The Return Counter is often the keystone to a consumer’s experience with your retail locations. It’s the proverbial fork in the road along the shopping journey, where one path leads to satisfaction and the other to frustration. It’s also where smart retailers can turn a potential loss into new revenue – and convert online shoppers into brand loyalists.
All of which makes The Return Counter critical to the success of every retailer, especially after the holidays and other big sales.
What’s it like being in the center of it all? Let’s find out and explore a day in the life of The Return Counter, told from its perspective.
It’s the day before Christmas and the store is, well, chaos! Shoppers are literally running up and down the aisles to scoop up last-minute holiday deals. People seem giddy with excitement, or perhaps extremely stressed out? Who knows? Human emotions are hard for me to comprehend.
Meanwhile, my coworkers – the hard-working employees who do such a great job this time of year –calmly ring up sales, restock shelves, and help consumers find what they need. It’s a joy to behold.
Yet all is quiet with me, The Return Counter. Our store operations manager Carol is preparing for the post-holiday return rush. Organizing my shelves, configuring the POS system, and making sure consumers have a clear view of the company return and exchange policy signage.
After all, we both know what’s coming: 13.3% of holiday sales were returned in 2020, accounting for $101 billion of merchandise. And we’ve read the same prediction from Deloitte that 2021 holiday season sales will increase 7 to 9% over 2020. (You have to keep up on trends in my line of work.)
That’s a lot of ugly sweaters coming my way. If I had fingers, I’d cross them right now.
81% of retailers expect to receive most holiday returns in January and 39% plan to hire more staff to handle the rush. By investing resources in seasonal workers, you’ll maximize the opportunity to improve service and make a strong impression on consumers making returns – many of whom are visiting your store for the first time.
The Big Day
The sun is just rising, and a line has already formed out the front door. I guess a lot of people want to return their holiday gifts right away and maybe pick up a bargain or two. Fortunately, our team is prepared. We’ve been training for this day for a long time. Employee-of-the-Month Franco is working returns today and Carol’s about to open the doors.
Here. We. Go….
Return 1: The first return of the day is a doozy – a bag of toys brought in by a parent and a very sad child. (With so much crying, even I understand that emotion.) Sounds like Grandma went overboard this year and forgot to include a gift receipt. Uh oh.
But like I said, we trained for this. Franco handles the return smoothly, tapping into the POS system to verify the transaction occurred, quickly identify the products in our inventory, return the merchandise, and provide an instant coupon as an incentive to buy something new. That’ll cheer up the little one.
Return 2: Oh, it’s my favorite – a BORIS! Buy-online-return-in-store transactions allow me to connect to my ecommerce side. I feel so techy, which is saying something since I’m mostly made of wood and laminate.
Even better, today’s BORIS is from a consumer in our loyalty program. It’s always nice to see old friends. Looks like her new pair of fuzzy slippers don’t fit, and Franco processes an exchange in seconds. Easy peasy. Here’s a coupon for another pair of shoes, so she’s sure to find something she likes. I love to keep our best customers shopping. She’s thrilled!
There’s an unprecedented level of foot traffic in your store during and after the holidays. Seize the opportunity to convert lost sales from returns into revenue by giving consumers a reason to keep shopping. By adding a limited-time discount on top of their return refund, shoppers will be more apt to immediately spend more.
Return 3: Hmm, I’m not so sure about this one. A video game system being returned without a receipt, and it doesn’t appear to have been purchased from our store. Franco asks for the credit card used for the purchase and the return authorization system quickly identifies this consumer as a serial returner. It also confirms that this SKU was not purchased at one of our stores. Not-so-fun stat: The NRF estimates retailers should expect 13% of holiday sales to be returned, and of those, 10% will probably be fraudulent. Yikes!
Franco refuses the return, pointing to the policy signage on my exquisitely gleaming counter (if I do say so myself), preventing a $300 loss. High-fives all around.
Alas, the rest of the day goes by in a blur. Returns. Exchanges. Consumers in, consumers out. The post-holiday rush is truly a thrill for this humble Return Counter, but I’m exhausted. Still, I can’t wait until President’s Day…
5 Tips for Your Return CounterWant to create a positive Return Counter experience for your consumers – and your retail operations – this holiday season? Here are five ways to do just that.
- Invest in your point-of-return team: 81% of retailers expect to receive most holiday returns in January and 39% plan to hire more staff to handle the rush. By investing resources in seasonal workers, you’ll maximize the opportunity to improve service and make a strong impression on consumers making returns – many of whom are visiting your store for the first time.
- Keep the line moving: Nothing is more frustrating than waiting in a slow-moving line because an employee is confused by store return policies or needs to manually look up a purchase. Using smart technology can help to maintain a smooth return process for every transaction.
- Use the tools at your disposal: Holiday returns are stressful but resist the temptation to forsake RMA and return authorization tools in lieu of transaction speed. Return authorization systems actually improve your overall efficiency and consistent use of such tools prevents return losses from piling up this time of year.
- Turn lost into found: There’s an unprecedented level of foot traffic in your store during and after the holidays. Seize the opportunity to convert lost sales from returns into revenue by giving consumers a reason to keep shopping. By adding a limited-time discount on top of their return refund, shoppers will be more apt to immediately spend more.
- Don’t be a Grinch: By rewarding consumers with a personalized message or offer on their return receipt you are telling them that you value their business and understand that sometimes they need to return or exchange items. By inviting them to a future shopper event or offering a discount on their next purchase you are giving them something to smile about – and a reason to return to your store soon.
Carrie Cassidy, Director, Marketing, Appriss Retail
A technology advocate for more than 25 years, Carrie makes information about advanced data analytics solutions accessible to retail professionals through a variety of media. She has written numerous white papers, case studies, and articles for a variety of industries ranging from motion control to human resources.