It needs to be said, retailers are inundated with returns and exchange portals. They come in different shapes and sizes. They come at different prices. They integrate with multiple platforms. They integrate with multiple carriers. This is the default industry standard, but it is no longer good enough. Returns Management should no longer be a reactive measure, it should be a proactive opportunity. A portal that enables exchanges should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

While it is true that a portal is a simple and effective method to trigger returns, can it enforce your returns policy? Can it differentiate between returners? Can it differentiate between returns?

While it is true that integrating with carriers enables the routing to the pre-configured next life, intercepting that label and enabling each return to be sent to an optimal next step reduces logistics costs and the needless dumping of returns.

While it is true that exchanges are way preferable to refunds for the bottom line of the retailer – and for their impact accountability, there is another path that is way more logical and lucrative: reselling the return close to its original asking price.

While it is true that returns portal can sit simply and neatly out of sight and out of mind, can it plug into your wholesale community? Can it plug into your customer care? Can it enable your authorised resellers to opt in to process and resell returns anywhere it the world? Can it invite partners such as recyclers, refurbishers and donation depots to be a part of your inner circle?

While it is true that a returns portal can lead your return safely hundreds of kilometers back to the warehouse to be sorted, can it sort and validate that return even before that item hits the streets?

While it is true that a returns portal is better than an email return, or heaven forbid sending a shopper to the post office, can it actually engage directly with the customer and provide a consumer-centric elevated experience? Can it differentiate between wardrobers, loyal customers and bracketers? Can it offer different returns policies for each of these personas?

While it is true that a returns portal enables the shopper, does it also enable the return? Does it give the return a spotlight so that the retailer can learn more about it, and avoid returns in the future? Is it able to look at each return like a fingerprint, and ensure that the next life is the best life for that item?

While it is true that a returns portal is generally easy to use, and customizable, is it also paper-free? Can it tell you how many returns you have reduced? Can it tell you how many carbon emissions you have cut? Can it provide better supply chain transparency?

Returns and exchange portals are the first milestone in the post-purchase journey. If you have reached this point, congratulations. Now, take the next step and join the next generation of returns management. Because if you are not there yet, you are going backwards and not forwards.