Less is more

This often-used expression sums up perfectly the dilemma retailers face when setting up a returns management system. Nobody wants yet another complex IT system. There isn’t a warehouse manager out there who wants to sit and configure multiple rules based on business logic that differs per category/weight/price point etc.  But, if you want your returns management solution to be comprehensive, somethings got to give, right? You need to take into consideration, at very least:

  • Business Logic – every retailer has their own rules, conduct, ideas around doing business and how this relates to their customers, products and services
  • Seasonality – all products have a shelf life and are affected within their life cycle by seasonality. Sometimes they may be in great demand, and sometimes not at all. In verticals like fashion and apparel the seasonality and shelf life may be a tiny window, after which the product simply depreciates to irrelevance
  • Returns Reasons – what could the user possibly be thinking when returning something. Do you capture this information well and learn from it?
  • Return policies – all items are subject to a return policy; this policy generally depends on what the product is and at what stage it is in its life cycle.
  • Costs – duh! Is the item being returned more expensive than the reverse logistics route? What will it cost to resell it? Or refurbish?

But that’s not all

That’s a lot to juggle. And this doesn’t consider other (as important) criteria such as:

  • Resellability – what is the likelihood of resale and where? If the likelihood is low, what are the alternatives?
  • Inventory levels – how do we effectively set up exchanges? Where can returns replenish low stocks? Where will returns be a burden on burgeoning shelves?
  • Impact – lengthy reverse cycles lead to increased carbon footprints and veritable likeliness that items will land up in landfills. How can we avoid this?

Less is Less

With all the criteria to be taken into consideration it’s no wonder that the de facto go-to solution that retailers defer to is Less is less. A sticker or QR code that points all returns to the same direction. This may uncomplicate life for the returns management decision makers, but the end isn’t pretty. While the user gets a simple binary solution, the warehouse defers the problem of the return, until it floods upon them from all directions.  Less is less equals more returns, more problems, more complications.

What’s a Retailer to Do?

So, between Less is More and Less is Less which is better? Does the retailer do the contorting and twisting and build a super complex process with all the bells and whistles? A super-convoluted, heavy platform which needs ongoing maintenance, but ultimately makes more sense for cost efficiency? Or does the retailer forgo it all: cost, efficiency, planning in exchange for a super simple solution that requires no maintenance, but eats at the bottom line?

Let Someone Else Do the Work

There is another option: engaging with a software solution – like OtailO – that does all the heavy lifting for you. This option: as I like to call it, where More is More, in which returns management is planned, managed and executed by an innovative external RMS, takes all the criteria, crunches it together and spits out the best route in real time. This RMS:

  • thinks so you don’t have to
  • plans like you would want to
  • understands what the returns is, what costs are involved and where it is in its lifecycle
  • knows who the returner is and can take them into account for an enhanced customer journey
  • comprehends and examine multiple potential routes in parallel and chooses the one that makes the most sense from the perspective of cost, time and efficiency

Yes, it has AI, but that’s not something you should care about.

The difference between Less is Less and Less is More does not have to be a compromise. You can get more by doing less because the right solution is already out there.


Photo by Dillon Shook on Unsplash