How to Manage Serial Returners for Ecommerce Businesses

Running an eCommerce business means every day is different. One could be dedicated solely to packing and shipping items, the next to updating your site with new products. All part and parcel of being an online retailer.

But there are certain aspects of the job that throw even the most seasoned sellers for a loop. The challenge of serial returners and how to handle them, for example.

You want to serve your customers as best as you can. But after a certain point, there’s no denying that something needs to be done. According to KPMG analysts, returns cost retailers close to £7bn a year. 

So, how can you go about preventing recurring returns while maintaining good customer relationships and doing the best for your business? Read on to find out.

What Are Serial Returners?

As an e-commerce business owner, you’re well versed in the process of delivery and returns. But what is a serial returner and how can you spot one? A serial returner is not a customer who returns only one or two items during the holiday season or after their birthday.

A serial returner is a customer who makes a habit of regularly and repeatedly returning items they have purchased or someone else has purchased on their behalf. This can be someone who is bad at controlling their spending habits and later regrets many of their purchases. But it could also be a customer who has some sort of bad intentions.

Because of this, a serial returner can be a thorny issue to handle. That said, returns are a costly thing for sellers to deal with. They represent trillions of dollars worth of losses for retailers each year.

How to Lessen the Burden of Returns

There are a few different tacks you can take when it comes to dealing with serial returners and returns in general. Amazon chose to ban all serial returners. This is a risky tactic, and for smaller retailers should only be used as a last resort.

Before getting to that stage, try these tips to prevent returns instead. First, try providing more accurate information about your products in your online product descriptions. If you sell clothing, improve your sizing charts.

You can also refine and clarify your returns policy. Make the product return time window shorter and make sure your policy is prominently displayed and explained on your site.

You can also improve your shipping process to ensure that your items always arrive on time and at the correct location. This, in turn, will decrease the chances of an item arriving late for a specific date or no longer being wanted when it does arrive. This is an easy and effective way to help reduce returns while keeping your customers happy.

Make Shipping and Returns a Breeze With SmartConsign

Serial returners are a problem, but not one that can’t be solved. If you’re tired of losing money to avoidable returns, SmartConsign can help. Request a demo today to see how you can level up your business with our smart shipping logistics support system.

Post Peak Product Returns: Looking at the Bigger Picture

When the potential for sales is highest, the last thing you want to think about is product returns. However, ignoring the bigger picture and inadequate planning for product returns will cost you. 

To learn more about how to manage returns like a pro, keep reading below!

Peak Season Comes and Goes But Returns Are Year-Round

For managers, the purpose of a sale and the hype of peak season comes from turning over a high volume of products. Understandably, few managers want to think about returns after the sales.

However, returns are an inevitable part of the eCommerce economy. According to research, close to 70% of online shoppers take note of a brand’s return policy before they buy. Furthermore, with 1 in 4 customers likely to discover your brand for the first time during peak season – creating that first impression is vital.

Delivering a positive return delivery experience can help lock in brand loyalty and drive repeat business. Therefore, making sure your return policy is clear and easy to access should be a top priority.

Mishandling Products Will Hurt Your Bottom Line

There are plenty of reasons why shoppers return their purchases; understanding some of the underlying causes might help you plan. From wardrobing, damaged goods to failed deliveries, the list is endless.

But it doesn’t have to compromise your revenue targets. On the contrary, the quicker you can get eligible returned goods back into the sales funnel, the more chances you can protect your revenues. 

Firstly, start by planning approximately 10% of your retail sales for returns

Next, make sure all your systems and processes are unified by onboarding an advanced multi-carrier management system. These systems are designed to manage all aspects of your shipments and are easy to install. 

Finally, make sure the system you install is carrier agnostic like SmartConsign; unlike other systems, they do not charge carriers to integrate onto the platform – which means that the rates you access are unbiased. 

With returns management costing almost twice as much as outbound shipping, ensuring you get the best carrier rates is vitally important.

Turn Returns Into Profit With Some Simple Strategies

Whilst not all returned goods are equal, there are still opportunities to recover your losses. Just over half of returns are not fit for reselling at full price and based on the latest research, that equates to approximately £400bn worth of goods.

