As we enter the festive season, brands and retailers will be gearing up for an influx of returns. Online shoppers are buying and trying different options for their party outfits. They’re also searching for presents, trying to find something special to surprise and delight loved ones and seeking out that elusive gift for the person who has everything!

This all involves a degree of shopping trial and error, especially when it comes to buying clothes, and as the days count down to the big day, the number of items being sent back starts to creep up. Returns are then likely to rise further after Christmas Day, as unwanted gifts are put back in their packets and shoppers bag one too many bargains in the Boxing Day and January sales.

Savvy retailers and brands are increasingly embracing this seasonal trend of returns, and ASCG works closely with many to crack the key challenge of quickly processing returned items and getting them ready for resale. Returns are treated as a channel in their own right and proactively integrated into supply chain strategies to maximise stock availability. It’s an approach that helps avoid any missed sales opportunities during the biggest shopping occasion of the year.

Whilst a lot of emphasis is focused on maximising the availability of returned stock and doing this efficiently to minimise margin dilution, there’s also another important factor influencing the speedy processing of returns – the trend of reshopping.

Sending an item back is increasingly becoming an important part of an ecommerce shopper’s purchasing journey. Their rejection of a product doesn’t suggest the end of their transaction. Instead, it’s a reminder of their original buying intent. They were prepared to spend money with a particular company and are likely respend it again as they reshop for an alternative to what they sent back.

Retailers and brands want to ensure this reshopping happens with them and they don’t’ lose the sale. A slick returns process is critical to this and must address two barriers.

First, the returns process must make it as easy as possible for a shopper to send their unwanted item back. Research* of 2,000 UK consumers shows that it takes a quarter (25%) of shoppers between 7 to 30 days to send back a return. Delays are caused when effort is required to repackage an item, take it to the post office or to download or request returns labels. Retailers and brands must make their delivery packaging returns-ready and the whole process convenient and consumer-centric to overcome these challenges. If this is achieved, it’ll help overcome the second barrier, the speed of a refund.

Shoppers will often want their original purchase refunded before they spend their money again. The research shows this rings true for about 60% of consumers and highlights the importance of intelligent supply chain software to enabling easy returns and speedy refunds.

Supply chain software with the right capabilities, such as ASCG’s award-winning Vector, can provide up-to-date information about the status of a returned item. This means that as soon as the product leaves a consumer’s possession, the refund process can be triggered. It can allow for a same day / speedy refund, which 68% of shoppers agree would encourage them to buy clothing online more frequently.

Quick and easy returns can lead to reshopping and long-term loyalty, which can provide richer data about customer purchasing behaviour. This helps inform more personalised, customer-led services such as style and sizing suggestions, which can then reduce the propensity for returns.

*Research was carried out in partnership with fashion sector experts TheIndustry.Fashion and a full copy of the Reshopping report can be downloaded here.