Photo credit: Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash


 

A journey beginning with rejection

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 the return decision, they go very quickly into an active mode of disposing of the item with an aim to get a refund, or where possible, an exchange. The more painful the process, the less likely the shopper is to make a new purchase. The more the shoppers 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 at the brand 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 all 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.

 

Turning rejections into opportunities

Online product returns have a really bad rap. With the likelihood of rejection quite 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 brands achieve this with innovative software, like OtailO? We’ve identified three main objectives that look at bother the experience of the shopper, as well as the experience for the brand:

 

Simplifying complexity

 

FOR THE BRAND
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.  In this case innovation and technology is key. If your software can dynamically  make optimal decisions for  returns management, it further alleviates the burden. Why do the work if the software can do the work for you? Inspection, dynamic disposition, engaging with and enabling next-life partners to be part of the return journey are all big ways in which returns can be quickly simplified.

 

FOR THE SHOPPER
If brands are at ease, so will shoppers be. Simplification of the user journey and the returns journey are intertwined. They both make a huge difference in the mindset with which the shoppers approach the process. If shoppers understand the returns process, can easily understand where they are in the process, and what they can do it make it end well and quickly, they will not see the return as a failed purchase, but as another reason why the brand takes care of their customers well. Simplifying complexity in the post-purchase experience is a perogative for a satisfied customer. This is not just about the actual proces, but about explanding the returns drop offs to more locations and enabling green and/or alternative return routes that the shopper can chose to expedite the process and to enable the most impact.

 

Leveraging Return Spots

 

FOR THE BRAND

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 facility.  Perhaps this is a dedicated store, or an outlet. With the right software in place, you can also expand to include other offline entities, such as multi-brand retailers, or franchises.  The  expansion of the returns eco-system works like a distributed mechanism to decentralize and handle returns. These spots can actively digitise the returns experience fpr those shoppers who decided to drop their returns in store. For sales associates in offline stores incoming returns need to be handled swiftly and simply. The software enabling this process should take into consideration that the stores back office should be disrupted as little as possible. The handling of the return in the store should be snappy, no-decision, no-brainer process. Each return should be assigned by the returns management software, priority and action, with minimal human intervention. The sales associate should be able to focus on their main task: engaging with the customer.

 

FOR THE SHOPPER

Return 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 your sales associates deal with your shoppers and their returns:

  • Are they polite?
  • Do they engage?
  • Do they welcome the shopper?

Return partners are your de facto brand agents, and should  represent you as such. The opportunity for conversion increases within an offline store. If the return brought the shopper in, are they working out with a new item and a smile?

 

Telling the bigger story

 

FOR THE BRAND AND SHOPPERS

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 retailer and consumer accountability, we get to share a journey in which we all get a say as to what happens next. Why settle for a one-size-fits-all returns solution which works for nobody? In an era wherein impact and accountability count, a community is needed to manage the returns, so that the next life will always be that item’s optimal next best shelf.