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Complete the Omnichannel Picture: Why Retailers Who Focus on Returns Are at a Competitive Advantage

With upwards of 30% of all e-commerce orders resulting in a return, most retailers want an omnichannel return strategy that supports a seamless return experience for consumers. Supply chain managers should be able to handle returns with ease with a comprehensive omnichannel return strategy.Imagine a retail environment and supply chain free from the challenges of returns where every sale is an experience that matches what the consumer wants, where the returns process is nearly problem free for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales alike. Of course, this is easier said than done as, according to industry benchmarks, returns are no-where near perfect as reported by Business2Community. Consumers return up to 30% of all online purchases, and up to 40% for apparel purchases. Consumers do not care about the difference in handling online versus brick-and-mortar returns, but they do care about costs and ease of returns. Supply chain executives at retailers need to understand the invaluable role the right omnichannel return strategy plays in achieving success in an omnichannel world.

What’s Contributing to Poor Return Strategies?

Free shipping is the new Gold Standard of an omnichannel return strategy, and 49% of retailers offer free return shipping, according to the Wall Street Journal. When prompted for the root cause of a return, the top reasons consumers state that they return products are damage (20%), different appearance (22%), and incorrect order contents (23%).
Retailers face the challenge of accepting and processing returns in brick-and-mortar locations for all products, not just those sold in the physical store.
Retailers must also consider how up to two-seconds can make abandoned carts 20% more likely, says Shopify. Consumers want speed, and any delay in a brick-and-mortar or online environment is the difference between closing a sale and losing a customer. Even the best desktop browsers cannot make up the disparity as more people shop via mobile devices (7%) than desktop browsers.
Another factor leading to problems with existing omnichannel return strategy is that retailers may not process online returns in the same facility as an item’s origin. Depending on the product, some products could result in the cross-contamination of other products from merely being used. Think personal hygiene products. These must be disposed of, not resold, and rules governing such disposal may vary by country, state, municipality, or other governance structure.

Tips for Companies Seeking to Improve Their Omnichannel Return Strategy

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the omnichannel return strategy, but all businesses must be capable of handling returns through all channels regardless of the transaction’s origin. The demand on each channel will vary by consumers’ shopping habits, but retailers can work to refine the experience by integrating all channels and systems into a single platform. They should also enable hassle-free returns, free ship-to-store, and on-demand return label printing asserts BigCommerce. Some customers will expect a return shipping label to be included in the original shipment, and retailers who take this proactive step, including providing return instructions, may lessen the frustrations of consumers who have found it challenging to return e-commerce orders due to lack of knowledge on how to print a label or process a return.

How to Deal with Counterfeits on the “Grey” Market

Companies must also be wary of the grey market. Counterfeit products can have a very negative impact on a company’s brand, and they can be introduced through vendors or through return fraud. Many varieties of return fraud exist, including a scam where customers purchase authentic product and return a counterfeit product in its place. The company may return it to inventory and later unknowingly sell it to another customer. Scams like this can be prevented through data analytics or serializing items with unique barcodes or RFID tags.

Lean on Data for a Better Returns Process

Retailers should use information and data to perfect order fulfillment and processing to ensure customers order exactly what they want. The use of relying on data for more visibility in order fulfillment will reduce the number of returns. Retailers should go further, such as the use of retargeting marketing, or serving up ads on content-driven websites of products the consumer has already viewed on the retailer’s site. This may create more purchases around items that a consumer truly desires to want or has more of an affinity for and is less likely to return. However, affinity is not enough to reduce return rates. The same ease of purchase should occur in the returns process. The retailer must also consider that such quick and easy purchasing online increases the likelihood of a return and investments in technology and data to make returns as easy as purchases are vital to a functioning and successful omnichannel return strategy.

What Does a Positive Returns Strategy Look Like in Action?

A proactive approach to an omnichannel return strategy begins with creating a holistic approach to omnichannel shopping, like that of Crate & Barrel, allowing customers to create registries and access viewing history from any device, as noted by MultiChannel Merchant. Even Walmart Express Returns is simplifying the return process, letting customers request refunds on certain products, like health and beauty products, without physically returning the items in question. Working with vendors also has the net effect of reducing the risk of counterfeit product sales and returns. This eliminates as many of the potential reasons for returns as possible explains Inbound Logistics. After implementing a successful omnichannel return strategy, your company should be able to seamlessly handle returns across all locations, warehouses, vendors, and distribution centers, regardless of order origin.
Need a guide to establishing your omnichannel return strategy? Schedule a consultation with Veridian by hitting the “Schedule a Consultation” button below to learn more about how your company can complete the omnichannel picture by enhancing your omnichannel returns strategy now.

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