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Planning for Holiday Returns & Excess Inventory

This blog post is part of our 2018 Holiday Planning series. Be sure to check back often or, better yet, subscribe to the blog to stay updated with this year’s latest holiday trends, tips, best practices, reports and more.

Ready or not, here they come! Many of the orders you’re taking great pains to fulfill fast will soon be boomeranging back to you. An estimated one million packages are going to be returned every day leading up to December 25, putting a lot of holiday inventory back on shelves.

Yes, holiday returns and refunds have become as common a tradition as feasting on a big, juicy bird. But thankfully, there is a silver lining.

With the right plans in place, you can leverage all those leftovers and even turn overstock problems into revenue-generating strategies. To help, we’ve pulled together three techniques we feel all online sellers should put into practice this season.

Process Returns at Record Speeds

All e-commerce companies know to optimize fulfillment in advance of peak selling seasons. But few take the same steps when preparing a strategy for processing returns. For example: Although 97% of retailers provide shipment tracking on outgoing deliveries, only 7% do the same for returned items — even though customers tend to check on in-transit packages an average of eight times.

That means you can get a big edge on your competition simply by prioritizing your returns process.

One survey found that 95% of consumers will shop with a specific seller again after having a positive return experience. Another discovered that 70% of e-commerce consumers make additional purchases when returning items to a store, and that 45% will buy more when making a return online.

Creating a painless returns process is one of THE most efficient ways to keep inventory moving throughout the holiday rush. And the faster you process a return, the sooner it’ll be back in inventory and ready to resell at full value.

Differentiate with Deliveries

These days, it’s not just the price of a product that keeps inventory moving. Promises of fast and free shipping can have a big impact on which brands and retailers will win holiday sales.

Whether the listing is on an e-commerce marketplace or your own webstore, consider shipping costs to be a big part of your overall pricing strategy. Why? Because 54% of consumers will abandon shopping carts if delivery is deemed too expensive, and 96% base their purchase decisions on the presence of free shipping.

Whether it’s lowering your threshold for free deliveries or putting shipping front and center in holiday promotions, shifting the focus to fulfillment may be all you need start seeing a pickup in sales.

In November and December, this strategy can keep the flow of holiday inventory going strong. When it comes time to eliminate the excess in January, a switch in shipping options can help delay or even prevent the need to start slashing prices.

Leverage the Benefits of Bundling

The beauty of bundling is that it encourages larger purchases while simultaneously eliminating extra holiday inventory. If certain items aren’t moving or are getting returned more frequently than others, look for ways to group them with complementary products that are selling well. Then offer the entire package at one competitive price.

Maybe it’s nonessential-but-fun kitchen utensils that pair well with a book on holiday entertaining. Or it could be a fishing rod and reel kit that’s sold along with popular outdoor gear for a one-of-kind gift. Be creative! With so many consumers searching for ideas and inspiration, bundling is often your best bet when it comes to keeping excess inventory at bay.

A thoughtful bundling strategy will allow you to achieve to important goals. First, it makes it easy to sell several products at once, whether consumers are still in the midst of holiday hosting and gift shopping or have moved on to returns. Second, you’ll be creating a positive experience for consumers through convenience and cost.

In conclusion: The above strategies are a few of many we recommend when preparing for holiday returns and the post-season bulge. For more proven tips you begin using today, check out our free eBook on eliminating excess inventory—newly updated for 2019.

Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published on December 14, 2017. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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