The critical customer insight gap that is killing retail profits

The most dangerous information gap currently facing retailers is a robust and realistic view of why a customer really returned their purchase. Not why they said they did. Or why you suspect they did – but robust, quantifiable and most importantly actionable insight.

Ecommerce return rates of 30% to 40% are common for some retail categories, with tens of millions of pounds of stock locked up every day for large retailers. It is not a sale until the customer decides to keep it. But whereas pre-purchase literally every click the customer makes is scrutinised, the causes of returns are typically assessed from a few codes on a returns form, along with an organisational assumption of the product or delivery likely being at fault.

The purchase to return insight black hole is intimately connected to damaged profitability. Returns have a disproportionate impact on the bottom line – so reducing a return rate by just 1 percentage point can boost gross profits by 1.6% and operating profits by a massive 15%.

Returns are not inevitable or unavoidable – if measured and understood they can be managed and reduced, resulting in increased profits and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. And once fully understood, they can be reduced without impacting top-line growth.

But trying to solve the problem without deep insight around cause and customer motivation is inefficient, speculative and risks that the customer’s profitability is jeopardised.

Specialist returns insight is essential, because this is a highly complex interplay of customer, product and marketing causes requiring cutting edge big data analytics. Clear Returns have done nothing but returns data modelling and analysis for almost 5 years and we’ve learned a few important things I’d like to share for those thinking about tackling this in house.

With the DIY approach to returns analysis, 3 things typically happen:

  1. The retailer usually looks to the product and its depiction first – because looking to the customer is far harder and complex. Low hanging fruit can be found, but change can be slow and insights can’t usually be generated and actioned fast enough for a big commercial impac
  2. A lot of effort then goes into attacking the symptoms not cause – eg fault testing, new returns reason codes, delivery or policy changes, sizing and fitting room technologies. This can be costly, time consuming and yet the ROI remains elusive. You’re very busy dealing with returns but still not seeing those efforts translate to the bottom line
  3. Most marketing efforts continue to focus solely on the sales conversion without realising the real point of purchase – the new final stage of the sale – is the keep/return decision that is made in the customer’s home. Therefore marketing efforts can drive returns even higher and profitability downwards. And at the same time, there is often internal resistance to targeting for keeps or enforcement of returns policy in case you’ll damage the top line and send customers elsewhere.

Not true……you can improve both the top line and operating profits if you truly understand the causes and impacts of returns.

We’ve learned – after trillions of data points and hundreds of thousands of iterations of our predictive models – that the secret to solving returns and boosting profits is shedding illumination into the knowledge black hole that represents the customer and product interplay that occurs between purchase decision and return decision.

Clear Returns uniquely and specifically focuses here because prediction and very early warning means that once fully understood, returns can be strategically and proactively managed to boost customer profitability without impacting top-line growth.

Talk to us to learn more about Clear Returns Insights and data technology – Our CEO Vicky Brock will be demo-ing in London on the 8th and 9th February so drop us a note if you’d like to meet up!

 

 

How to ‘rescue’ your customer after a return.

Thunderbird’s Tracy Island in 1992, Buzz Lightyear in 1996 (and again in 2010), Tamagotchi in 1997, Furby in 1998 and Bratz Dolls in 2002 – all the ‘must-have’ toy for Christmas. For retailers and manufacturers, it is notoriously difficult to predict which toy will surge in demand in the few weeks before Christmas and they will be frantically reordering and restocking to try to maximise sales at this crucial trading time.

This year the much-hyped Christmas sensation was the “Hatchimal”, (rrp £59.99) an interactive furry bird that hatches from a plastic egg and responds to children’s affection with flashing eyes and sounds, to the delight of the recipient.

Only, in many cases, it didn’t!

Unsurprisingly many, many disappointed parents of disappointed and upset children have expressed their frustration on retailer’s website review pages and on social media. Often, having invested considerable time to track down this toy, as it became scarcer and scarcer in the run up to Christmas, they have spent an emotional Christmas Day with a child who had a less than ‘magical’ experience with their lifeless gift.

