Are Your Stores Return-Ready?

A cheat sheet to help your teams deal with the onslaught of post-Holiday in-store returns.

December 23, 2021

Come January, frontline teams across the globe will be inundated with post-Holiday in-store returns. And most of those returns will be purchases originally made online.

The ongoing threat of Covid-19 and increased convenience of ecommerce has driven more and more shoppers to purchase holiday gifts online. A recent report from CBRE projects that $66.7 billion of those online sales will become returns – up 13% year-over-year – and could end up costing retailers as much as two-thirds the original price, when factoring in labor, transportation and warehousing costs.

Returns are inevitable. But few customers want to deal with the headache of processing online returns themselves. After all, who wants to print a shipping label and wait in line at the post office? Who would ever want to pay for return shipping?

There is an alternative: Head to your nearest brick and mortar store with those online purchases in tow. 

Returns – especially online returns – can be a huge source of friction for customers and associates alike. But companies that take the time now to prepare their field teams via clear and consistent communication will come out on top. In fact, how you deal with ecommerce returns can differentiate your brand, create a competitive advantage, and even make you more profitable.

Are your stores return-ready? We’ve pulled together a cheat sheet to help you ensure your field teams are ready for the storm of post-holiday returns:

Simplify Returns Operations

Even the most operationally sound retailers may still have a returns process that’s a little counterintuitive. Weird POS workarounds, barcodes that don’t scan easily – tiny nuances like this are typically inconsequential when you’re dealing with a handful of online returns a day, but they can become real roadblocks when your volume of returns shoots up. Treat reopening the same way you’d treat the day after Christmas: do everything in your power to make executing online returns at the POS dead simple. 

  • Check to make sure your SOPs, policies, and job aids are up-to-date. Any incorrect information that’s lingering in your document repository could cause confusion.
  • Send a preemptive communication to remind store teams of the proper returns process. Require every employee to “sign off,” certifying they’ve read the reminder.
  • Create a “cheat sheet” that teams can print, cut, and tape to the POS with step-by-step instructions outlining the returns process.
  • Reach out to your Store Support team and make sure they have the right information in case they get an influx of calls about returns.

Make Remerchandising Easy

A large portion of online returns will be liable goods, like seasonal merchandise, that will soon look out of place on the sales floor. Prepare your teams ahead of time to make the best merchandising decisions possible, so the likelihood of re-selling that returned item is as high as possible.

  • Send out generic guidelines for remerchandising returns to the salesfloor, so teams are empowered to make swift decisions about “where-this-old-thing-goes” without needing to contact corporate.
  • Set parameters around what products should automatically be routed to the back “vacuum shelf,” where they can be shortlisted for ship-from-store orders. 
  • Consider giving teams a little more creative license when it comes to merchandising the “old” with the “new.” Put out a call for photo submissions and celebrate stores that are able to seamlessly integrate the two in a seamless, shoppable way.

Empower Teams With Upsells

As much as 71% of in-store returns result in an immediate purchase. In this way, online returns can actually be a boon for your business. Take it a step further by helping your frontline teams personalize the experience with tailored offers of replacement or other items to buy as part of the return process.

  • Prepare field teams for upsells by giving them a shortlist of popular replacement items to offer while processing returns. 
  • Script out responses to the most common customer objections your store employees will encounter when trying to turn a return into a sale. Encourage them to practice so they feel prepared to deal with customers.
  • Establish a real-time feedback loop so your stores can share learnings from the front lines. Are there common returns they’re seeing, or common customer concerns that are emerging? Ask teams to post to a (private) social channel or send reports up through their DM so you can get a pulse on what’s working, and what’s not.

Zipline is the field enablement platform that ensures your stores do what they’re supposed to do, so your company can get things done and provide a great customer experienceReach out to learn how we can help improve your store execution to above 90%.

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