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Ecommerce Merchants Brace for a Return Season Like No Other

New Returnly data shows shift in consumer return patterns and log jammed shipping networks adding pressure on merchant profits

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Returnly, the leader in digital return experiences and post purchase payments, today released new data reporting that returns made through its platform more than tripled on December 26th, compared to an average return day in the U.S. The bottleneck effect created by record-high volume, extra long return windows and slower action from consumers is expected to push back shopper refunds and resale turnaround times.

“With record-breaking holiday sales, there is going to be a huge backlog of returns. This leads to unpredictability and longer refund times for consumers, which can quickly erode the trust they established with a brand,” said Returnly founder and CEO, Eduardo Vilar. “At Returnly, we give shoppers instant access to Credit to ensure they get the right item even before returning the wrong one – ultimately helping retailers offer shoppers a predictable and consistent returns experience during these challenging times.”

Additional Returnly data provides insights into shifts in the direct-to-consumer landscape:

  • COVID-19 sent consumers digging deep for old returns: From the time the pandemic began, shoppers started reaching progressively deeper into their closets to return older goods. The average age of returns (the time between placing an order and return creation) climbed aggressively week after week starting in mid-March and peaking in early August at 20 days, a near 100% jump from the start of the pandemic.
  • New times require new DTC strategies:DTC brands threw the playbook out the window this year, offering deep discounts throughout COVID-19. Returnly saw the dollar volume of discounts given by merchants to incentivize sales grow 180% YoY in April 2020.
  • December 26 remains the most important day for returns: Returns volume through the Returnly platform was 3.3x higher on December 26th compared to an average return day in the U.S.
  • Prepare for a longer return season: The return journey starts on December 26th when consumers initiate returns online – but brands should expect it to take longer than usual for their items to ship. In January 2019, it took shoppers close to seven days to mail returns. With extra long return windows, fewer back-to-the-office routines and more people looking to avoid crowds, retailers should brace for an even larger gap and a longer return season.
  • The damaging effects of USPS’ rate hike: Following USPS’ price increase announcements in August and October, Returnly saw a 7% drop in USPS market share as ecommerce merchants moved to competitive alternatives. This shift is also likely due in part to increasing concern around holiday delivery times to guarantee the fast shipping experience that customers have come to expect.

Methodology: Returnly’s analysis captures return behavioral data of a random sample of 6 million online consumers ages 18+ in the U.S. across six ecommerce verticals: Apparel, Accessories, Footwear, Jewelry, Beauty and Electronics.

About Returnly
Returnly is the leading provider of digital return experiences for direct-to-consumer brands. Returnly is the only return solution that lets customers get the right item before returning the wrong one. The result is a world-class shopping experience with an average consumer satisfaction score (CSAT) of 91%. Returnly has also developed a turn-key solution around its financial technology that includes returns management tools as well as hosted and fully brandable end-customer touchpoints like package tracking, online returns and exchanges, In-Store Returns, and Green Returns. To learn more about Returnly’s solutions, please visit www.returnly.com

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