Handling The Peak Returns Period – Business Insights With Service Delivery Manager Tom Pitt

When is it and What causes it?

October to December, a great time for retailers. Sales are going up, more and more products going out the door, awesome! However this leads ever so smoothly into the “Returns” peak period in November to January. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors which come into play that contribute to this yearly phenomenon.

Buyer remorse, unwanted gifts, christmas party clothing and of course just the general increase in sales and traffic see reverse logistics become more important than ever. Last year we saw 42% of our annual returns completed in November to January, that’s a lot of items to process in a short space of time.

What do you need to consider?

Customer expectations are always changing and the bar is being set higher and higher every year. When selling on marketplaces, each has their own rules, policies and requirements that you need to hit. Do you need to offer free returns? Do you have to have an in-country address for the customer to return to? How long does the customer have to return the item? How quickly do you need to process the return once you have them back? The questions can seem endless.

All these questions can have a serious impact on your profitability, operations and your performance metrics on the marketplace which opens up the risk of suspension or penalties. On top of this, if the item is within certain categories do you need to provide free return, the rules might state once it is back at the warehouse you need to provide a refund within 2 days. Suddenly the answers to these questions aren’t so easy to come up with.

What do Pertemba do?

At Pertemba we have partnered with International return specialists and carriers to set up a return network which covers every marketplace we operate on. We can offer various services and options to our customers from free returns to in-country locations which helps to reduce their cost of postage when returning any unwanted items.

Add in our trained customer services team that monitor the returns throughout their journey to provide fast and efficient refunds or exchanges we can keep on top of our performance metrics, reduce cost by consolidating returns from multiple marketplaces in 1 local location and also improve profit by making sure the items we get back are suitable to be sold once again.

Our warehouse operations are set up to handle the increase in volume to make sure there is no impact to the customer experience with extra staff who use our in-house system to process the items. Where possible we will, repackage and resell the item providing it meets sufficient quality checks to be resold so that it doesn’t impact our own or our partners´ brand image and integrity.

After January that’s the hard work done, right?

Nope, it’s time to use the data you have gathered to improve and reorganise ahead of next year. We look at product information to see if there is additional information needed that might reduce a product’s return rate. We look at customer feedback to understand what their experience of returning an item to us was like. Can we improve our communication? Were there enough options for them to easily return the item?

As I mentioned, the bar is always being raised by retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, ASOS etc and customer expectations become more and more difficult to reach. We put in a lot of work to set up the network we have now and have seen feedback improve across all our marketplaces, particularly when it comes to returns experiences, which ultimately leads to more sales.