Retail Trends

Is Your Store Ready for Omnichannel Returns?

3 min read

In an omnichannel world, returns are more complex and if retailers are not careful, the cost of handling returns can quickly erode their profit margins, not to mention customer relationships. Statista estimates return deliveries in the US alone will cost $550 billion by 2020, and that doesn’t include restocking expenses or inventory losses.

As more retailers go online, more frequent returns may be the new reality. But is there a way to minimize the negative impact of those returns? Here’s why many retailers are now investing in more staff, space, and automation dedicated to handling returns, particularly in stores, who are essentially on the front line.

Returns Process Is Part of Customer Experience

Retailers who are serious about offering a superior customer experience will make sure that the returns process as frictionless as possible. Consider that a negative returns experience could turn a customer off your store for good, and that nurturing a repeat customer is always more cost-effective than attracting a new one.

So if customers want to return something, they should be able to do it easily on whichever channel is most convenient for them, whether they bought it online or in another store. Now, you may be thinking, why make the returns process easier if they are just going to return more things?

A more streamlined return process actually encourages shoppers to make purchases because they know that if it doesn’t work out or isn’t quite right, it will be easy to switch or return items. It isn’t uncommon for online buyers to purchase more than one size so that they can return the ones that don’t fit. In fact, customer is actually looking to exchange, rather than return, a product in over half of instances, says one reverse logistics company.

Stores Are the Front Line for Returns

I recently bought a pair of gloves on Amazon which ended up being too big. It was relatively easy to print a return label and then I was directed to the nearest drop site, which happened to be a hardware store. However, the refund took several days to process, which is one reason to return in the store. In fact, 87 percent of consumers would rather return an item to a physical store instead of mailing it back—regardless of how they purchased it—primarily for the ability to receive a quick refund.

Another reason is sales opportunity. Considering the average conversion rate in stores is much higher than online, a product return is an excellent opportunity to drive customers into the physical store and make additional sales, nurture customer relationships, and even save the sale, as the case may be. This really underscores the importance of perfecting the returns process in the store.

Seamless Reverse Logistics Lowers Inventory Loss from Returns

Making the returns process seamless is not just good for customers, but good for the retailer as well. A returned item that is routed through quality assurance and then repackaged and restocked can ultimately be put back on sale faster. And the faster returned items are put on sale, the more likely retailers are to minimize their losses.

Less-than-perfect items can also be salvaged either for discount pricing, or even sent back to suppliers who recycle materials in unsold items for new product designs – where they won’t be taking up space that could be used for new inventory.

Retailers can use a mobile POS to define and automate the returns process because an omnichannel platform is already capable of multi-directional inventory movements. For example, the same mechanism that is used for Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) is used to offer returns for online purchases (BORIS).

Investing in the technology to handle returns will make the process faster, more cost-effective, and more satisfying for customers and retailers alike.

 

Want to know more about how an omnichannel retail platform allows retailers to define and automate the omnichannel returns in the store? Read about our Cloud-based Retail POS system or take a Product Tour of the Openbravo Commerce Cloud today.