What to Expect During Peak Season 2022 - And How to Handle Returns

By Laura Garrett

Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is on in every store, lights are strung up along the streets, and there’s a festive feeling in the air. It can only mean one thing – the holidays are upon us! For most people, the holiday period is a relaxing time to wind down and get ready for the New Year. But for those who work in the retail and ecommerce industries, there’s no escaping the stresses that this time brings because it’s peak season.

In the 2 months that most of us are wrapped up watching The Grinch or Love Actually, retail workers are grappling with the surge in demand generated by the world’s most celebrated holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah and New Year’s Eve). This means that shoppers all around the world are making more purchases at one time than they do throughout the rest of the year, all at the same time. 

What to expect during peak season in 2022? 

What did we see in the market in previous years? Despite the pandemic and supply chain challenges, in 2020, retail holiday sales skyrocketed to 790 billion USD , 209 billion USD of which came from ecommerce sales. Overall, retail sales in the US in 2020 jumped by 8.3% compared to 2019. In Europe, the ecommerce boom was seen as well, with a parcel volume increase of 93.9% in 2020. However, parcel volume only increased by 69.7% in 2021 compared to 2020, showing that this trend seems to be slowing. And now in 2022, it could be slowing down even further due to world conflicts, ongoing effects from the pandemic, and inflation which affect supply chains around the world as well as consumer spending power. However, it’s all speculation as to what peak season will look like this year.  

No one really knows exactly what to expect this year as the conditions we’re under globally are quite unique. So, it’s more important than ever to be prepared for whatever comes your way, especially when it comes to returns. 

What returns look like during peak season 

In the world of ecommerce, the ‘buy first, choose later’ mentality is very common amongst shoppers, especially during the holidays when you want to make sure you have that perfect cocktail dress or suit for your holiday party. Try-before-you-buy schemes, in-session upsells and slashed prices in seasonal sales all encourage shoppers to load their baskets with multiple items to try on at home and return any that don’t meet their expectations. If left uncontrolled, costs can quickly skyrocket, but if managed properly, returns can turn into an asset for brands.  

For brands looking to cash-in on the seasonal sales and remain ‘in-the-black’ (that is how Black Friday gets its name after all), there’s some work to be done to make sure you’re adequately prepared for the returns coming your way as a result of peak season 2022.

So what can you do to optimize returns during peak? 

It’s time for brands to recognize that a sale isn’t a sale until the customer decides to keep it, so it’s important to shift the focus to the final sale, not just the initial conversion. 

Prepare your online store to minimize returns 

One of the most impactful ways to make sure that you retain original sale revenue is to reduce returns at the source. The best way to do this is to ensure that customers know what they are getting. Having thorough product descriptions, high-quality images, sizing guides, and 360-degree views of a product can already help consumers decide if the product they are buying will fit before it even arrives. Also, it’s also important to make sure that your return policy is clearly communicated and easily accessible for consumers, so they know what to expect and you won’t have to deal with a mountain of customer service claims later. 

Examine consumer return reasons 

Another element brands need to look at is how they could be inadvertently driving up their own return rates due to a lack of returns data. For example, we can learn a lot from simply examining the reasons why consumers return their previously purchased products. Is a certain product being returned frequently because it’s faulty? If so, this is vital information to feed into your manufacturing teams to help fix the problem at the source rather than continuing to sell damaged products which are destined for a return. Is a certain dress always returned because it’s too large? If so, there’s likely a sizing issue you need to address. You’ll be amazed at the impact this simple change can have. We’ve heard of some ReBound customers even pulling items from sale to address common return faults, thanks to having eyes on this data.

Optimize return processing time 

It’s not uncommon for brands to become snowed under trying to fulfill outbound shipments over the holiday and Christmas period, leaving returns to fall by the wayside. However, processing returns as they come through the door can have real benefits. Fast return processing ensures that products get back to stock more quickly, increasing the chances of securing the final sale while the product is still in season and can be sold at full price. Having full insight into what is being returned, why, and when it will arrive allows brands to plan warehouse resources effectively and process returns faster, crucially shortening that return to resale time. Plus, if you want to get really smart with returns optimization, you could look to have returns processed and prepped for resale before they even hit your warehouse (if only you knew a fabulous returns company that could do that for you 😉)

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Want to make sure that your return strategy for peak season 2022 measures up? Download our peak season checklist today— In it, you will find 6 practical questions that help you determine how well-prepared your return operation is to handle peak season this year. Go through the list and discover tips and suggestions that can help you improve your returns solution! 

Download now

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