An outfit of a gentleman, laid out and waiting to be returned to the store. Photo by David Lezcano on Unsplash


When the Returns Portal Just Isn’t Enough

In an industry where the customer is always right, like retail, dealing with returns seems to be tackled with tunnel vision. Retailers are quick to implement or deploy return portals to alleviate and expedite returns handling. The thinking is to give a smooth and transparent process for the user. No matter what the outcome of that process is for the retailer on the other side.

One could theoretically support this if indeed the returns portal makes the most economical sense. Unfortunately more than often it does not. Notwithstanding the flood of returns that gets back to the warehouse, that has no business being there, one of the greatest challenges facing retailers is, what happens when the shopper bypasses the returns portal altogether?


When the Return In-Store Just Isn’t Enough

In enterprise retail operations, wherein omni-channel enables shoppers to return in store, returns flood the stores with no reckoning as to:

  • what they are
  • their condition
  • their re-sellability
  • Who brought them in, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, omni-channel is a blessing for enterprise retail. Not only do consumers on average prefer the BORIS (Bought Online Return In Store) paradigm, for the retailers, the return in-store:

  • enables the item to be expedited to the shelf
  • increases the possibility of conversion in the stores, when the consumer comes in to return his or her item.

The challenge arises that the store neither has the time nor the resources to deal with these returns. The returns themselves are not necessarily processed digitally or inspected for their condition to determine what the best next life is for them. And so it happens that while online returns are processed seamlessly by the various portal solutions out there, the returns coming into the shop fall into a no-man’s land where they may lie in wait for some time before they are invariably sent back anyway to the warehouse for processing.

The return in-store wasteland phenomenon becomes particularly compelling when one considers that for certain enterprise retailers the de facto return in-store is higher than the returns online. In a “modest” scenario where 50% of returns get back to the store, this can represent tens of thousands of undocumented, unplanned-for, lingering articles in the store every single month.


Combatting the Return In-Store Wasteland

The time has come for offline brick-and-mortar entities to take stock of their returns. Literally. The technology behind processing and inspecting returns in-store is not science fiction. The ability to do this with an app that quickly and easily gives you an AI-based decision on what the next-best-shelf is for each article, is the raison d’etre for software solutions, like OtailO. Returns are returning in all directions. No direction is less important than the other, especially when the margins are at stake.

Returns Management should put the consumer at pride of place. But this same honor should be bestowed upon to store associates and the associated colleagues. Not just for the ease and convenience, but also for the bottom line of the retailer.