Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

Top tips for managing returns

What if it doesn’t fit, is the wrong shade of blue or is plain not suitable?  The availability of simple, convenient, returns options can help keep customers loyal and boost sales. In fact, our own research recently found that 40 per cent of shoppers would be more likely to purchase goods online if they had multiple channels through which they could return unwanted goods.

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With that in mind, I’ve put together some top tips for retailers looking to improve their returns processes:

1)    Don’t underestimate the importance of returns

Giving customers the ability to return an item quickly and conveniently and having a mechanism in place to maximise the chances of re-selling it without having to mark it down should be key features of every retailers’ business and service strategy.  With IMRG estimating that 25-50 per cent of online purchases are returned at present, retailers need to build returns into their overall inventory management approach. Plans need to be made in terms of re-routing items to wherever the demands is, merchandising goods so they can be presented in pristine condition for re-sale, and expediting the entire returns process so goods can be made available for purchase again as soon as possible.

2)    Offer customer as many return options as possible

If retailers can offer options to return goods via a number of different channels, customers are likely to return goods more quickly.  This does two things: it enables the customer to get an item exchanged or their money back quicker so keeping them happy; and it allows the retailer to make those returned goods available for sale quicker.

3)    Embrace technology to accelerate the reverse supply chain

Being able to make inventory available straight away maximises the opportunity of achieving a full-price sale.  An order management system can help achieve this by providing instant visibility of returning goods, regardless how they are being returned i.e. to a store, via a courier service or directly to a warehouse. Having availability of these items straight away and knowing where they are located allows the order management system to make smart fulfilment decisions on how and where they should be sold to maximise revenue and profit.  For example, knowing an item is in a particular store means it could be offered for a click-and-collect purchase or in a warehouse they could use it for a store replenishment order.

Managing returns quickly and effectively can boost service levels and provide a competitive edge at the same time as delivering better profit margins and increased revenue.