The popularity of online shopping, driven by flash sales and promotions, has not only led to a rise in impulse purchasing, but increased product returns.
Historically, businesses have always been responsive to returns, but consumers now want the process to be as simple as making a purchase. More emphasishas been placed on handling returns as a central customer service function – rather than an add-on – with increasing choice over delivery options, including free and same day return services.
Dealing with a higher number of returns has put more financial and time pressures on the supply chain, and businesses are now battling to get returned items picked up, logged, checked for damage and back in circulation as soon as possible.
Returns as a customer service
As with all customer service functions, increasing the choice for consumers and making return processes as easy as possible is always front of mind.
By continuously optimising delivery and returns functions, there’s an opportunity to stand out amongst competitors. These improvements could include reducing pick up times and expanding the number of locations where customers can drop items off.
For many businesses, returned items now represent the single largest ‘supplier’ to their business. The need to streamline returns processes to operate as efficiently as the rest of the business has become challenging.
Mobility technology being introduced into the supply chain, stock monitoring, recording and delivery tracking are already central components of e-commerce – in particular can easily be brought in to improve the returns function.
Optimising return processes
The sheer volume of returned items being processed daily, means getting items checked and back into circulation is critical to business success.
Businesses need to be able to quickly log retuned items and redistribute them quickly and often at a reduced cost. Understanding how to evaluate the condition of returned items is essential to ensuring minimum disruption.
Most returned items cannot be resold at the initial sales price means businesses are taking a double hit, both in the cost of the return, reduced sale price and costs of getting items back in circulation.
Ensuring returns policies and processes are as streamlined and effective aspossible is key to getting the best business result from the increasing customer practice – something all businesses will need to become more proficient at as e-commerce continues to grow.
Improving communication and treating a business’ supply chain as a single entity, rather than a collection of separate points, will help reduce costs and identify which areas can be improved on.
The supply chain as a network
The introduction of connected technology across the supply chain process gives operators complete visibility and transparency over the return process – through stock monitoring, mobile communication and tracking.
Items are able to be scanned anywhere in the country and instantly uploaded to a central point, like a distribution warehouse, for delivery reassignment.
Processes are able to be streamlined, boosting business efficiency and improving customer services elements by simplifying returns – enabling items to get back to where it needs to be, and back into circulation.
Dealing with returns is now not only essential to business success but anessential customer service function to maximise customer satisfaction.
To learn more about improving your e-commerce fulfillment processes, click here.