Cue ‘Dead Hatchimal Owners United’ a Facebook ‘support group’ where exasperated customers have shared their experiences to try and find a resolution. And, despite the frustration, most customers have been reasonable: –

“I know stuff happens and as long as the company takes responsibility and addresses the issue, I have no problems. I write many reviews on websites, including many social media sites…. I will say I had a problem and the company resolved the problem to my satisfaction” Facebook

However, customers are less understanding when they feel that their problem is not handled correctly. One customer in the UK expressed frustration when a retailer responded to her tweet with a website link for tips and tricks on how to get the egg to hatch. She had already explained that she had broken the egg open, so not only was this unhelpful but exposed the fact that the retailer hadn’t taken the time to read her message. Since it’s likely that they couldn’t replace the item (most retailers are currently out of stock) and could only offer a refund, perhaps an apology would have helped or maybe a discount on her next purchase.

Most customers dislike returning purchases and a return can feel like the retailer has let them down and inconvenienced them. For some customers, a refund isn’t enough –they want a personal response and they want to feel valued. If they are angry they may go to great lengths to avoid the retailer in the future.

So, what happens when the problem product isn’t a ‘must-have’ toy like ‘Hatchimal’, with a peak selling period, but one that is steadily dispatched to valuable customers who hate the inconvenience of having to return? Clear Returns predictive technology can provide retailers with a product alert ‘early warning system’. This picks up products that are returning at a higher than usual rate providing retailers with an opportunity to investigate and correct the problem before it escalates.

In addition, Clear Returns ‘Returns Rescue’ solution alerts customer service to valuable customers that are ‘at risk’ following a return, prompting a personalised ‘save’ response.

Clear Returns award winning returns intelligence platform merges key data from ecommerce, stores, and warehouse systems to target, retain and serve customers. When the information is available, it makes sense to use it.

 

Think all returns are a good thing? Think again!

There are two statements from retailers that we hear at Clear Returns, which always raise alarm bells:

1) “We love returns”

2) “Our customers get more loyal the more they return”

Why the red flags? Returns are very complex – and the data almost never backs these statements up. Secondly, they assume that all customers are equally relaxed about returns and that high spend means high value.

Retailers need to understand the shopper’s intent at the point of purchase. If they dislike returning and intended to keep their purchase at the point of sale (and most shoppers do) then a return means the relationship is at risk.

Whereas if a customer intended to return all or most of their order when they bought it, essentially making their selection at home, or wearing and returning, the risk is that the basket profit margin is lost entirely and stock is unavailable to those shoppers who would have bought and kept it.

Assuming a fair returns policy and quick refund equals happy shoppers is not enough – for some shoppers that assumption risks customer satisfaction and future lifetime value. For returns sensitive shoppers, if they have returned an item, then you’ve really messed up in their opinion and a refund alone doesn’t cut it.

A personalised response, following the return, is essential to save the future relationship, which is where Clear Returns Rescue comes in. We focus customer service responses toward those who are most of risk of abandoning.

For example, a previously loyal customer who returns because the retailer has made a mistake, for example due to an error with their order, feels very differently about a return than a shopper who casually bought the same item in two sizes, as this customer explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csqIx86u7W0&t=78s

Some of the most common customer segmentation methods not only fail to spot the costliest serial returners, based on their spend, they place them amongst the most loyal and valuable customers. As a result, many retailers then actively prioritise their marketing spend towards customers who, once costs and profit margin are factored in, actually cost them more money every time they buy.

A small core of serial, high cost returners typically lock up stock, incur high costs and also draw in discretionary discounts and offers. So, despite their very high spend, they consistently lose the retailer money.

So are all high returners a problem? Not at all – “good” returners should be encouraged, as a return is a step that predicts they are on a path to becoming more profitable as they branch into new brands or categories and over time will begin to keep more of what they buy.

But telling the “good” and “bad” returners apart is simply not possible when analysis is focused solely on spend not profit.

Without the complex proprietary predictions at the heart of Clear Returns big data technology, that factor in customer profitability and sensitivity to returns, plus profit margin and stock availability, retailers can’t be confident that they have a handle on returns or understand the effect they have on an individual shopper’s future buying behaviour.

