Transforming returners into returning customers

Returns is that thing that retailers gotta hate.  It’s expensive, it’s complicated and it’s a massive nuisance.  The default way to deal with the headache is to have a one size fits all policy that – regardless of what is being returned – sends all items back to the warehouse. It’s just easier that way.  And when we say easier, we mean “convenient”. We don’t mean more profitable, logical or sustainable.

The thing is that returns are not created equal, and neither are the people who return them aka the “returners”.  Returns are different weights, values, materials, purposes. Returners come from different places, they have different relationships with the brands they buy from and different expectations about the customer journey that they are expected to take.

To really create a stellar returns management solution, you really need to take the return and the returner into account, (like OtailO is doing).  Why is this so important? (Apart from being more profitable, logical and sustainable, that is?!) By having a handle on who is returning, why and what, retailers can convert returners into returning or repeat customers. In other words, your returns can actually drive sales and customer “re-conversion”.  What is the recipe for turning returners into returning customers? Data, communication and an end-to-end process.


Data: knowledge is power

By knowing real-time data about returns and returners, your brand can grow with your customer over the years, as they move, expand and upgrade their lifestyles.  A family returning school shoes will eventually need prom shoes. A person returning a cot, will eventually need a bed and a high seat. A person who returns an upgraded coffee machine, will probably need accessories for coffee entertainment.

If you are familiar with high volume returners versus sporadic returners, you can create personalized policies. If you have data pertaining to statistical likelihood of resale, you can make decision around rerouting and recommerce of returns.


Communication is Key

Returns are an opportunity to create a personal dialog with your customers. This dialog begins on returns initiation and continues as the customer journey of the returns is played out until a refund and exchange ensues. But this is NOT the end. Returns is a broad term for many post purchase services: trade-in, recalls, upgrade, recycle, refurbishing, recommerce; these services will bring your customers back into the fold.  Communication is a two-way street, sometimes they may reach out to you:

How can I donate my item? How can I resell my item to another customer?


And sometimes you may reach out to them: 

We see you have returned an item because it is too small, how about trying the following? We think they may be exactly right!


Returns are not a once-off effort. By endearing your customer, you can make them loyal followers of the brand. You can also learn where it makes sense to invest time and where it’s unlikely that customers will become repeat buyers.


Holistic, end-to-end BI

With a well of data over time, and loyal customers making repeat purchases, a retailer has everything that they need to observe and analyse customer choices behavior and interactions and learn for future business applications. An observation of repeated flaws can teach about manufacturing issues, an observation about repeated returns of a particular item, can lead to a decision to discontinue that item. Repeated requests for the facilitation of donation of items, can lead to a targeted campaign of the brand alongside its customer. The possibilities are endless when you have the support of the right software and optimized intelligence.


What you give is what you will get back

Returns are opportunities for retailers.  Returners are the window into the soul of the retailer. The way you treat them will be the make or break of them returning once and disappearing, or becoming a repeat customer, time after time.


Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash