Retail returns management

04 JANUARY 2021

Globally, 2020 has been both an eventful and challenging year. With the Covid-19 pandemic set to remain a prevalent issue into 2021, it’s likely several trends from this past year will continue into next. For example, the e-commerce boom, year-round peak volumes, and online shopping as an essential service, in a world where many brick-and-mortar stores remain closed and people are still restricted in terms of movement, spending large amounts of time at home. As such, we’ve outlined a couple of our key predictions for e-commerce and returns in 2021. It’ll be interesting to see which new trends will emerge, which will remain, and which may no longer be relevant. 

E-commerce returns management

The popularity of online shopping will remain, encouraging further innovation…  

With the pandemic set to continue into next year, we foresee that the focus and developments on e-commerce channels are likely to continue. Online shopping will continue to be more popular than ever before, encouraging brands to keep this as a key focus. Higher order volumes have increased consumer demands over time and will further inspire the development and improvement of these channels. This includes returns, which always plays an essential role in the overall sales process. To accompany higher order volumes, it’s important that brands secure a smart and seamless returns solution for their customers. Offering, for example, more send in options, access to digital tools such as online returns portals, and faster refund times. Catering to a variety of budgets, lifestyles, and other consumer demands.  

The demand for sustainable e-commerce options will grow… 

Our prediction is that we’ll also see a rise in the number, and popularity, of sustainable and secondhand brands on the market in 2021. Especially those associated with fashion and apparel. During the course of the pandemic, fashion resale platforms have witnessed an upswing in sales and usage. Resultantly, a variety of popular marketplace sellers have also turned their focus to selling pre-loved items.  

Additionally, we’re also likely to see greener options emerging on the operational side of these emerging channels, returns included. Such as more environmentally friendly transport and packaging options, as well as waste-preventing solutions such as recycling and resale activities. These developments will be reactionary to the rising concerns, both on a company and customer level, to the environmental impact of commerce. Brands are, in ever-increasing amounts, recognizing their role in this and are beginning to act. Whereas shoppers are also continuously regarding greener companies as preferable.

Online shopping will be more personalized and customized  

Although many brands offer this already, we see this as a growing trend among e-commerce channels. Especially with the evidence that a personalized shopping experience is a drawing factor for around 80% of consumers. Primarily, offering a customized shopping and returns improves customer experience. In turn, this encourages future sales and helps brands build a loyal consumer base. Studies reflect this showing that over 40% of shoppers are more likely to become repeat customers after experiencing a personalized service. Features such as a ‘recommended for you’ page, sizing suggestions, and varied payment and returns options, all help to enhance the consumers’ experience. Through this, brands are also able to get to know their customers better and build a closer relationship. 

In direct relation to returns, features such as those listed above also help to reduce the overall volume of returns. This is a major benefit for retailers as returns are generally a costly business. Especially if the returns process is not embraced and optimized. A more personalized shopping experience means that brands can use data insights to accurately recommend products and sizes to customers. Managing expectations, making suitable suggestions, and reducing the likelihood that orders end as returns.   

Brexit is likely to affect cross-border returns between the UK and EU… 

As the Brexit trade negotiations draw to a close, it remains uncertain whether a deal will be struck between the UK and EU, or what that deal will look like. Once Brexit occurs at the very beginning of 2021, a new way of trading will likely be established between the UK and EU. This will influence many elements in e-commerce, both in the purchasing and returning of orders. With regards to returns, there’s likely to be extra custom checks, more product data needed to process items, and a more localized approach to ensure the returns continue in a quick and orderly way. 


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