaged goods, the sooner they are graded, and the sooner they can be donated or recycled and moved out of storage, the better.

As business starts to resume a more familiar rhythm in the future, we may see some new consumer behaviors emerging as a result of prolonged shopping online and home deliveries and collections. Consumers may want to avoid changing rooms, they may have found new online sellers during the pandemic they prefer, or may work from home more. This is very likely to result in a retail landscape dominated by online sales. 

With return rates over 50% in fashion and 89% of consumers checking a retailer’s returns policy before purchasing, it’s important to ensure your business has the capacity and expertise to deal with the returns process. Especially as e-commerce sales boom. 

If you would like to discuss any of the above, please feel free to contact ZigZag Global for more information and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for more top tips on your returns process.

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