How to Cut Down on Painful Returns This Holiday Season

October 16, 2023
Product Content

We’re rapidly approaching the heart of the holiday season, which for many retailers and brands represents the crucial make-or-break point that will determine the overall success of the year. But enterprises that rely on a big spike in sales through Q4 also have a dark shadow looming throughout and beyond it: product returns.

Fortunately, new research has revealed a critical cause of product returns that you can act on to mitigate this crucial issue. In The State of Product Content 2023, a broad survey of over 1,000 consumers revealed an avoidable, cause of returns that is eroding your margins and putting a damper on the holiday spirit.

Returns: The Lump of Coal in Your Stocking

Returns quickly undo the hard and important work done to execute a strong holiday strategy and boost sales.

According to the National Retail Foundation, retailers estimated about 18% of merchandise sold in the last holiday season were ultimately returned, accounting for $171 billion in lost revenue.

That’s a devastating hit when competition is higher than ever and every sale matters to get ahead.


Returns not only cancel out hard-earned sales; they also present an expensive and complicated challenge for operations and logistics to manage. Between staffing, shipping, packaging and storing, a product return can cost 66% of the price of the product to process.

The Overlooked (and Preventable) Cause of Many Returns

You can’t avoid all holiday returns.

Inevitably, some gifts will miss the mark and get brought back from their recipients. Some shoppers will realize they over-bought and return extra presents, party supplies, and holiday decorations they don’t need. Shipping delays or errors might result in a product arriving too late to be used, or delivery of the incorrect product, and prompt a return.

But as analysis from the report shows, a significant portion of returns are driven by an avoidable cause: product content (or rather, lack of it).

Product content is all the information, and multimedia in the market that describes a product. That includes essential, fundamental data like weight, color, product name, materials, or nutrition facts as well as product images, user manuals, how-to videos, interactive PDP experiences, and more.

It’s an essential part of the customer experience before and after purchase, and directly influences return rates.

At least 32% of consumers have recently returned one or more products because it did not ‘meet expectations based on the information available about that product while shopping.’ That figure could very well rise during a busy holiday season when consumers are browsing more products at a greater pace, and as varied holiday assortments are brought to shelves.


That’s not surprising. When shopping online and in-store, consumers rely on product content to quickly explain what a product does, how it’s different from alternatives, how it will make them feel when they have it, and what problems it will solve for them. If information, imagery, and data are incomplete, inaccurate or out of date, it sets false expectations that lead to confusion and disappointment once the product is purchased.

How to Act to Minimize Holiday Returns

The good news is that returns due to poor product content are largely avoidable. Imagine what you could do for your numbers through and beyond the holidays if you could cut that number down even a little!

Making the content your customers are looking for

Having accurate, up-to-date product information and multimedia is essential for delivering a satisfactory customer experience.

Essential ‘Core Content’ that describes the fundamental features and facts about your products is a good start. But today’s consumers are increasingly expecting more engaging, informative experiences in the form of video, 360 degree product views, or product comparison charts—information and assets commonly called Enhanced Content. If you don’t have the kind of content you need available, you can consider partnering with a content creation solution to generate accurate, compelling information.

Want to discover what kind of content your customers want most? Find out in The State of Product Content 2023

Managing and updating content

According to survey results from the report, 22% of consumers have recently encountered inconsistent imagery and depictions of products across different channels, and 26% saw conflicting or contradictory product information. This is exactly the kind of problem that generates returns.

A Product Information Management (PIM) solution makes it easy to organize and orchestrate all your product data from a single interface, providing a ‘golden record’ for each product that can be accessed as needed across the organization.

Getting content where it needs to be

Once content is created and stored, it needs to be delivered to the right endpoint quickly and in the correct format. Effective packaging and promotion is an important component of distributing product data effectively. And so is Syndication of product content to retailers, marketplaces, and other endpoints that use the data.

Every endpoint is a little different, and that means data needs to be transformed and adjusted to thrive in each environment. With over 1750 retailers and distributors in its network, no one is better than Syndigo at delivering data in the needed format and getting it published quickly.

Get Even More Insights for Holiday Performance

The State of Product Content 2023 is filled with insights on how product content influences your brand, customer experience, and performance. Get your copy now and make the needed adjustments to find success through the holidays.

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