The need to provide a seamless online shopping experience ends once the order has been fulfilled for many retailers. Yet, the returns process also needs to be included within the overall customer journey. Returns have long been a challenge for the retail industry but in particular for online retailers, as they are faced with a return rate as high as 40%.
Previously, brick & mortar returns typically consisted of bulk returns on large pallets that made their way back to warehouses, with the idea that foot traffic would incentivise additional sales. This made tracking and processing of returns slow and with the boom of online shopping, the pace of returns has gotten even slower, which has magnified the importance of recovery and customer experience.
Retailers who utilise B.O.R.I.S. (Buy Online Return In Store) hover around a 10% new purchase rate during the return process. For example, Kohl’s hasn’t seen an increase in revenues since 2015, even with Amazon’s returns program bringing an infinite higher amount of foot traffic.
Exploring the challenges
Retail has failed to address the challenge of returns by only implementing incremental policies. Whether this is a 30 days, 60 days, or even 90 days, the problem persists when relying on the consumer to “get around” to returning their unwanted goods, which often leaves the retailer with heavy cost implications.
While retailers need to make returning items convenient for customers, they also need to understand those return policies are not complete solutions. Instead, they need to find a way to make the process physically more convenient or incentivised for consumers. Enabling delivery drivers to not only deliver items but process returns will significantly speed up the time those items can be re-sold. By getting returns back faster, retailers will be able to increase inventory returns and free up trapped capital.
The challenge is complex, but commanding the returned inventory whilst still maintaining or even exceeding customer expectations will be key to offering an exceptional service – this is what modern-day shoppers have come to expect. To work hand-in-hand with sustainable infrastructures, retailers must leverage new technologies to increase the speed of re-injected returns to inventory when items are relevant and sellable.
Meeting new demands
Returns of online orders are inevitable and should always be considered. However, the true challenge is caused by online returns that increase inventory and waste for retailers. Consumers now expect the returning purchase to be as simple as placing an order, so extending the convenience throughout the customer journey, such as offering an at-home pickup service is a great match for a hassle-free experience. To further increase the chance of success, the same solutions that maximise customer convenience, whilst allowing the retailer to maintain control over the return process. This will reduce waste and lower working capital tied up in excess inventory. With returns remaining both a monumental challenge for retailers, it’s important to mesh experience without additional costs.
In a market full of competition, seamless return processes are essential to the future of eCommerce and omnichannel operations. . From customer joy to environmental benefits, streamlining returns properly is who will be the next retail winners to achieve long-term success.