With Black Friday and Cyber Monday heading towards us, retailers are being urged to make the online shopping experience as real to the consumer as an in-store experience to reduce the risk of ‘Peak Returns Week’.
‘Peak Returns week’, which impacts retailer profitability, is where peak orders achieved from the Cyber Weekend are followed by a peak in returns over the following week or two.
Andy Burton, CEO of eCommerce systems integrator Tryzens, explains: “A lot of focus for eCommerce teams each year is placed on being “Peak Proof”, but this is typically around ensuring site availability and positive online customer experience through the demand spike. Whilst it is critical to ensure the ability to scale sales from the online store and to have the right level of stock to service it, it is equally essential to place focus on ensuring those sales are effective and do not give rise to a higher rate of returns. Linear growth in sales and returns is at best inefficient, and at worst, a financial risk.”
“At Tryzens, we believe it essential to manage consumer expectations and inform purchasing decisions in the first place, providing rich, intuitive and relevant content to enhance the shopping experience, but delivered in a way that does not impede site performance or distract the efficient process of purchase,” says Burton.
Detailed product descriptions, a good range of photos, clear independent reviews and rich multi-media content can both drive interest and reduce the risk of a customer not being happy with their purchase because the product differed from their expectation. And for fashion retailers specifically, the important aspects relating to size and fit, as well as descriptions of materials, texture and the use of colour swatches can all improve the consumers understanding of what they are buying.
“Critically when it comes to both fashion and apparel, well-shot and plentiful photography and video as well as concepts like ‘shop the look’, add depth to the consumer experience, and increases confidence that the product will be suitable to that consumers’ needs. Accurate sizing assistance is also a critical area for review for retailers that are serious about reducing returns and thereby improving margins. With returns ranging from 5% to well over 50% of all online retail fashion purchases depending on brands and ranges, the opportunity for retailers to improve their profitability is arguably as much about reducing return rates to a minimum as it is about increasing sale,” adds Burton.
“With so many shoppers now ordering multiple sizes when ordering clothes online, and returning the ones that don’t fit, retailers have an opportunity to review their approach to marketing and merchandising online to try to improve the rate of getting the right fit for the shopper first time and weening them off an expensive ‘learned behaviour’ that otherwise pretty much guarantees a high level of returns. Focusing on updates to improve this experience and assessing the approach to promotions for the Golden Quarter provides real opportunity to improve net sales and profitability,” he continues.
Tryzens’ research into consumer habits around the peak trading period found that three-quarters (75%) of UK shoppers complete their festive shopping after Black Friday, with 85% doing at least half of it online. But price reductions and deals on gifts at this time are still important to the overwhelming majority (91%) of us, even if we don’t splash the cash during the main sale events.
Burton concludes: “Ensuring that your website performs during peak periods with effective capacity planning should, of course, be a priority for retailers. But once shoppers are on your eCommerce platform, it is conversion and quality of sales that matters. Not just conversion from a visit to purchase, but closing the loop and making sure the sale sticks past the returns period. The alternative is a hit on retailer profitability thanks to less talked about ‘Peak Returns Week!’”