Successful eCommerce businesses mitigate the loss by selling returns in the outlet section of their website. So – the concept serves an entirely new audience. 

An alternative strategy might be to offload returns to online auction houses like or auctioneering site John Pye for larger or higher value ticket items.

Furthermore, these strategies help to minimise the volume of goods sent to landfills, so it’s not only good for business but also good for the planet.   

Think About the Bigger Picture, Not Just Peak Season

Peak season is one of the more exciting parts of online retail, but it’s just one part of the bigger picture. After peak season inevitably comes an influx of product returns. And if your company is not prepared for that, it risks missing out on chances to recoup on losses.

To help improve your chances of success, invest in a system that connects all your shipping carriers, sales channels and partners. Whilst you cannot control the timing and volume of returns after each sale – you can have the best system in place to mitigate potential losses. 

Peak season has already started, but you still have time to build your returns management strategy. To discover more – search for SmartConsign and talk to our returns management shipping experts. 

Wardrobing Plus Other Indisputable Facts About Returns Management

Wardrobing is an intriguing phenomenon disrupting the eCommerce industry in unexpected ways. Wear it and return it – is the simplest way to describe what wardrobing means adding to the ever-increasing challenges of returns management.

No wonder returns management is often cited as the poor relation of the eCommerce economy – but it doesn’t have to be this way. And with UK online returns estimated to reach £5.6bn by 2023 – it’s time to pay attention and take action. 

Wardrobing and other facts

Here are some bite-size facts to help you take control of the process and focus on what matters.

  1. Brand Reputation
    15% of customers who give a retailer a one-star TrustPilot review do so due to a negative returns process experience.
  2. Margin Erosion
    Manufacturers spend up to 15% of their total revenue on returns management.
  3. Revenue Loss
    Research estimate that 52% of items returned are not fit for reselling at full price.
  4. Serial Returners
    30% of shoppers deliberately over-order with the intent to return; digital natives are the worst offenders (48%).
  5. Free Returns
    Shoppers expect free returns as standard, 18% cite this as a critical factor for choosing a retailer.
  6. Operational Inefficiencies
    57% of retailers cite returns as hurting their daily operations.
  7. Returns Policies
    68% of shoppers review a retailer’s returns policy before making a purchase.
  8. Self Service
    79% of shoppers who have shipped a return went online to process the return and print a label.
  9. Sustainability
    Returned products contribute close to 4 billion pounds of waste annually in the US. Not to mention the carbon footprint of items that are fit for reselling, as they move through a system of intermediaries and reselling networks.
  10. Wardrobing
    20% of UK shoppers admit to buying items to wear once and return.

These indisputable facts reveal the consequence of retailer’s success in making the shipping process more convenient and affordable for shoppers. However, this approach is not sustainable without access to the right tools and resources. 

Creating the right returns management strategy

Pivoting from a linear shipping process to a circular strategy is dependent on many factors.  So, whilst you figure out the next steps, the most crucial action you can take right now is to integrate returns management within your entire shipping progress.

Multi-carrier management systems like SmartConsign support both outbound and inbound logistics from a single platform. The system is cloud-based, easy to install and requires no training. It’s the natural next step for ambitious eCommerce businesses of every size.


Getting returns right makes even the smallest business a worthy competitor

Freight logistics companies that get their reverse logistics right significantly reduce costs associated with storage and distribution, and don’t spend as much on inventory resources. One of the greatest benefits in making the returns process easy for your customers is that it increases their good feeling, and as a result their loyalty, to your brand.  Successful business today requires thinking about lifetime value – and a good returns process is very much a part of that.

The returns big picture

The amount of returned goods can vary wildly and range from
 as low as 3% to as high as 50%
 of total shipments across all industries. Those return shipments can eat up 3-5% of total revenue if they’re not handled correctly. It may surprise you to know that, for traditional brick-and-mortar stores, returns are three to four times more expensive than outbound shipments. In some industries such as book publishing, catalogue retailing, and greeting cards, over 20% of all products sold are eventually returned to the vendor. What’s more surprising is that some industries are estimated to have return rates in the range of 30% to 60%.

