Is your returns process holding you back?
It’s accepted ‘good business’ practice to provide an effortless, stress-free contract packing process by which your customers can make returns. It’s a must for fashion retailers but can impact every retail sector.
The purpose of a returns policy isn’t simply logistical though – it touches your marketing function too. And it has both a value and a cost.
If you want to max the value and minimise the cost of your returns policy, having great technology at your back is a must.
Here’s more about what this means and how your 3PL fulfilment technology influences your ability to grow despite the ongoing challenge of returns.
Maximise the value and minimise the cost
Basic returns options
A returns policy/process usually takes the form of:
- A free postage label or carrier doorstep collection
- Packaging that can be resealed and reused
- An agreed timeframe for refunds
Returns are costly for brands. Returns impact on fulfilment logistics and can affect cash flow. And the system is open to abuse.
The temptation is to discourage them but, as you’ve seen above, your customers know what to expect from your competitors.
In which case, the answer is to turn it on its head – your returns policies and process need to be among the best.
What’s the true value of a returns policy?
A business might want to create a satisfying, feel-good returns experience that will give you long-term value:
- Boost trust
- Create loyalty and repeat sales
- Foster advocacy
Value = trust, loyalty and brand advocacy
What’s the cost if you don’t get it right?
A business might decide to fulfil its returns obligations to the letter of the law, if not the spirit. As a result, the customer:
- Might decide to purchase with a business offering free returns
- Might not spend as much as they could have
- Is inconvenienced on a trip to post the package
- Doesn’t consider the refunds timely
- Won’t shop with you again
Cost = no trust, no sale, bad reviews, negative reputation
The returns / reverse logistics process
Reverse logistics is the same as despatch and fulfilment, only in reverse:
- Packaged back up by the customer
- Handed over to a carrier
- Scanned into the fulfilment system for tracking
- Quality control checked upon arrival at the warehouse
- Made available for resale ASAP
Essential returns technology
The key to a robust reverse logistics strategy is the efficiency of the framework it sits within.
A 3PL fulfilment system should:
- Track the same detailed information about an item during despatch and return.
- Include MI that allows forecasting, so you can adjust resources when necessary.
- Allow for visibility of all stages and options of a return, including quality checks.
Our platform, SCOPe, has a powerful warehousing/contract packing module (actually, it’s an enterprise resource planning application -ERP). This enables full transparency of data across all departments – critical for all elements of logistics fulfilment, including returns.
As well as the above features, it makes managing resources, reporting, and third party reporting (including returns) simpler. We’re currently developing exciting new capabilities for this module. – check out the current list of features on the warehousing page.
How we transformed clients’ return policies
A mid-sized apparel retailer wants to compete with a larger competitor for a bigger share of the market. They were handling their returns using their own system, but felt it was cumbersome, complicated and didn’t complete returns in a cost-effective or timely manner.
Now, they are using SCOPe to manage despatch and returns. It integrates with their own system using our API so they can see all the data. We provide a dedicated team to handle the reverse logistics, who complete the quality checks, repackaging and get the item promptly back on sale.
The logistics, access to data and skilled team have allowed the client to scale their business, thanks to efficiencies, planning and a growing reputation for great customer service.
Do you need to sharpen up your returns process?
Get in touch to discuss your requirements. Many clients come to us without a process, or with a process that’s not quite up to scratch. We can help.
As well as an unbeatable fulfilment system that handles returns like a pro, we’ve got decades of experience and skilled teams that understand this aspect of your business model.
Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash