Online retail is expected to surge this year with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping millions of people from shopping in person. What that likely means is that the number of returns will also surge in the coming months—a significant concern for retailers who already see about three to four times the volume of returns than brick-and-mortar establishments. Retailers that want to make the most of this holiday season should be prepared to handle a high volume of returns. While you might not be able to eliminate them entirely, having a streamlined reverse logistics process can help you mitigate the financial impact of those returns.

Track and Manage Returns from Start to Finish

If you’re not currently tracking returns, you might already be losing a significant amount of money in the process. It’s important for retailers to use a return materials authorization (RMA) portal where customers can initiate a return. This allows you to (1) verify that the product was purchased and is a valid product to reduce fraudulent returns, and (2) track it from the time it leaves the customer’s hands to the time it’s resold or disposed.

Use Automated Tools to Eliminate Manual Tasks

Several parts of the returns management process could be done automatically, but many companies still rely on someone to manually take care of each step along the way. For example, assignments could be automatically sent to the proper people on your team whenever a new item is returned. Communications to your customers about the status of a return could be sent automatically instead of requiring someone on your team to follow up. Shipping labels for return to vendor (RTV) items could be automatically created in your system to speed up the time between a return to you and an RTV. These small steps add up to significant inefficiencies within your process. Every manual step you can take out of the process will speed up the time to resolution and reduce lost profit.

Effectively Employ Analytics and Reporting to Improve Your Entire Supply Chain

Analytics tools provide you with a lot of valuable information, both to improve your front-end sales and logistics as well as improving reverse logistics. Tracking items that are returned and the reasons for returns could help you create better sales listings to mitigate the need for returns (for example, by improving size charts on a retail clothing item). Tracking the steps within your reverse logistics process can also help you find bottlenecks and waste that is slowing the entire process down, then take steps to correct it with better processes or new hires. Finally, using reporting and analytics to track external factors—like frequent complaints about product quality from a specific vendor, or complaints about shipping timelines with a certain shipping partner—can help you determine when it’s time to drop a vendor from your own supply chain.

Prepare Now for a More Profitable Holiday Season

Learn more about how ReverseLogix software can help streamline your entire reverse logistics operations for a simpler and more profitable holiday shopping season—returns and all.