Christmas time is returns time: How online retailers score points in returns handling

Christmas time is returns time: How online retailers score points in returns handling
Published on: Dec 30, 2017
Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Whoever regards returns as a mere nuisance is giving away sales potential. Because every return holds great potential - for customer loyalty and cross-selling. The service provider parcelLab, which specializes in parcel communication, reveals how retailers can make the most of this sales opportunity.

Munich, November 23, 2017 - The reindeer flannel pajamas from the mother-in-law are too big and the same book is under the Christmas tree twice - the time after Christmas is the high season for returns - also in online retail. By mid-January, the level of returns is around 40 percent above normal, reports the digital association Bitkom. And since online sales in the Christmas season are expected to increase by another ten percent this year compared to the previous year, according to estimates by the German Retail Association, new highs can also be expected for returns.

This makes it all the more important to optimize the processes for handling returns in advance. Even though returns are a nuisance, time-consuming and expensive for online retailers, a smooth return is often a better recommendation than a successful purchase. If you are accommodating, process returns quickly and inform customers about every step, you have the chance to have satisfied regular customers.

Free returns and returns label are mandatory

This starts with the processing for the customer. Customer-focused online retailers offer extended return periods until the end of January and include a returns label that allows customers to easily return unwanted products for free. Even more convenient is the option to have the package picked up from home free of charge. Those who not only have an online store but also brick-and-mortar stores should also offer customers the option of returning the goods to the store. This not only offers consumers the advantage of getting their money back immediately, but also has plus points for the retailer. The retailer can immediately inspect the goods and put them on sale. In addition, customers can be encouraged to buy alternative products in the store - for example, via discounts that are only valid for the current day and are sent to the customer by e-mail or text message.

Once the package is on its way back to the retailer, a period of uncertainty begins for many online customers: Will the return really arrive at the retailer? Have all the products been correctly recorded? When will the money be refunded? Online retailers should inform their customers about all these points in real time. For example, if a return is scanned in the parcel store or at the customer's home, the retailer should automatically trigger an e-mail to the customer. As soon as the goods arrive back at the warehouse, a second mail informs the customer which goods have been received and are now being checked and when the refund will be initiated. Here, the faster the customer gets his money refunded, the higher the customer satisfaction. Advanced retailers need a maximum of 24 hours for the returns to be returned to sales and for the customer to be reimbursed.

Every return offers the chance for new sales


The timely notifications not only please the user, but also relieve the hotline. This is because the number of customers calling to ask where their money is is significantly reduced. In addition, retailers can also use such info mails for cross-selling or upselling activities. The recipient already has the book? Then provide new ideas for gift alternatives with a reference to this year's Christmas bestsellers in the online store.

But it's also clear that every return costs the retailer a lot of money: according to a study by the University of Bamberg, anyone who processes fewer than 10,000 returns a year pays 17.70 euros per return. Larger companies benefit from economies of scale and operate with costs of five to 7.70 euros per return. That's why online retailers should do everything they can to avoid returns in advance, even during the Christmas season. One efficient way is to sell personalized products. Here, the bond between customer and product is generally already higher, as customers have helped to design them themselves. What's more, personalized and customized items are not subject to the usual returns policy.

Rewarding customers for not returning products increases customer loyalty


Another way to avoid returns is to offer incentives for not returning items. Those who do not return items are rewarded with discounts or free shipping on subsequent purchases. A points system, in which customers collect points for non-returned goods, also encourages more conscious shopping behavior and ultimately promotes customer loyalty. Finally, retailers can also open their customers' eyes to the fact that every return shipment always harms the environment.

Generally speaking, no retailer will ever succeed in completely avoiding returns. This makes it all the more important to see every return as an opportunity for customer loyalty and to take advantage of it through active customer communication. This reduces return costs and promotes customer loyalty. The bottom line is a win-win situation - for store operators and customers.

Checklist: Tips for optimal returns handling for Christmas gifts

  1. Make returns handling as easy as possible for the customer
  2. .
  3. Process returns as quickly as possible
  4. .
  5. Inform the customer in real time about all steps of the returns process
  6. .
  7. Use the notification emails for cross-selling and upselling activities
  8. .
  9. Motivate customers to abandon returns


You can find the press release here for download as Word document or as PDF.

Press contact:

Vanessa Eiletz                                                          Saskia Müller

PR & Content Manager                                              PR & Events

Tel.: +49 (0)1525 75 11 813                                        Tel.: +49 (0) 178 342 15 67

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About parcelLab

parcelLab supports online retailers in successful post-purchase communication. An intelligent tracking solution monitors parcel shipments in real time, identifies customer-relevant delivery events and links them to automated, individualized customer communication in the merchant branding. In this way, the retailer accompanies its customers even during shipping, strengthens customer loyalty and can exploit further upselling potential by directing online shoppers back to the store via specific messages.

The Munich-based start-up was founded in 2014 by Tobias Buxhoidt, Anton Eder and Julian Krenge. Today, over 20 employees serve more than 280 international retailers and support them in perfect shipping communication in over 32 countries and 17 languages worldwide.

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