How returns can help increase sales

It might sound counterintuitive at first, but retailers who pay for merchandise returns end up selling more than their non- paying competitors. A Journal
 of Marketing study showed customers who are offered free returns spend up to 457% more than they did before they returned the original purchase. On the other hand, customers who had to pay return shipping charges reduced their repeat purchases by 75-100%.

The volume and cost of unwanted items returned each year is staggering (estimated £600m and growing), so it’s imperative for online retailers to have their reverse logistics operations in order. The sooner they can get eligible returned merchandise back into the sales funnel, and generate data to improve their merchandise offerings, the better.

Why reverse logistics should form part of your commercial strategy

The return ratio varies depending on the type of business, where products are being shipped and the return options offered to the customer. It’s estimated that over 50% of online retailers offer free return shipping. This puts pressure on smaller, independent retailers to do the same or be out of the game.

When figuring out the commercials, here are some  factors to consider:

  •      There is an increased barrier to entry driven by Amazon, who is disrupting the market at every turn. Amazon Prime’s membership base is estimated at over 80m and continues to grow, setting the benchmark for shipping. With 51% of consumers wanting free returns, it’s essential to develop a deep understanding of your buyers in order to anticipate their expectations and manage costs.
  •      The number of m-commerce transactions is predicted to overtake e-commerce transactions globally by the end of this year (2019)

Major retailers have adopted an omni-channel approach to better serve their customers. Growth in deliveries will mean growth in returns. Deploying the right technology to unify the process throughout the supply chain is key.

  •      With multiple modes of carriers available and a multitude of delivery options, optimising for operational efficiencies and customer relationship management can overwhelm businesses of any size. Simplifying shipping processes is crucial to managing costs and getting returned merchandise back into the sales funnel. With 89% of consumers likely to repurchase after a positive return experience, getting your strategy right is a core component to driving the bottom line.
  •      Reverse logistics can cost double the outbound investment, and as online purchases increase, paying attention to this process is simply unavoidable. Flexible and real-time access to carrier information, simplified processing, and visibility of costs are all important factors when creating your reverse logistics strategy.

Ecommerce shipping tactics explained

All free returns are not equal. To give you an overview, here are some of the most common free return shipping tactics on offer today. Choosing the right returns policies and processes for your business will go a long way in ensuring your future success.

Tactical Incentive:

Offered during special promotional periods as an incentive for customers to buy more. Many retailers offer free shipping and returns if a certain spending level is met, and/or if the customer returns the items within a certain time period.

Product Specific:

Offered on selected products of a certain value, typically combined with free delivery and within a certain time period.


Returned within a certain time period, but may not include free shipping

Membership Scheme:

Membership and monthly fee qualifies the customer for free shipping and return (AMAZON Prime is the clear market leader here)

Loyalty Scheme:

Spending a certain amount over a period of time with the same company qualifies customers for free shipping and returns.

Le Exchange and Return

A read through Net-A-Porter’s returns page is a great example of how the higher end of the market up the ante in the reverse logistics landscape, with ‘complimentary shipping’. Customers are encouraged to ‘try’ their products in the comfort of their own home and free collection is offered at their home address, work address or any alternative… Brand loyalty soars!

Make it Personal

An extreme example of finding ways to make delivery personal is Waitrose’s recent (and somewhat controversial) new scheme of drivers accessing and unpacking your delivery in your home. Less intrusively, ‘personal’ notes and information about the specific product delivered make receiving more meaningful and, perhaps, returning less casual.

For online retailers with brick and  mortar stores ‘click & collect’ drives footfall, however allowing consumers to return items in store works in same way:

“Many retailers report that customers collecting their orders in-store often buy additional items, so the upsell opportunity is there, especially when staff training, store design and carefully considered promotions are there to support it.” Essential Retail  

Finally, here are some quick tips for optimizing your returns strategy:

Offer free returns, but reduce the need for them. Many online fashion retailers are addressing the inherent inability for online shoppers to touch and feel their garments by implementing sizing tools online. They have a database of measurements for various brands and styles, and based on those, they can suggest the right size which helps to reduce the return rate.

