Think about it: the journey of an online product return begins with rejection. That item that the shopper purchased from your brand has now been relegated to the status of “unwanted”. It doesn’t matter why, those are just the facts. From the moment that the shopper makes that decision, they go very quickly into an active mode of disposing of the item with an aim to get a refund. The more painful the process, the less likely the shopper is to make a return purchase. The more they have to deal with shipping labels, packaging, return spots and couriers the more they are discouraged.


The rejection of the return, echoes across the supply chain and is greeted with discontent back in the online store and its respective warehouses. It doesn’t matter who returns what, why and where: it is always a hassle. The time, money and resources required to handle these returns are a formidable obstacle to the financial wellbeing of these businesses. So much so, that many online product returns face the ultimate rejection and are sent to the trash. Millions of new, unused branded items find their way to a sad and gloomy end. It’s a bitter state of affairs.


Online product returns have a really bad wrap. With the likelihood of rejection very high, they are perceived as threats in the e-commerce world, whereas in reality they should be welcomed as real opportunities. The flip side of an objectionable returns process losing customers, is a seamless, convenient process, which can lead to future customer conversion and continued sales. If handled correctly online product returns represent an opportunity to interact actively and directly with the consumer. This in itself is gold. If the returns process is done well, your shopper can be converted to a loyal follower. A brand can single-handedly nurture the returns experience to their own benefit, by making it a positive experience for the shopper.


How can they achieve this? We’ve identified three main objectives.


Simplifying Complexity

It’s so obvious, but it needs to be said: the more retail brands can simplify the returns process and the logistics around the process, the more lightweight and palatable the experience will be. From using technology to provide a seamless and click-by-click automated returns experience, to reducing the amount of printing and packaging required to make the return last mile ready. This makes a huge difference in the mindset with which the shoppers approach the process.
The OtailO approach: Come as you are. Smart tech, no fussing with printing or packaging
Come as you are. Smart tech, no fussing with printing or packaging (the OtailO approach)

Leveraging Return Spots

Ultimately, at some point your shopper will need to interface with a return partner — whether they be a courier, post office service or a return spot in the form of  a local store. These spots can make and break the consumer experience. Consider the experience through the eyes of your shopper: do the return spots look welcoming? Do they seem overly bureaucratic or reluctant to serve? Are they littered with endless piles of packages? Are there long lines or reasons why the return drop off should be delayed? Are there special hours of returns service? How do they deal with your shopper? Are they polite? Do they engage? Do they welcome the shopper? These return partners are your de facto brand agents, do they represent you as such?
Turn your return spots into brand ambassadors (the OtailO approach)
Turn your retail return spots into brand ambassadors who know your industry and who can support your customers, community and brand (the OtailO approach)

Telling the bigger story

Online product returns are not threats, they are opportunities for brands and their followers to do the right thing. By enabling a seamless and convenient returns process, new unwanted items can get a second life, before they are potentially sent to liquidation or landfills. By acknowledging that returns require retail and consumer accountability, we get to share a journey in which we all get a say as to what happens next.
Telling the bigger story: making right by the planet
A green and sustainable returns process. A win-win for shoppers, online and offline retailers and the planet (the OtailO approach) Photo credit: Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash