Returns are a part of doing business for retailers, especially as e-commerce grows and shoppers have more options than ever before.
But that doesn’t mean the return process has to be difficult for retailers or consumers.
As e-commerce grows and transforms, so too does return logistics. David Sobie is the co-founder and vice president of Happy Returns, a leader in return logistics. Instead of the old method of customers having to print a label, package their item, and ship it back to the retailer, Happy Returns offers box-free and printer-free returns at its 5,000-plus Return Bars. Items from numerous retailers are collected for instant refunds and then shipped back to a central processing center for sorting.
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Customer experience doesn’t end when a customer makes a purchase. The post-purchase experience includes fast and straightforward returns and significantly impacts a customer’s overall perception of the brand. When returns are easy, customers tend to make more purchases and expand their relationships.
Returns affect both merchants and customers. And with the challenges of traditional returns come opportunities to improve the entire post-purchase experience.
Shoppers don’t want to have to package and send a return and wait for their refund or exchange. Merchants are faced with the expensive and logistically complex returns process. But in the end, Sobie says return logistics is really about giving shoppers the best possible experience to increase lifetime value and loyalty.
Returns aren’t going away, and the future of return logistics helps merchants find the most cost-effective way for shoppers to return their items. But returns can be incredibly expensive for retailers. Shoppers expect returns to be free, which means that merchants cover the cost. However, Sobie says that an increasing number of merchants are moving towards creating options for returns. There should always be a free option for returns, and Sobie suggests subsidizing the least expensive option for retailers.
The future of return logistics includes innovative technology and sustainability. Instead of sending each package individually, companies can combine items to lower the return shipping cost and environmental impacts. The future also requires merchants to think outside the box, such as by offering return kiosks at other stores and providing instant refunds.
As long as there’s e-commerce, there will be returns. Brands that embrace the post-purchase customer experience and innovate return logistics open the door to cost savings and customer loyalty.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here.