Build returns into your business model. Companies like Warby Parker and Zappos have returns weaved into the DNA of their businesses. In fact, Zappos has found that their customers with the highest return rates are also their best customers in the long run. Meanwhile, when Warby Parker, a company that makes eyewear, first started, they made up for the fact that they had few brick-and-mortar stores by shipping potential customers five frames to try on for free. They knew all of the frames would be returned, but the chances of a purchase were greater than if they didn’t offer this service.

Gather and analyze your data. Speaking of Warby Parker, their data scientists have loads of data regarding what frames certain customers choose. They can compare and contrast similarities between older frames and newer frames, and therefore offer options that might like in the future based on what’s in their shopping carts. This can also have the effect of reducing returns; the likelihood that the frames will fit and match the customer’s aesthetic is higher.

Control the entire package journey. When you choose a return shipping solution for your customers, you should be able
 to monitor the entire journey of 
a package, including the returns process, in real-time. A lost return is not only a lost sale, but it’s also potentially a lost customer who’s expecting a refund that never arrives.

The first step in getting on top of your business’s returns ‘personality’ and developing a seamless returns process to make returns not just easy for your customers but, very importantly, stress-free for you, is to plug-in the best management software. At SmartConsign we pride ourselves on solving problems for businesses of any size to ensure confident competitiveness in the marketplace. Get in touch with us today and let us show you how simple it is to implement our software to fully optimise you delivery process.

The Point of No Return – How Reverse Logistics Is Changing the Game

With Klarna, a Swedish e-commerce payment service for online shoppers, landing on our shores, we can’t help but reflect on the potential impact on reverse logistics. The ‘buy before you pay’ concept, where consumers pay after delivery and only if they’re happy with the purchase, is likely to have a significant impact on the shipping and logistics worlds.

In this article, we look at the changing role of returns management and what it means for e-commerce traders moving into 2018. Historically, the business of shipping products in reverse was fairly simple: customers returned goods because they purchased the wrong product, the goods were damaged or defective on arrival, the product did not match the description or they simply did not want the product.

Today, the most common reasons for customers returning parcels are because they simply changed their minds, ordered more items to qualify for ‘Free Delivery’ or they ordered several items with direct intent of returning a few anyway (the latter is a common practice particularly in fast fashion where return rates are on average 50%). However, this is an industry-wide challenge. Research by Invesp reveals that returns from online purchases are 3 times that of purchases made in-store.

Overall the statistics are staggering:

  • Returns management costs businesses 8% of their total sales
  • Returns from online purchases cost UK retailers £20bn a year
  • 67% of consumers check the returns page before making a purchase
  • 58% of consumers want a hassle-free returns policy
  • 79% of consumers want free returns
  • 92% of consumers will purchase again if returns are easy

Faced with high consumer expectations, reverse logistics can no longer be managed as an afterthought–it requires modern solutions. As e-commerce sales continues to grow, so will returns, and businesses have to find ways to absorb the costs. Web-based carrier management software like SmartConsign introduces a simpler way for retailers, resellers and 3PL’s to have clarity in the process.

Simplifying the shipping logistics process ultimately means only one thing: improved customer experience (CX). Research shows that 83% of logistics professionals say that CX is a company-wide goal ‘and, they’re feeling the pressure to improve it’. And whilst legacy suppliers and technologies may have served them well in the past, it’s time to rethink how shipping should be.

“Current technologies are not addressing CX needs in retail supply chains. Only 3% said their current systems fully support efforts to improve CX, while more than 66% said existing systems do nothing to improve it.” Source: eft Supply Chain & Logistics Business Intelligence

Managing a disrupted shipping supply chain, and the growing power of omnichannel customers is a lot easier with smart cloud-based technology. SmartConsign is designed to help simplify the shipping process, putting the shipper in control of the experience, from warehouse to doorstep. The benefits are limitless:

  • Disaster Recovery Solution
  • Same Day Booking Portal
  • Smart Invoice Inspector
  • Parcel Tracking
  • Standardised Label Formats
  • Cloud Storage
  • Address Updates
  • Real Time Information
  • Cost Control
  • Drop Ship Label
  • Returns Management

The inevitable conclusion is that businesses need to treat outbound and reverse logistics equally.  Are you ready to jump in both lanes? To learn more about how SmartConsign multi-carrier management software can help deliver operational efficiencies and help achieve your company’s customer experience goals, get in touch today.