The ham’s all gone, there’s no Christmas root beer left, the After-Christmas Sales are over, and the Christmas tree needs to be thrown out. So what happens now, after New Year? Both carriers and online retailers have to get to grips with the returns chaos of unwanted products, brought about by us, the consumers. The wallet’s empty, payday on the 25th is a long way off, and a general depression has set in now that the fun’s over. The awesome after-Christmas holidays when you lie on the couch eating Christmas Butterscotch have rocketed by, and now it’s time to start up the computer again and get a grip on 2021.
But there’s always a flip side to the rush of happiness, just as the Christmas tree needs to be thrown out. To quote Per Gessle of Roxette: “When all your friends have gone home is when you first have doubts about starting over”.
For us, the consumers, the coffers have an empty echo to them at the moment. It’s not for nothing that the holiday-free weeks after New Year are called the (work-like-an) ox weeks, and that payday at the end of January is always the sweetest. The only problem is that January pay is mostly used up for essentials, as well as perhaps the bills from your December shopping. So it’s not until the end of February that most people start to balance their finances again. The hangover from all of the shopping from Black Friday to 22 December is like a dead weight, both mentally and financially. And we’ve not even started to talk about the After-Christmas Sales… And if no one has any money to shop with, how will e-commerce survive?
But there’s no point in being down in the mouth and to just lie down and cry. So what should we do now?
Tips for online retailers
What’s most important for online retailers right now is to try to sort out all of the returns and exchanges. That’s why it’s important you give your customers a good returns experience so that they will want to shop with you again. Remember, it’s much cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. At the same time, it’s a question of fighting tooth and nail over the consumers who want to do some shopping in January and February. When the consumer is strapped for cash, it’s important for you as an online retailer to make their every purchase a positive experience. There’s nothing odd about this, but it’s important to be especially careful. Do I have the right products? Can I be seen in the right places? Do I have clear product descriptions? Is my price right? And last but not least, do I have a delivery service that allows my customers to get their goods when and how they want? As an online retailer, during the holiday-free (work-like-an) ox weeks, you simply can’t afford to neglect these things…
Tips for carriers
For an online retailer to be able to make every purchase a positive experience, it’s important that you use your role as carrier to make every delivery as close to perfect as possible. There’s nothing odd about this either. But you have to make every effort to maintain quality, provide continuous status information to consumer and online retailer, and deliver on the consumer’s terms. At the end of the day, it’s always the consumer who pays for the shipping one way or another. As a carrier, do you offer smooth collection or sending-in of any returns? If we want to return something, can it be processed without any difficulty? Do you have any follow-up with us, the consumers, about our experience of the delivery and if not, what should you do in 2021 to make it better next time. What new features do you plan to develop during the year so that we as consumers and your customers, the online retailer, will choose you to be the carrier of our packages?
Tips for consumers
Now it’s a question of quickly returning what you don’t want to keep so you don’t have to trip over boxes in the garage, and so you can get back the money now when you really need it. Read about how the returns work for the different things you bought. Is there a returns box or do you need to fix one yourself? Is there a returns label in the package or do you need to print one? Do you have a printer that works? Or (purely hypothetically…) do you need to email a link to your friend Axel so that he can ask his father-in-law to print it out? “Who even has a printer at home these days”? Can you hand in all of your returns at the same service agent, or do you have to visit several of them? Hopefully, for us as consumers, we’ll soon be able to leave our returned items in the mailbox, or some other simple way. But until then, it’s important to get used to the idea that sorting out all of your returns will prove to be something of a small project.
But as prosecutor Harvey Dent says in the Batman film, The Dark Knight: “The night is darkest just before the dawn.” The holiday-free ox weeks will soon be over, payday will come, and we can start to consume again. Everything from spring clothing to outdoor furniture, and from garden products to allergy pills, needs buying. And it all kicks off on the 25th! Hold on!
Mats Fischerström and Axel Lindgren work at Unifaun and pull together their various experiences and perspectives into an exciting and innovative view of the opportunities and challenges facing e-commerce. Mats&Axel are popular speakers at trade fairs, conferences and other e-commerce events.