10. February 2021

Mastering the returned goods peak

Whether a new perfume, a festive sweater or some new smart home tech, Christmas 2020 saw 70% of consumers purchase presents online. According to a survey by German digital association Bitkom, this represents a 10% rise on the previous year. A third of respondents even said that they ordered all of their presents online.

As consumers flocked to e-commerce in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, logistics providers were faced with a huge challenge that they mastered with aplomb.

Master returns successfully

But 2021 has brought a new test. That’s because if the perfume doesn’t smell of vanilla and sandalwood as it says, or if the sweater is the wrong size, consumers can return their unwanted items. In conventional retail, this means going back to the store with the receipt. Online shopping has made this easier than ever. A large proportion of goods ordered online are returned: one in six according to the Returns Management Research Group. Unlike in the store, it is difficult for consumers to get a proper impression of the products online before they purchase. Only once unpacked can they try them on, see the color in natural light or actually smell a perfume. The level of returns around Christmas is even higher due to the simple fact that some people just don’t like their presents. Another common cause for returns are incorrect picks. Consumers sometimes receive products in the wrong color or size, for example, and send them back immediately.

Grafik, die anzeigt, dass die Umsätze im eCommerce um 24% gestiegen sind

Logistics at the limit

Handling returned goods is one of the most complex processes in intralogistics. After the coronavirus pandemic led to an e-commerce boom last Christmas, the biggest wave of returned goods ever is bearing down on many logistics providers. According to a consumer survey by the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association, online sales rose by 24% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year. This, in turn, has led to a corresponding rise in returns.

For the logistics sector, processing these is a painstaking and time-consuming affair. The costs associated with returned goods depend on several factors.

According to a survey by the EHI Retail Institute, this involves not only the costs for postage and shipping, but also viewing, identifying and checking the items. The task is anything but easy. Goods need to be checked for their potential resale value, before being sorted and taken to the right location in the warehouse. This makes effective, error-free work even more important, as mistakes can cause the incoming goods to disrupt the established warehouse system.

How order picking systems help manage returns

Our 5 tips show that effective order picking systems like pick-by-vision can make a big difference when handling returned goods. Here are the five main advantages that smart picking offers.


Getting it right first time

Pick-by-vision allows users to reduce order picking errors to a minimum. This keeps the number of returns down by reducing the amount of goods that were sent incorrectly in the first place.


Hands free for the main job

Pick-by-vision is designed around the principle of keeping the picker’s hands free. This also helps when handling returns, as the picker can unpack and check the goods quickly and easily.


All the information where it’s needed

The display on the smart glasses provides the picker with all the information about the next process step, so they know what to do at all times. Integrating customized processes is easy, while the system also reduces errors when placing the items back into storage.


Faster processing

Picavi can deliver time savings of up to 30%. It takes just 15 minutes on average to train staff to use the smart glasses. These major productivity boosts also increase efficiency when managing returns.



Users enjoy working with pick-by-vision. The system is comfortable to wear and has an intuitive, user-friendly interface. It has proven a popular assistant in countless applications in order picking and returns handling.

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