Why is Black Friday making retailers blue?

Originating in the U.S. as part of the Thanksgiving holiday celebration, Black Friday discounting arrived in the U.K. in 2013 via Walmart affiliate, Asda, and, as other retailers followed suit, has quickly become a key date in the UK shopping calendar, with electronics and fashion items especially popular. This year it falls on the 25th November with bargains available online from midnight, but for retailers the one day shopping bonanza is not entirely welcome and debate continues about the sustainability of this annual event.

In the U.S., where it all began, there is concern over Black Friday ‘creep’ in which the focused day of shopping after Thanksgiving has begun to spread into Thanksgiving itself as retailers attempt to win as much market share as possible. Others, such as Mall of America are making a virtue of closing on Thanksgiving, showing respect for the holiday and for their employees, to win public approval. Sports retailer REI will close on Black Friday itself, encouraging customers to “#optoutside”, and hopefully make their purchases for ‘opting outside’ throughout the rest of the month.

In The Guardian newspaper, David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, explains the negative impact of building up customer expectations for a big discount day at the end of the month – “Last year, Black Friday was bigger than Christmas, with promotions running over four days, so people are holding off spending and that diminishes retailers’ sales in the weeks before and after”

In the U.K. retailers are aware that it is a difficult trend to reverse with so much revenue generated in one day. Fashion retailer Jigsaw, not wishing to participate, but recognising that there is customer expectation, has explained their position in their pricing manifesto. By sticking to traditional bi-annual retail sales they hope to reassure their customers that the quality products bought at full price one week will not be slashed the next and that reductions in the sale will be end of season stock only. Ted Baker boss, Ray Kelvin, was quoted in Retail Week saying “No-one wants Black Friday” – they would prefer not to be involved but their concessions in participating department stores makes it difficult for them to avoid.

The concern, particularly with fashion retailers, is that customers have been educated to expect discounting when they could previously rely on full priced sales, and to maintain momentum up until Christmas, promotional discounts will need to continue throughout December. With the weak pound affecting consumer confidence, customers are also more likely to be seeking out bargains and shopping around for the most competitive prices.

Also, heavy traffic in stores – sometimes requiring crowd control measures – resulted in an increase in online shopping in 2015, putting pressure on websites (slow or crashing) and pressure on distribution centres across the country. In addition, the spike in sales produced by the ‘flash sale’ nature of Black Friday also resulted in a spike in returns adding to supply chain pressures with extra handling and fluctuating stock levels.

As Vicky Brock, CEO of retail technology firm, Clear Returns, explains “The result is businesses frequently face a period of time in which they are short of stock while it is out in the supply chain or being considered by customers. The challenge with Black Friday is where it sits in the year – that final weekend of November. Typically, the cycle of returns becoming available to sell again is 15 to 21 days, so that stock, if everything went well, would just about be re-available to the retailer to sell on 20 December – past peak Christmas trading.”

As Black Friday looks set to remain a prime shopping day, and spreads around the world – Souq.com in the Middle East runs its version ‘White Friday’ and Alibaba in China has the massive Singles Day – it seems unlikely that this trend will reverse any time soon. So how do retailers retain their most loyal and most profitable customers and avoid a deluge of costly, margin-shredding, returns at their most important trading time? Retailers can reduce the impact if they think carefully about the products they are promoting – returns are higher risk in certain categories and sub-categories than in others. They should also consider that products are likely to go out of stock as a consequence, and, considering customer time to return and the retailers processing time for returns, unlikely to become available for sale in time for the Christmas peak. Future sales to customers who would keep these purchases are then lost and the returned stock ends up in the post-Christmas sale, with a low margin and all the added operational costs – including premium Christmas delivery and expensive warehousing.

Clear Returns award-winning predictive data technology focuses marketing on the customers who will keep their purchases. Keep optimisation is a solution that eliminates marketing driven returns by encouraging costly customers, who sit on premium stock, away from these purchases towards products they will keep and releases the stock for profitable customers thereby preventing returns, reducing costs and increasing margins.

