Offloading packages: Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash


In the warehouse, you can’t be worn down

With endless trucks dropping off thousands of returns every day, your warehouse is the one place where you can’t afford to be worn down. Time is short, packages are plenty, staff is a buzzing, and tomorrow there will be a flood of new returns.

Whether you are a merchant with your own fulfillment operation, or whether you are using the fulfillment services of a third party: returns are the thorn in the side of the commercial operations. There are so many uncertainties:

  • What is being returned
  • When it will arrive
  • The condition of the return
  • What can potentially be done with it next (if anything)

What you do know is that the flow of returns is steady and is likely to continue to grow, as your business expands.


Making Lemonade from Lemons

For far too long, returns have been framed as threats to the retail industry. I would suggest that the time has come to reframe them as opportunities. Moreover, the returns warehouse – rather than evoking a feeling of impending doom – I’d propose that it is a magical platform from which lemons can be turned into lemonade.

What are these opportunities and how can you access them with returns management systems, like OtailO? Here goes:

Fast tracking versus slow tracking

Picture this: packages wherever you look. Mountains of paper and tape. Boxes and bags of all sizes and weights. No time to waste. The returns keep coming. But where do you begin? A simple swipe of the scanner, and within seconds – without even opening the package – you get a quick answer. Fast-tracking the return and routing it back to a store for resale. Or, slow tracking the item and routing it to its next best life. This simple and easy first step is set to save warehousing staff time and effort. It determines the next step in the warehouse and sets the return on its way.

Quality & Authenticity Inspection

Returns are often subjected to a manual process of inspection. Feeling, prodding, poking, examining are all part and parcel – pun intended 😉 – of the experience.  Inspection examines both the condition and the validity of the item. An automated, guided inspection process that leads the processor, is a sure way to ensure that items are quickly and easily validated. This process is customized depending on the nature and category of the return. A pair of shoes will have a different certification process to a dress. A laptop will have a different process to a bookshelf.  With the right returns solution, like OtailO, inspection can be done at any point of the returns journey, by anyone. In the warehouse you want to especially ensure with confidence and expediency the condition and legitimacy of your return, to reduce frauds and to expedite the routing of the return to its next best shelf.

Next-Best-Shelf Technology

The warehouse is not and should not be the final destination of returns. With a simple swipe, the processor of the return should be able to get an automated indication of where to route that item to next. Integrated with brand entities and next life partners, stellar returns management software like OtailO will ask questions in order to ensure the optimal route for each return:

  • Can the item be viable resold in a brand store, if so, which one? Route there.
  • If reselling within the brand not viable, but it is still sell-able which is the  appropriate re-commerce partner that can sell this item? Route there.
  • Does donation make the most sense for this item? Route there.
  • Should the item be refurbished before it is sent forward? Route there.
  • Is the item better off being recycled, because it no longer has a viable shelf life? Route there.

Impact and Sustainability

With all these aforementioned warehouse opportunities, a very specific and intentional benefit is understanding and calculating how your warehouse operations can reduce carbon emissions. For instance, if an item’s next life can be determined even before the return package has been opened, unnecessary transportation and wastage is reduced. If  a resell-able return can be routed to a store from which it is most-likely to be resold, the shelf life can be considerably cut.  Protecting margins and at the same time coming with an impactful mindset and the intention to be circular and environmentally conscious are pillars of good software that aims to be GREAT and at the same time to DO GOOD.