The world has seen a great deal of disruption over the past year and a half, with a global pandemic turning everything upside down. One of the most significant and obvious changes was a vastly sped-up rise in eCommerce shopping. But when it comes to sustainability, retail businesses have some work to do. Learn here how this uptick in online buying has affected return rates and what that means for eCommerce’s environmental impact.

The Recent Rise in eCommerce

The global pandemic has changed the way we do business, and it seems like some of the changes are here to stay. In early 2020, the novel Coronavirus brought our world to a screeching halt. As shoppers quarantined in their homes to avoid exposure to the virus, they took to the internet for all of their shopping needs.

While Covid certainly sped up the rise in eCommerce sales, online shopping was already becoming increasingly popular even before the pandemic. It seems that at least some of this eCommerce purchasing is here to stay.

According to the UN, global online sales have grown to $26.7 trillion. In the US alone, online retail sales went from $598 billion in 2019 to $791.7 billion in 2020. Similar jumps occurred in countries like Australia, Canada, China, Korea, and the UK.

eCommerce Returns

Along with the rise in eCommerce, consumer returns have grown exponentially. It’s estimated that about 30% of online purchases are eventually returned. Compare that to the 10.6% of merchandise returned across all channels and you can see how an increase in online shopping can affect the reverse logistics market.

There are several reasons for this. When customers can’t physically touch, hold, or try on items before purchasing, they’re far more likely to return them later. Often there’s nothing wrong with the product—instead, these are no-fault returns where the fabric, color or size simply wasn’t as expected.

What Happens to Returns?

So how are retailers handling this volume of customer returns? Consumers often assume that the goods they return are put back on store or warehouse shelves, but this is not often the case. Though the alternative is far from sustainable, retail vendors find that remarketing returned merchandise simply doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint.

Remarketing a returned item requires a thorough inspection to ensure that it’s still in like-new condition. It also may require repackaging and reshelving. If anything is missed, it could cause damage to the brand’s reputation or other customer service nightmares. Some brands have the resources to do this, but more commonly, once an item is returned, it’s removed from inventory. What happens then?

Surprisingly, some retailers still dump their returned merchandise into landfills. In fact, this adds up to about 5 billion pounds of returned goods each year. Surely there has to be a better way of dealing with these products.

A More Sustainable Retail Liquidation Method

Since today’s consumers prefer to shop with brands that focus on sustainability, retail needs to find better ways to deal with consumer returns. One sustainable approach is to take advantage of the secondary market. By liquidating returned, damaged, and overstock merchandise, retailers can keep these products out of the landfill and instead give them another life while generating higher recovery rates.

Liquidation buyers are often experts at remarketing used or damaged products. Since it’s often their primary business, they inspect each item carefully before selling. Even salvage goods can find a home with buyers who repair them or take them apart for parts. When you liquidate returned or damaged inventory via a private auction marketplace on B-Stock, you can rest assured that your goods are going to a vetted buyer who will recirculate them into the secondary market.

If you’ve never tried liquidation auctions for your excess inventory before, partnering with B-Stock is a must. Our team of experts will help you craft the most profitable auction listings. We’ll help you offload pallets or truckloads of products efficiently and for the best price the secondary market will support. Want to learn more? Contact B-Stock for a demo today.

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