The holiday shopping season is effectively over, which means it’s now return season. According to Inbound Logistics, for retailers, the three months after December accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the whole year’s returns.
Unless retailers have a good policy and process to handle these returns, customers might choose to shop elsewhere. Plus, returns can be costly for retailers—the loss of revenue, the shipping, the restocking and the customer support needed along the way.
But returns don’t have to be painful for customers or retailers.
Are returns as seamless as you’d like?
Omni-channel sales means omni-channel returns. A huge component of getting returns right is connecting process and systems. As Inbound Logistics notes, “Retailers have been scrambling to bring siloed back-end systems and processes into a centralized IT environment to fulfill this omni-channel expectation.”
Automating every step of the process can help break down silos and connect essential data to not only fulfill the omni-channel expectation, but also improve overall business efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Mophie, for example, uses integration to automate processes such as warranty management, shipping, and returns. This has improved the company’s ability to respond quickly to customer requests, accelerated delivery and return timelines and boosted customer satisfaction.
Similarly, Skullcandy replaced a complex combination of email, FTP, and manual data entry for order processing with a streamlined integration to automate order and return handling. This allowed the company to move along order processing as well as onboard partners faster. The time saved is also money saved for the company, which can now focus on other initiatives.
Each return can mean anything from return to manufacturer to disassemble to recycle. It can require special considerations and different outcomes—any of which is incredibly complex. The same processes used to get products to consumers can’t be used for returned merchandise.
As new suppliers and partners come on board and new stores open, the whole process becomes even more complicated, hard to track and creates a potentially terrible customer experience.
Whether retailers choose to outsource this process or take it on themselves, a connected reverse logistics network—from in-store or online to third-party logistics partners to manufactures and back again—can help retailers gain a full picture of returns and therefore, a better customer experience, which means, ultimately, more sales.
An integration platform as a service solution makes these connections possible, as it enables data and information to flow among different systems, databases and apps, even if they aren’t owned or managed by the retailer.
Are returns as seamless as your customers would like?
Customers not only want the option to make returns through any channel, they also want flexibility, convenience and communication. Oh, and they want all of that fast.
Think how seamless a return could be if associates and customer service agents have access to real-time customer information, tracking and shipping data, reimbursement timeframes and inventory details.
Integration platforms make connecting these disparate systems and apps easy and quick. Employees dealing with customers can have access to all the correct, up-to-date information.
Using returns as a positive
Data is power
In the article, 5 Things Retailers Must Understand About Product Returns, the authors explain, “The more predictive analytics retailers can collect from their customer interactions, the better they can determine the root causes for product returns….Holistic predictive analytics also enable retailers to optimize their inventory forecasting, replenishment forecasting, pricing, product damages and more.”
However, analytics are only as powerful and precise as the data ingested. If data is accurate and from a variety of different sources, it can be far more valuable than data from one source. Read more: Connected Data Fuels the Salesforce AI Engine
And what’s the best way to collect data, ensure its quality and make it actually useful? You guessed it. An integration platform.
Optimal return rate
There is such thing as a good return. An optimal return rate occurs when the long-term future sales influenced by a great customer experience (which includes returns and exchanges) exceeds the short-term margin loss and extra expenses.
And beyond that, research shows that customers who make genuine returns tend to buy more over time from the retailers where they make the return. As the National Retail Federation notes, “The shoppers making legitimate returns are your best customers; you should be maximizing their value every time they enter your store.”
With connected systems, apps and data, you can tell a lot more about your customers, products and processes and give each customer the best possible experience.