Many happy returns: How retailers can win new customers this Christmas

23 October 2019 News

A recent survey* of 15,800 consumers worldwide found that 77% of them are already planning to return a proportion of the gifts they receive this Christmas. And to give you an idea of just how big that proportion might be, 20% said they plan to return more than half of their gifts.

Clearly it’s going to be a busy Christmas – if not necessarily in the way retailers would like. Returns have become a fact of life that retailers are expected to embrace if they want to remain competitive in a marketplace where the customer always has a choice to go elsewhere.

On the face of it, a flood of returns is a major headache. But, says Mike Stephenson, CEO of UK-based fulfilment and logistics firm ILG, Christmas returns present a valuable opportunity to engage with new customers.

“Christmas returns provide a great opportunity for retailers to engage with new customers and create a positive experience, which will have them coming back for more. From an online sales perspective, the data collected from both the purchase and the return can be used to build better customer profiles, inform product development and improve targeting.”

The survey returned a figure of 32% of consumers who planned to return gifts by mail. While that is half the number who said they would take their returns back to the shop, it represents a significant number of returns being shipped back to retailers. How that experience works out for customers will depend on how prepared retailers and their supply chains are for handling returns and making the most of the opportunity.

The survey also found that an average of 55% across all age groups will shop online (a figure that rises with age). By giving a good returns experience, you can not only win a new customer but also use the interaction to win more customers from that growing online market, by earning positive feedback that boosts consumer KPIs, such as net promoter scores.

“The crucial thing,” says Mike Stephenson, “is to be ready with a well planned returns strategy. That means speaking to your 3pl to find out what they can offer in terms of enhancing the experience and harvesting valuable data, and making sure that key steps of the process, like collection and communication, are all aligned with your overall strategy.”

There’s nothing new about unwanted Christmas gifts being returned – that’s what great aunts are for! What is new is the range of opportunities for turning this perceived negative into a positive.

Make sure your returns strategy is in place for Christmas. Call ILG today.

0844 264 8000

*The survey was independently conducted in 2019 by Savanta who polled 15,800 global con-sumers in the US, EMEA, LATAM, and JAPAC.


Tom Ashley,

Client Services and IT Director,

ILG