It’s easy to skimp on reverse logistics in the eCommerce and omnichannel retail world. After all, expending effort and resources to improve the experience of returning goods can seem like a waste. Shouldn’t that time and money be going toward attracting new shoppers or expediting orders that went well, rather than those that have hit a snag?
If you want to be a brand known for offering an excellent customer experience – and this should absolutely be one of your goals – it’s important to commit to every part of logistics, returns included. Improving the efficiency and ease of this part of the retail process can deliver strong results.
Recent years have brought changes in customer opinions and expectations. As shoppers have become more demanding, the return process has increased in importance. Companies are competing on all dimensions of the customer experience, and ones that rise above the norm may find themselves winning favor among the customer base. When more people use a variety of sellers’ return systems, they’ll be able to assess which ones are value-adding services.
The main challenge in committing to your reverse logistics policy may be committing fully to extracting value from returns rather than simply writing them off. In addition to setting your organization aside from others that offer less fully formed return strategies, your company can also get value from refurbishing and reselling products, as well as mining data for future reference.
That last point may prove especially important as retail organizations increasingly run on information. If your decision-making processes don’t have a sufficient grounding in data analytics, you may have trouble discerning trends before competitors do. On the other hand, mining every bit of usable insight from which products customers return, as well as when and how they interact with your organization, you can learn how to avoid having to resort to reverse logistics in the future.
While there are many approaches you can take when it comes to reverse logistics and returns, you may want to start by stripping the process down as much as possible. Any complicating steps that customers have to take serve as disincentives to follow the return through – or to do business with you again.
Research shows that 85% of customers reject companies outright if they can’t at least get credit back for an item if they decide to return it. Taking steps such as always including return packing slips and step-by-step directions in shipments can set you apart and let customers know that, while you’d prefer they keep the items, you’ll be accommodating if they decide to make a return.
While returns obviously weren’t invented in the internet age, the rise of eCommerce has made them inescapable. With 20 to 30% of all returned items coming from online customers, today’s companies have to focus on improving the processes that will get those items back into the warehouses.
One major element of pleasing demanding eCommerce customers is to offer free shipping. Of course, those shipments aren’t really free, and the cost has simply shifted to your organization. When you don’t charge for either delivery or returns, it’s up to you to find creative money-saving strategies, balancing customer happiness with financial necessity. Working with more efficient tagging and tracking solutions is one way to ease this process, as the items can be returned to inventory quickly.
How do you want customers to view your company? Are you easy to work with? Do you seem to want them to stay with you for years to come? If you offer a great reverse logistics program and make returns as straightforward as possible, you’ll send the message that you care more than companies that charge for returns or forbid them outright.
The eCommerce age makes the return process more challenging, but with expectations higher than ever, accepting this challenge may be a turning point for your brand.