Black Friday Returns

November 23, 2015
Black Friday

Back in the summer, we posted about the impact of seasonal peaks on shopping trends, which indicated how early retailers were beginning their preparations for the festive season. It is now only 4 days until the biggest shopping event of the year takes place, and we've already seen some brands starting to discount in anticipation of Friday, so we're looking forward to hearing how some of the top fashion brands cope this year.

We really saw Black Friday take off in the UK last year, with goods (literally) flying off the shelves! But this condensed purchase window encourages rapid purchase decisions which doesn't fit the profile of a loyal or repeat customer. We wonder just how many customers actually decide to keep their purchases after the frenzy dies down...? EasySize (2015) did a bit of digging on this and found that ‘1 out of 3 shoppers returned what they bought on black Friday’ last year and, as the predictions for this year are expected to be even bigger, they believe that ‘approximately 30 million unwanted goods worth £500 million will be returned during the holiday period this year' - Yikes!

A few weeks back at the MetaPack partner day, we heard from John Beechen, Head of Managed Services at Salmon reflect on Black Friday who offered some interesting strategies on coping with the increased demand. Beechan told us that even the brands who were not participating in Black Friday deals still experienced huge traffic spikes, resulting in online orders irrespective of whether they had a flash sale or not. Salmon have produced 'The Black Friday & Peak Trading Ecommerce Operations Playbook' which gives some really interesting insight into the online behaviour witnessed last year and projections for 2016 which is an excellent scene-setter, so we recommend you take a look at their whitepaper.

Many brands will be focusing heavily on ensuring their outbound demand is met to avoid a repeat of last year's disappointment with months of planning to optimize their web servers to cope with the demand, introducing a queuing system, adjusting delivery expectations to a longer time period or spreading their flash sales across multiple days to alleviate the pressure. But will their returns process be up to scratch?

We've got a few suggestions on how returns could be optimized this Black Friday...

1. Black Friday attracts many new visitors, so the percentage of first-time customers will be greatly increased. Make sure you impress them with your return policy, by proving they wont regret their impulse buy because you'll make the return process so easy and simple for them if they change their mind.

2. Offer multiple return methods worldwide. With increased pressure on carriers around peak, give your customers a choice of return method - then they are in control of who they trust to deliver the items back safely. This will help with the flow of returns ending back in your warehouse from international customers and gives them the option to pay a bit extra for a tracked service for added peace of mind. At ReBOUND, our research found that out of the top 132 UK fashion retailers, only 3% of these brands offered more than 3 return methods to international shoppers (which included returns by post, courier service, collection point or in-store). These leading brands have embraced their returns policy as a marketing tool to promote a positive return experience and many use ReBOUND as their global returns solution.

3. Think long term, don't celebrate the one-time thing. Incentivise shoppers to exchange rather than refund, or aim to refund quicker as the sooner the shopper gets their money back, the sooner they can re-invest in another great deal you can offer them instead. Improve the return experience rather than leaving a customer disappointed and this can help generate repeat business.

4. Spot trends in items that are being returned – question whether there is a reason the same pair of jeans are being sent back? Could it be a fitting or sizing issue or a common fault? Some 70% of all returned garments online are fit related, so draw valuable data from the increased return activity this time of year to feedback into regular operations.