Retailers should always be on the front-foot and pre-empting predictable trends. For instance – an increase in returns during peak periods, and delays stemming from industrial action. Managing returns is an inevitable part of doing business online. But ensuring this process is optimised can go a long way in building trust with consumers.

There are techniques and methods that can help retailers manage returns efficiently. Applying them in times of uncertainty and cost of living crises can increase the chances of keeping your customers loyal.

1. Utilising online return platforms

A significant volume of returns comes as a package deal with online orders. So the methods companies use to manage this process is crucial to overall performance. Whilst delivery delays remain in the spotlight, with further Royal Mail strike action looking likely, it is essential that retailers efficiently manage their returned orders.  Understanding this process, and the steps available to improve efficiency, is key.  

When an item is returned to a retailer, it cannot immediately be re-sold. Instead, it first has to reach the returns department, on top of being registered and examined for any faults. This process takes time and resources. Without proper forecasting and management, this can cause warehouse build-up and staff shortages – particularly during busy periods. 

These potential supply chain slip ups are in the hands of the retailer, who through an automated returns portal can better manage and speed up their returns processes. An easy first step is integrating an online return form as a step in the customer’s returns process. Predictive analytics tools can be embedded. Such tools can provide retailers with estimates of returns volumes which, in turn, can be used to allocate resources, staff and warehouse space. They can even be used to distribute return loads between warehouses where possible. Thus, guaranteeing faster processing times and smoother experiences for customers.

2. Increasing consumer choice

Managing returns will never be as straightforward as re-sealing the packaging and writing a new address on the front of a parcel. However, numerous steps exist to ensure retailers are not caught out, with too much inventory held in processing and a returns management system. This is as opposed to on the shop floor. 

A key part of optimising returns management for online retailers involves offering the greatest number of options for customers, some of which can encourage a quicker end-to-end shopping process. Offering financial incentives, such as free returns for the first 14 days, can reduce the amount of inventory left sitting with consumers. This is a great way to reduce delivery delays, and lessen the likelihood of bracketing. This occurs when consumers order multiple sizes or styles of the same product. Then, they can simply return only the ones which they don’t like.

By reducing the amount of time it takes from a customer logging their return, to it being returned to the warehouse, retailers can re-stock their returns more quickly and efficiently. This means that more products are then available for purchase and can be delivered faster. 

3. Making a difference to the customer

Overall, returns can be a supply chain nightmare for retailers. The burden of refunded orders can significantly slow down processes and impact all areas of a business. Delivery delays aren’t always in the hands of the retailer; despite blame often being placed at their doorstep.  

However, utilising the latest retail technology is a great step for retailers. By doing so, they can reduce delayed orders where possible, and take control of their post-purchase experiences. As well as more efficient returns management, retail technology can ensure realistic delivery expectations are set pre-checkout. Touchpoints can also be maintained with consumers through to the point at which their product is delivered, and beyond. 

When consumers are kept in the loop across all aspects of their order journey, they are more likely to remain loyal in the long term. This only further grows the business case for investing in better retail technology to support and enhance their day-to-dayoperations.

Post Views: 1288