These 3 Factors will Impact Holiday Shopping and Returns

In the last year, the buzz about retail shopping trends has rightfully centered on COVID impacts, such as the increase in online shopping, contactless payments, and more product returns as a result of fewer in-store visits.

But even with COVID restrictions lifting, other factors will impact the retail scene this fall. Here are a few things for retailers and 3PLs to consider as Q4 quickly approaches.

Thanksgiving store closures won’t mean fewer sales
According to a recent report by eMarketer, ecommerce sales will increase this year to 18.9% of total holiday sales, up from 17.5% in 2020.

Even though big retailers like Target and Walmart have said they won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day, that will simply push consumers to the web instead of the store. Black Friday online sales are expected to show an increase as well, as online shopping has become more routine in the last year and may keep more shoppers out of the stores, even when they are open.

“Up to 40 percent of ecommerce purchases are returned, so the projected increase in holiday sales should be alerting retailers to get their returns processes optimized and efficient now,” said Gaurav Saran, CEO of ReverseLogix.

Returns: Parents never leave home with them
The only thing better than easy online shopping is an easy online returns process.

This is especially true for parents shopping for their children. According to an Oracle Retail survey, parents are more likely to return items than those without children. They’re also much more likely to choose return options that don’t require them to leave the house and make a return at a physical store.

In other words, when it comes to holiday shopping, parents are likely to be shopping online and disproportionately making returns. And the entire experience better be fast and simple.

“Easy online returns are a sure-fire way to secure brand loyalty among parents,” said Saran. “Give them a branded portal, minimal screens, printable label and clear communication about their refund status. You’ll have a customer for life.”

3PLs and logistics providers are “salivating”
While retailers typically lose money on returns, logistics providers are thrilled with the jumps in online sales and subsequent returns. Business Insider went so far as to say they’re “salivating,” after XPO Logistics told the site that returns bring in two to five times the revenue of outgoing packages.

While managing returns for retailers is certainly a big opportunity for 3PLs, it must be done well or they risk upsetting both the customer and the customer’s customer.

“Ultimately, you should be able to offer a returns process that’s faster and more cost-efficient than what a retailer could achieve on their own,” said Saran. “This is where bi-directional communication with the customer, detailed reports and customizable workflows are essential. They’ll help a 3PL adjust their business to truly serve what the customer’s needs and keep them updated on KPIs and cost savings.”