Everyone knows a serial returner

Why are retail returns such a great conversation starter?  I start by telling someone about my new job at Clear Returns and invariably receive a response such as “You should speak to my mum, she orders stuff constantly, keeps nothing, returns the lot”.  It seems everyone knows someone who is a serial returner.

 

Customer-focused retailers have educated and incentivised this behaviour, with free shipping and returns and direct mail campaigns with sales, promotions and voucher codes.  Now they are waking up to 1 in 3 items being returned and all the associated loss of profit margin, operational costs and fluctuating stock levels.

 

When I talk to my friends about their online shopping intent, they reflect back the shopping behaviours retailers have encouraged:-

 

“When  I buy from ASOS, I’ll buy much more than I’m intending to keep as if you spend over a certain amount, you get free delivery. And I like trying it on – even though I don’t keep it!”

Jo, Glasgow

 

“Emails with extra discount always good….Nike are great for it. Usually order a couple of sizes as can’t be bothered doing an exchange. Order much more than I ever keep!”

Nina, Glasgow

 

“I’ve just bought a dress for black tie event – ordered 6, kept 1”

Jen, Edinburgh

 

“I also buy items in different sizes, and return some/all. I’m a sucker for a sale.”

Lesley, High Wycombe

 

“Love click & collect too! To return stuff. Won’t buy if returns not free”

Lindsay, Glasgow

 

For some customers though, returns are just an inconvenience-

 

“I buy everything online and usually not more than one of the same thing cause I hate having to go to the post office to return it.”

Kate, London

 

But there are also products that customers never, or rarely return-

 

Ever return beauty stuff? “Nope because I always buy the same brands”

Lisa, Glasgow

 

“Homewares is a different scenario altogether. You know exactly what you’re going to get cause you’ve seen it in nearly every shop but can’t be bothered carrying it around. Home-wares 0% return”

Julie, Dundee

 

Now imagine, a retailer having this level of insight on every customer who buys online. Instead of marketing campaigns focusing on sales only,  products can be targeted to the customers that will keep them.  Because it’s not a sale until the customer keeps it.

 

Using big data analytics, Clear Returns matches customers to the products that they keep, reducing returns and saving profit margins.  Clear Returns can predict, before the point of purchase, the likelihood of the customer keeping the product with 96% accuracy.   

 

So not only will the retailers reduce costly returns but they will increase personalisation, improve the lifetime value of their customers and ensure that stock is available for the customers that will keep what they buy.  

 

Kay YoungKay Young
Senior Account Manager
Tel: 0141 554 4175
Email: Kay@clearreturns.com

Do you really know your customers?

Returns & Personalisation

Do you really know your customers?

Next time you are with a group of girls sharing a bottle of wine, open a can of worms and ask them if they return much of what they buy on-line.  It sounds like a conversation killer, but you can bet the next round of Jagerbombs that your jaw will hit the ground when you hear what a few of them get up to on-line.

I know (because we have the biggest returns data lake in the known universe) that if your gang is typical of the market, you will probably have the following groups:

 

Buy and Keep Katie

Katie is tech savvy and transacts with efficiency. She has a busy lifestyle and although loyal will be brand promiscuous.  She tends to know what she wants and is emotionally neutral.  She can buy little and often or have bundled splurges of purchase, but she never buys with the intention of returning any of her items.  We should all love Katie, she keeps what she buys and is profitable – she’s an all-round good gal!

 

Sensitive Susan

Susan expects high standards, if your standards are not as she expects, she will treat it as a personal insult and get angry and upset.  She has little patience and will jump on a review site to tell the world what you have done wrong in a heart-beat.  She will then send your CEO a long letter of complaint chronicling all your mistakes.  Before your fatal error, she was loyal and valuable, but you are now in her little black book, her arms are folded and she is in a huff.  Susan loves high-touch customer service and can be brought back to the fold with a sincere apology and virtual hug.

