The Ticket to Nowhere (Return Labels Are Leading Us Astray)
Everything is lost
There’s the truth that we believe and then there’s the actual truth. There are three scenarios for returns and none of them matter. Whether you
- provide a pre-configured shipping label for their returns
- enable them to print in real time once a return is triggered, or
- use a QR code and go full paper-free
The bottom line is the same, the minute you send all returns on the same backwards journey, the result is oblivion.
The long journey and the lost opportunities
The journey for the returns is not just doomed because of the massive costs, inefficiency and inflated carbon footprint. This is the relatively well documented passage. The real loss amounts to all the lost opportunities that were at the fingertips of the retailers and were sent to the abyss. These opportunities can be summed up in one word: data.
Everything you need to know, and you didn’t realize it
The returns journey is laden with treasures that are hidden in plain sight. They don’t need to be coaxed out with difficulty. In fact, with the right returns management solution – like OtailO – that provides a holistic end-to-end overview, the data is right there for the taking. Let’s break it down.
Data, data, everywhere
By asking the right questions along every step of the way, you can not only calculate the most optimal route for the return, but you can also arm yourself with significant business intelligence that will help you to optimize your post-purchase – and in some cases – your pre-purchase logic. Instead of giving you self-explanatory descriptions, here are some of the questions that we like to ask.
What is it about anyway?
- What is the item?
- Why is it being returned.
- What is the global history of returns for this item?
- Is there some commonality in the return reason?
- Where did it come from?
- Where is it going to?
- How much did it cost to manufacture?
- What is the probability of it being resold?
Optimising the journey of 1000 steps
- How much will the reverse logistics cost, taking into account transportation, handling, refurbishing, resale, etc.?
- How many partners are involved along the way?
- How long will it take?
- What is the optimal path to reduce costs and carbon emissions?
- What are the nearest viable inventories for resale?
- What are some of the potential hidden costs?
Finding the next best shelf
- What is the optimal next best shelf for the item?
- Do we have all the necessary next life partners in the eco-system?
- Are all the necessary next life partners available local to the point of return?
- Have we considered a route that disrupts reverse logistics?
Know thy shopper
- Who is the shopper?
- Where do they live?
- What are their return habits?
- How might we increase their brand loyalty?
- How might we provide a personalized return route for them?
- How might we provide a personalized return policy for them?
- How might we improve and optimize their customer journey?
- How might we share with them how they have reduced carbon emissions by choosing circular route for returns?
Knowledge is power
The status quo for returns is long time now to get it over as quickly as possible, and to get that return out of sight and out of mind. Not only is this unsustainable and expensive, but it is also counterproductive. If retailers see only the forest and not the trees, they will never see the light of day when it comes to the incredible gifts of data that each tree brings. This data is the oxygen that will power better and more effective returns that will help to sustain, grow, and improve the retail industry.
Photo by Varju Luceno on Unsplash.