In uncertain economic times, Black Friday spending is expected to grow this year as shoppers search for deals.

According to a new in-depth consumer behavior study from Future Publishing, 76% of US consumers plan to shop for deals on Black Friday.

But Black Friday will not be the only day retailers and e-tailers will be targeting as online deals are expected to begin a week or longer before the date, with Thanksgiving being a “bonanza” for online shopping, according to The site places its Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales estimates at $13 billion. And while down a bit compared to last year, the anticipated early start to the holiday shopping season should keep shoppers and shippers busy over a more extended period.

However, with sales comes the inevitable boomerang of returns. Whether shipping from or back to warehouses and DCs, increases in shipping, transportation, fuel, and wage costs have led to returns costing retailers more. According to Optoro, a reverse logistics technology company, a $50 item costs retailers on average $33 to return in 2021, a 7% jump from 2020.


Here are a few ideas to help retailers contain the costs of returns during the holiday season and beyond:

  1. Give them returns choices: Retailers often offer free shipping when specific cart spend is met—a number increasing with $75 replacing the standard $50 spend. In addition, offering free return shipping only for purchases over a certain amount can help reverse logistics costs. Another way to keep customers who want free returns happy while controlling costs is to offer free return shipping only for exchanges or store credit. At the same time, refund requests can be under the policy of meeting a certain threshold before costs are covered. This can reduce losses while keeping customers coming to your online store to use that credit and allowing them to add more to their shopping cart, boosting ticket averages. Some retailers are even opting to let customers keep the product they want to return if the cost of processing the return outweighs the cost of the product.  
  2. Pack efficiently: From bracketing to buying presents their recipient doesn’t want [really, another ugly holiday sweater?] customers have plenty of reasons to request returns. Retailers and e-commerce stores don’t need to give them yet another. Items returned due to damage led the list of reasons consumers have for sending an item back. According to SaleCycle, 80% of consumers return orders due to damage. This is by far the most common reason with the item not matching the description, which was cited by a mere 16%. While damage may always happen, the right multi-carrier management solution that utilizes AI cartonization technology can help retailers pack shipments efficiently. Proper packing not only reduces costs on shipping from peak season surcharges and dimensional weight (DIM) fees but also helps limit damage and waste.
  3. Make returns simple: People want online shopping accessible from one-click purchasing and “buy now pay later” options. And so do retailers. They want the same for returns. Automating e-commerce returns, such as with Transteam’s returns widget, saves time and reduces frustration for retailers and their customers. From printing the label to tracking the inbound returned item, the automated workflows will improve the process, reduce costs, improve the customer shopping and delivery experience, and, most importantly, increase customer returns visibility

While Black Friday will always focus on initial sales, returns continue to be a cost burden for retail and eCommerce merchants. Even as retailers work to mitigate those costs, shoppers are still choosing where to shop based on both initial and return shipping costs and ease. As a result, online sellers that can offer the best delivery and return experience are the ones that will have the happiest holiday selling and shipping season.


Schedule your demonstration today to learn how Transtream multi-carrier management solution can help you manage your outbound and return shipping processes.