Returns Management for Omnichannel Retailers

After a record-breaking holiday season – consumers spent more than $12.8 billion on online sales – retailers are still in holiday mode that doesn’t end until early March, when holiday returns finally end.

A drawn-out returns process can poison the customer experience and the bottom line. Putting returns back on the shelf promptly is a daunting task. But there is a way to expeditiously end the holiday madness and embrace the new year’s challenges.

Make the returns process more convenient for your customers
It doesn’t matter to customers if they shop online, in-store, through a mobile app, or with a phone order; these are multiple channels to a single merchant. Buyers need to be able to choose their channel for returns.

Inventory becomes problematic if a customer returns an online purchase to a store. Products sold online aren’t always sold in the store. Free shipping on returns can help solve this problem. And in-store returns can be an opportunity for another sale. According to UPS’ Louis DeJianne, 70% of customers make a purchase during the in-store returns process.

Return policies should be easy to understand and clearly posted. According to a study conducted by comScore, over 63% of consumers read the online products return policy before making a purchase. Consider including a returns policy page on your ecommerce site in addition to posting policies in checkout areas of the retail store or on the customer receipt.

Make the returns process work for your business
Merchants need a process that is convenient, flexible for customers, and cost-effective. Proactive steps include providing a return label in outgoing shipments, allowing the return of online purchases in store, and working with the carrier picking up a return. This may add a degree of complexity to operations, but customer-friendly returns practices are necessary for sellers to compete in today’s retail environment. Some of these complexities can be simplified with an advanced order management system.

Employees need to be properly trained to handle higher levels of holiday returns, especially for returns that may not include a gift receipt or an item that may only be redeemable for a store credit.

Make an investment in the right tools to help
There are multiple ways to improve return policies and procedures. A great way to start is by investing in technology that integrates returns management into all areas of the business. From product management (tracking product defects) to inventory management (tracking the movement of goods and condition of goods), order management (refunds and exchanges), shipping management (shipping labels and tracking) and customer management (purchase and return history), retailers must provide transparency for returns across multiple channels. With integrated returns management, retailers can increase customer satisfaction, decrease operational costs, and provide critical transparency.