 

Loss making Lucy

Lucy is a retail nightmare and should keep every retailer awake at night.  Her bedroom is her dressing room and she will think nothing of maxing her credit card out to try out the latest trends just to send everything back.  She has no retail conscience and will hold on to stock and make it unavailable for Buy & Keep Katie.  She exploits free delivery and returns policies and makes sure everything is refunded before any credit card payment is due.  Lucy can also be dishonest, sometimes Lucy will even wear and return or even commit fraud.  Strangely, marketers love Lucy, they send her incentives and promotions and encourage her to buy (and obviously send back) all of your lovely stock.

 

Exploring Emma

Emma is comfortable with online shopping and open to new ideas.  Whilst she has her favourite buys, she likes exploring into new categories and brands.  Whilst exploring she may buy a couple of sizes until she knows what fits, but will generally keep one and keep exploring.  She loves new season launches and promotions.  Regular communications which provide information as well as recommendations are key to this segment.  Offering low risk products in new categories is a sure way of generating retained sales growth and a happy Emma.

 

So now you get the idea, all women (and some guys) really are not equal in the online shopping stakes – a sizeable chunk of your customers are Loss Making Lucy’s who are poisonous to your profitability.  

 

So this is where the next generation of personalisation comes into play.  Clear Returns big data solutions can identify and predict (with 96% accuracy) what your shoppers want and match your customer to products that they will keep.  This increases sales and decreases your returns rate – a double profit hit.

And yes, we can even rescue Sensitive Susan for you to make sure you don’t lose one of your most loyal and profitable customers.  

 

Get in touch to talk more.

Viv Sutherland, Sales Director

 

Viv Sutherland
Director of Sales
Tel:   +44 (0) 141 554 4175
Email: viv@clearreturns.com

How Retailers Have Been Incorrectly Using Predictive Analytics

For my inaugural blog post here at Clear Returns, I was recommended to write an article around the topic of “The Power of Predicting: We are Transforming Retail by Predicting the Future”. My initial thought was well, to be honest, that seems like a mouthful and once all sorted out…a bit unoriginal. Everyone and anyone who is using any sort of analytics in retail will likely be making the same claim. But fine, in the grand scheme of things, predicting the future is hardly boring, so I resolved myself to discussing our unique value proposition in using predictive analytics and how that might “transform retail”.

Obviously, the best way to go about proving how we’re affecting transformation is to take some time to understand what the current retail landscape actually looks like. So, before sitting down to write this post, I did a little digging to understand what the perception is within the industry. What I found made me change the topic of the article.

The industry is obsessed with Customer Centricity. And, ironically, not with a 360 degree view of which many tout they’re able to do for their own customers. Instead, they’re obsessed with the most obvious and shallow dimension.

Customer centricity has been a prevailing theme for quite some time and focus on the customer is absolutely right. However, what is surprising is the sheer consistency of what aspect of the customer is being focused on. For example, below are some of the most common statements:

“Shoppers are dictating the future of retail” – Ray Hartjen, Director, Content Marketing and Public Relations at RetailNext
“The future of retail lies in technology enabled-customer centricity” – Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner and co-founder of Retail Systems Research
“The future will belong to retailers that empower consumers” – Rick Moss, President, Founder, RetailWire
“The future of retail will need to…[be] focused on helping the shopper achieve his or her personalized trip goals” – Anne Howe, Growth & Insights Consultant

Not only have retailers accepted that consumers have more power, they believe that that they need to be given even more.

Again, finding ways to increase customer sales by making the purchase process easy, quick, and enjoyable is inherently correct. After all, there has been a significant change in customer mentality and expectations. Consumers are empowered with information (in-store physical presence, online reviews, social media, etc) and choice, but this means they have retailers under their collective thumbs. Because of this shift, retailers have already responded by using more and more advanced analytics to understand their shoppers and offer them more personalized experiences and offers tailored to their individual lifestyles and preferences. That movement is still in the developing stages, and yet we can see that this is where retailers believe the answer lies. Based on these reactions, a fairly solid argument can be made that it’s the customers who have actually (albeit indirectly) been the catalyst for retail transformation.

