Five Ways to Improve Returns Processes in 2021

Scrabble pieces spelling out return.

For many retailers, returns are a difficult and costly part of your business that you have to manage. At the same time, customers expect to be able to return items that they don’t want or that don’t work.

With the rise in online shopping returns are more prevalent than ever before—a trend that is unlikely to abate anytime soon. In fact, in the first week of 2021, UPS accepted 1.75 million returns into its system every single day on average, which was a 23% increase over the highest week of returns for the prior holiday season.

As online shopping continues to grow, other trends like “bracketing” (buying the same product in multiple sizes or colors, then returning the ones they don’t want) are making returns even more likely. Unfortunately the volume of fraudulent returns is also growing as returns become more common.

Refusing to take returns or offer refunds is one option, but that can definitely drive business away. The best and only option available is to learn how to efficiently process returns so they are not a drag on your bottom line. Since you can’t just stop taking returns, here are five strategies to improve your returns policy to reduce the total cost of returns to your business, limit fraud, and improve your customer experience.

1: Create a Clear and Easy-to-Find Policy on Your Website

Multiple consumer surveys reveal that today’s customers expect to be able to make a return if they purchase something on your website. In fact, more than 9 in 10 customers say they review a return policy online and that factors into whether or not they want to make a purchase. Some retailers falsely believe that not giving people information about returns will discourage them from returning items. In reality, it will usually just frustrate customers and may even lower your total sales.

2: Establish Clear Internal Processes for Accepting and Processing Returns

Once a customer initiates a return, the next step is to make sure that your team is ready to accept and process the item(s). One of the biggest challenges for companies in the returns process is simply keeping track of where the product is, and keeping it moving through all the return steps to final disposition.

Reverse logistics software can dramatically improve your ability to track and manage returns from the time the customer sends it back to the final step of a refund, warranty repair, or exchange.

3: Use a Returns Management Portal to Limit Fraud and Improve Service

As the volume of returns increases, so do opportunities for fraud. In 2020 there was more than $428 billion in returned merchandise, and almost 6% was determined to be fraudulent. That cost retailers over $25 billion—one-third of which was from fraudulent online returns ($7.7 billion).

One of the easiest ways to limit fraudulent returns is to have technology that can verify a product purchase and quickly validate whether the person can return it. You can also add on portals to help with warranty management for eligible customers. Returns are already potentially costly to your organization, so tools that curb ineligible returns and other fraudulent activity are an essential part of a reverse logistics software.

4: Analyze Data from Past Returns to Improve Future Customer Experiences

In a recent Harris Poll of more than 1,900 people who shop online, 82% think retailers should be doing more to prevent returned items and the negative impacts they can have on the environment. Additionally, 76% say they would not return as many items if product images and details were better or more accurate.

For retailers, one of the best things you can do is understand your return trends and the reasons behind returns, then use that information to improve your front-end sales so people are less likely to need to return something in the first place. Reporting features in your reverse logistics software are a critical tool for collecting and analyzing data to make important business decisions.

5: Find a Reverse Logistics Software to Help Manage the Returns Process

Reverse logistics is increasingly an area where companies can differentiate themselves and improve customer service. Getting the right reverse logistics IT tools in place also helps businesses save money by reducing the total hit to your bottom line for returns.

ReverseLogix is designed to help with the entire reverse logistics process for businesses of all sizes. The software can be customized to work with all types of returns, providing internal teams with the tools to receive and process products as they come back to a warehouse or retail location. It also includes consumer-facing tools to accept products and keep people informed on the status of their returns, and the most advanced reporting tools to track and analyze data.

Find out more about ReverseLogix and how you can improve your returns process today.