2016 Holiday Trends – Dreaded Returns

holiday ecommerce returnsIn the first part of our 2016 Holiday Trends, the holiday season was defined in terms of the best online shopping day by category. We looked at specific dates that shoppers will be taking advantage of in order to attain the best deals, prevalent out-of-stock days, as well as predictions for top selling products by category.

However with sales and savings at the forefront of holiday shopping, the aftermath of returns closely follow and can sometimes be overlooked. According to market research firm IHL there are an estimated $642.6 billion in annual returns from consumers globally, while a study from Shorr Packaging suggests eCommerce return rates account for more than 30% of total eCommerce sales.

Return Predictions

eMarketer expects that holiday retail eCommerce sales will jump to $94.71 billion, representing 10.7% of total holiday retail sales. However, it’s estimated there will likely be $28 billion resulting in returns. Some leading causes of these returns include unwanted gifts, defective merchandise, wrong sizes/items, price mismatches, return fraud, and buyer’s remorse.

Consumer Return Expectations

When it comes to returns, today’s consumer has high expectations. Shoppers want the process to be fast, seamless, and of course, free. Before they make an online purchase, 66% review a retailer’s return policy before making their purchase, per a study by UPS.

With 60% of consumers preferring to return their products to the store, it is clear they also want the ability to choose where and how they make their return.

According to a Kurt Salmon survey, consumers expect returns to be processed in an average of 7.3 days, however fewer than 20% of retailers credited returns in seven days or fewer. Delayed account credits hurts the buyer-seller relationship and also potentially impacts future purchases.

Mitigating Returns

For Retailers

At this point it might seem too late to change return policies for the holiday season, but the more successful retailers have a consistent policy year-round. Starting today, retailers can take steps to make their return policies easy to understand and easy to see – as well as ensuring multichannel returns, both online and in-store.

For Brands

Brands can also have a significant impact on ensuring their products don’t get returned after the sale. Accurate product descriptions, high quality images, and a healthy number of reviews means that customers are more likely to be satisfied with their purchase once it arrives and avoid having a reason to return their holiday gift. Profitero’s Amazon FastMovers for November reveals that key categories such as Electronics, Grocery and Toys & Game have an average of 3,028 reviews and six images per product – a good benchmark to determine how well presented your products are on Amazon this holiday season and beyond.

Visit our Holiday 2016 microsite for more eCommerce insights and predictions for the holiday season.