However, the underlying issue is that increasing customer spend seems to be all that the experts are focusing on and are thus displaying a myopic disregard for the already visible consequences of this approach. Retailers have emphasized the importance of improving customer sales, customer retention, and loyalty and have done whatever it takes including but not limited to restructuring their entire organizations, investing heavily in analytics to improve shopping experiences, and implementing customer-favouring policies (yes, I do mean returns policies) in order to keep the customer happy and willing to buy.

This kind of behaviour has already perpetuated a harmful cyclical relationship between consumers and retailers that almost no one, aside from a handful of academic researchers, have commented on much less taken into any consideration within their marketing strategy.

Without a doubt, customers have more power. They are free to take their business elsewhere. Desperate to keep them, retailers gave them whatever they wanted, and turned to data to do so more efficiently and effectively, which in turn gave consumers even more power. Now, consumers not only changed their purchasing behaviour but also their whole mindset. They don’t owe retailers anything. As part of the competitive market offering, retailers have facilitated an environment where consumers are encouraged and even desensitized to the prospect of making returns. Even worse, they haven’t even recognized it and instead of using predictive analytics to truly understand a customer’s preferences combined with their true value, they’ve used analytics to just get customers to buy more. Retailers have essentially used predictive analytics to accurately target the exact people who are the most willing to buy without considering if these are the types of people that they want to be buying from them.

That’s where Clear Returns comes in. Our efforts aren’t focused on just increasing purchases, but on aiming our predictive capabilities to increase true value aka keeps. Our capabilities aren’t just about increasing spend, but about increasing spend with the right customers which trickles down into keeps. It’s in this way that we can transform retail, not through cutting-edge predictive models (although we have that too), but by critically examining the problems facing retailers and finding solutions to fix the present cycle so that true market transformation can be possible that will benefit both customer and retailer.

While consumers may still dictate the future, retailers need to recognize that they do still hold some power, the same as of the consumer, the power of choice. Retailers can choose how they want to communicate, what type of relationship they want to have, who to spend their marketing dollars on, and even to some extent who to sell to. At least if retailers recognize this and take the right steps, they’ll place more transformative power into the hands of the right customers, not the ones who would take unfair advantage of the inherent social agreement and trust between retailer and customer.

 

Regina Berengolts
Lead Data Scientist
Tel:   +44 (0) 141 554 4175
Email: regina@clearreturns.com

Why everything you assume about your shopper is wrong..

 

Sales are great aren’t they?  For every marketeer, pretty much without exception, looking at response rates, average baskets, and sales from your campaign is like a shot in the arm.  Triumph.  We look at our response uplifts, congratulate ourselves on our customer selections, creative execution and content and move to using what worked, to make the next campaign even better..

 

But..  what if, 60% of all the dresses we sold through our campaign get returned?  What if the customers I think are my best customers are actually serial returners who are costing my business a fortune? Well, let’s not think about that because the sales were great weren’t they.  Reverse logistics nightmares, handling costs, out of stock issues, that is surely someone else’s problem, isn’t it?

 

The reality is, it’s time for a seismic paradigm shift in the way we think about the sales and our customer.  With the increasing growth of online fashion sales, and as customers become more and more comfortable with the concept of their home being their changing room, retailers have to grasp a basic concept – a sale is not a sale until the customer decides to keep it.

 

The simple reality is, using our big data algorithms to match customers with a product they will actually keep is game changing in its simplicity.  Optimizing what a customer ‘keeps’ rather than ‘sales’ is the only viable way forward.   The benefits are endless for every business unit – sales growth, retained revenue, operation cost savings, improved personalisation and stock availability improvements, not to mention the fact that by marketing products to customers they will want to keep is putting them at the heart of what you do.

 

We are the only company globally that can lead this change.  We understand who are keepers, who are high risk to your business from a return, who should be encouraged to return and explore and what product or category your customer should be marketed with to make sure what they buy they actually keep.  Feeding customers who are costing your business money with endless marketing campaigns, promotions and incentives has to become a thing of the past and with new big data technology, it can be.

 

Adding revenue to the bottom line has actually never been easier, retailers simply need to take the blue pill and delve into the new world of customer returns behaviour.

