How to Make the Most of Holiday Returns This Season

Ready or not, here they come…

Many of the holiday orders you’ve worked so hard to fulfill at lightning speed will soon be boomeranging back to you. 

An estimated 1.9 million packages will be on their way to e-commerce sellers come January 2 — a steep 26% increase compared to last year’s National Returns Day. 

That’s not all. Another 1.6 million return packages will be in the mail every day in the week leading up to Christmas, putting a lot of holiday inventory back on shelves before the holiday selling season is even over.

But while the rate of holiday returns and refunds continues to rise each year, there is a silver lining. 

With the right plans in place, you can turn any overstock issues into revenue-generating strategies. To help, we’ve pulled together three techniques all online sellers should put into practice this season.

Process Returns at Record Speeds

All e-commerce companies know to optimize fulfillment in advance of peak selling seasons. But few take the same steps when preparing a strategy for processing returns. For example: Although 97% of retailers provide shipment tracking on outgoing deliveries, only 7% do the same for returned items — even though customers tend to check on in-transit packages an average of eight times.

That means you can get a big edge on your competition simply by prioritizing your returns process. 

Recent surveys show that 96% of consumers will shop with a specific seller again after having a positive return experience. More than 60% purchase new products to replace the items they’re returning — as long as the process is defined by hassle-free policies, free return shipping and automatic refunds.

Creating a painless returns process is one of the most efficient ways to keep inventory moving throughout the holiday rush, and to capture consumer loyalty. And the faster you process a return, the sooner it’ll be back in inventory and ready to resell at full value.

Keep Inventory Up-to-Date

As you get returned inventory ready for resale, keeping your listings up-to-date will be key. In the crucial crush of last-minute shopping, syncing stock across channels can be the difference between a highly profitable peak season and a lot of missed opportunities.

Granted, keeping inventory updated across multiple marketplaces is hard work, particularly during busy seasons when your teams are already being pulled in a hundred different directions. If you haven’t already begun the process of automating inventory management across channels, there’s still time to get set up in time for National Returns Day.

Taking steps now to address common inventory issues means you’ll be set to capitalize on opportunities to resell returned merchandise, rather than resorting to closeout pricing to eliminate excess.

Leverage the Benefits of Bundling

Bundling products into single-SKU offerings isn’t just a best practice for pricing on marketplaces. It’s also an effective strategy for encouraging larger purchases while simultaneously selling returned merchandise. 

If certain items are getting returned more frequently than others, look for ways to group them with complementary products that are selling well. Then offer the entire package at one competitive price. 

With so many consumers searching for ideas and inspiration, bundling is often your best bet when it comes to keeping inventory moving.

And a thoughtful bundling strategy will allow you to achieve two important goals. First, it makes it easy to sell several products at once, whether consumers are still in the midst of holiday hosting and gift shopping or have moved on to returns. Second, you’ll be creating a positive experience for consumers through convenience and cost. 

In conclusion: The above strategies are a few of many we recommend when preparing for holiday returns and the post-season bonanza. For more tips you can use throughout the year, subscribe to the ChannelAdvisor newsletter. You’ll get monthly updates on the latest e-commerce trends and strategies you can use to get ahead of your competition.

Editor’s note: This blog post was last updated on December 5, 2018. It has been further updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.