 

[line]

 

Viv Sutherland
Director of Sales
Tel:   +44 (0) 141 554 4175
Email: viv@clearreturns.com

Easter bunnies beware: the peak trading woes aren’t over for retailers as returns still roll in

The aisles may be packed with chocolate and the Christmas decorations long since packed away, but the festive season continues to impact the retail sector, in ways that businesses may not have accounted for.

This is because retailers have calculated their performance on sales alone – what customers bought in-store or online – rather than what they chose to keep. Returns are a £60 billion problem for the UK retail industry alone, and will be further eroding results of what was already a weak Christmas for many organisations.

For many retailers, this year’s festive figures told a sorrowful story. December’s unseasonably warm weather impacted sales in the fashion sector, with Next – usually the barometer of Christmas success – only seeing sales rise 0.4% year on year, while Primark, Bonmarché and Marks & Spencer all reported losses.
Even strong performers like John Lewis, which experienced a 7% increase in sales over the festive period, or Debenhams, which recorded a 3.5% sales rise, are not immune from the cost of returns – particularly from online shoppers.

The steep adoption of online shopping is, in fact, making matters worse and ecommerce has a much higher return rate than items bought in the store. This is often due to an expectation gap between what the customer thinks they have ordered and the reality of their purchase once it arrives.

Almost £1 in every £5 was spent online in December, according to British Retail Consortium, with web sales up nearly 20% on last year. This will have brought a flood of returned, unwanted products into stores during January and it may not be yet over, as under the Consumer Rights Act, shoppers now have 30 days to send back an item and receive a full refund if it is faulty or sold ‘not as described’. Stock returned during January sales results in valuable margins being lost, as once the item has been processed it will return to the shelves at a reduced cost.   That is all too apparent in the results currently being reported.

Our data showed that the total estimated cost of returns to retailers from Black Friday reached £180million. This figure increased further as retailers processed unwanted Christmas gifts. This issue will be hitting some businesses harder than others; around 30% of multichannel women’s fashion is returned, for example.

And many retailers will still be dealing with the repercussions of peak trading returns, having put them on the backburner to concentrate on sales.

A key peak trading lesson for the retail sector is that the sale isn’t over until the customer has decided to keep the item. Retailers’ number one task for 2016 should be to recognise the true cost of returns and work to understand why items are not being kept in order to secure and boost realistic profits.

Want to know how your returns stack up against the market? Access our new free returns benchmark reporting tool.

Playing For Keeps – keep stock sold over the peak trading period

 

Keeping stock sold – avoiding returns the key to retail profits

The sales figures over the peak trading periods of Christmas and Black Friday may make the headlines, but those returns coming back over the next 28 days will cost retailers millions…and often get ignored.

It’s time to get the facts.

Playing for keeps…

Clear Returns new Playing For Keeps report offers the facts around returns on Black Friday, peak season and beyond. £160 million of Black Friday stock is set to be returned, stock that will then be unavailable to sell during the most critical trading period of the year…Christmas.

Playing For Keeps is more important than ever as it is not really a sale until the customer decides to keep it. Returns kill retail profits and Clear Returns presents the facts that the wider retail business simply cannot afford to ignore:

 

Clear Returns can help retailers regain an extra £1 million for every £10 million returned, statistics which make Clear Returns one of Europe’s  top tech scale-ups according to The Telegraph.

Expert insight…

Clear Returns CEO, Vicky Brock, explains why Black Friday could end up being a short term gain but long term loss for many retailers:-

“Forget the headline-grabbing figures of what analysts say people are going to spend on Black Friday. That’s just the beginning. The real concern is that the event could end up costing retailers money rather than boosting their profits.”

“This is because the spike in sales from November 27 will be followed, for many businesses, by an increase in returns – and profit is only generated when customers decide to keep their purchases. On average, 14 per cent of all consumer electronic sales are sent back, and in the build-up to Christmas in particular, this can cause all manner of logistical headaches and lost margins.”

Talk to Clear Returns now to help your customers keep more of what they buy – and keep buying.