Gaurav Saran Of ReverseLogix On How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More
This article was originally published here in Authority Magazine
Flexible and sustainable supply chain: A superior supply chain will ensure you’re stocked with the products customers expect and that they will get those products fast. Supply chain sustainability is especially important to younger consumers, and so demonstrating metrics like carbon reductions or less packaging can improve brand loyalty and make your customers feel good about shopping with you.
Asa part of my series about “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Gaurav Saran, Founder and CEO of ReverseLogix.
In 2014, Gaurav Saran identified a gap in the supply chain software industry and founded ReverseLogix, the first tech platform to offer end-to-end returns management solutions for both B2B and B2C companies. His cloud-based platform, built on emerging technologies, has revolutionized how businesses handle product returns, reducing waste and emissions in the process. Gaurav’s leadership has earned ReverseLogix industry-wide recognition and a diverse clientele, including DHL Supply Chain, FedEx, and Electrolux. Prior to this venture, he led enterprise sales at Microsoft and held pivotal roles in various Silicon Valley startups like Zoho. Known for his expertise and engaging communication style, he is a trusted advisor and frequent source for media outlets such as Entrepreneur Magazine and TechCrunch. Gaurav also takes an active role in mentoring young professionals and has received accolades like “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine. He holds a BS in ecommerce marketing and telecommunications and an MBA in global strategic management from California State University, Hayward.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m the founder and CEO of ReverseLogix, where we provide returns management software and solutions for enterprises around the world. Returns management is a vital part of the supply chain but one that’s been overlooked by a lot of retailers until recently. Now, we’re working with market leaders like Samsonite, DHL Supply Chain, Electrolux, and others to help make their product returns much more efficient and less costly.
My interest in reverse logistics started when I led enterprise sales for Fortune 500 companies at Microsoft. I saw how companies were focused on software for forward logistics, and I wanted to focus my expertise and entrepreneurial spirit on a niche that wasn’t getting much attention: reverse logistics.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
In the early stages of ReverseLogix, I found myself running a small warehouse for an early-stage customer. I was picking, packaging, and shipping products while also running a startup software company! But you have to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
At Microsoft, I was in various meetings with then-CEO Steve Ballmer and client CEOs and executives. I listened to them talk and discuss ideas, and I thought to myself, “I could do this someday.” I realized that I understood not just business but how I could one day be a leader. I’m grateful for Steve, and those experiences, which showed me leadership is about curiosity, listening, respect, and valuing others.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel resonates with me. I was already thinking about returns management solutions, but breaking into a space that everyone else is ignoring can make you second-guess yourself or wonder why no one else is trying it. The book taught me why it’s important and valuable to create something new rather than building on what everyone else is already doing. Daring to think differently is a great life lesson overall.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
From a software perspective, we’re unique in that our technology manages the entire lifecycle of a product return, including warehouse team workflows, repairs, warranties, and even recommerce programs. It’s not a point solution that just addresses one part of a return, like a customer initiation and email or text communications. Our returns management system (RMS) manages the whole process from start to finish.
An example of this is Jabra, the global audio technology company. They chose to implement our RMS because it addressed all of their return needs. They were ultimately able to consolidate four different systems into our single RMS. It’s been a huge gain in efficiency and speed, and making work easier for team members who process returns.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to want to do this work 24/7. But that’s not healthy or sustainable. Leaders need to be aware of the emotional toll that comes with the job and that the work hours and emotions have real impacts on health and relationships. Surround yourself with supportive teams and people, and choose some passions that you can devote your time and energy to that are not related to your work.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
The last few years have shown us that successful retailers stay agile in the face of changing business demands and customer needs: They react quickly to trends, they expand product lines, and they think differently about retail in general.
One example of this is the focus on recommerce programs by top apparel brands: They’re asking customers to return gently worn items rather than throw them away. Brands are then selling those items online on a third-party marketplace or their own site, and they’re attracting new consumers that they wouldn’t otherwise reach — like younger generations who are very comfortable buying second-hand goods and are happy to get a deal on a luxury item. It’s a win-win-win for profits, customers, and the planet. The most successful retailers are staying agile and thinking about how a circular economy can benefit them and serve consumers at the same time.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think the patience required to be a CEO and entrepreneur is something people don’t realize. The desire to get something done as fast as possible can make you feel like something is wrong if decisions or processes take more time. You hear the mantra “move fast and break things,” but the reality is that enterprise organizations have very long decision-making processes and sales cycles. Prepare yourself for progress that might be slower than what you expected, but recognize that it is progress and the payoffs can be significant.
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
Thanks to eCommerce, consumers have so many choices at their fingertips. If a shopping experience or a returns experience is disappointing, they can easily go somewhere else online. They’re not reliant on whatever retailer is in their physical neighborhood.
So, for retailers, it’s essential to offer great customer service each and every time. In the case of a product return, I think of it as an opportunity to engage the consumer, get feedback, and help them find something that works for them. A return doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it can be another way to showcase your service and strengthen loyalty.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
If what a company says on paper doesn’t match what’s being done in practice, that can be a fault of poor training. The customer experience isn’t always intuitive….if someone shows up at the returns desk with a damaged item and no receipt, what should the employee do? Reject it? Take it back and issue credit even though there’s no proof that the person bought it? The team member has to be equipped with the right mentors, training, guided workflows, and decision-making power when it comes to serving others. So, my view is that most companies say they make service a priority, but they really also need to make team member training a priority and equip them with the right technology to guide their decisions.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Many of our customers are delighted to learn that we can configure our RMS workflows very precisely to their needs. Product return workflows, policies, and priorities are never a one-size-fits-all.
Amer Sports is a global sporting goods company with brands like Salomon, Arc’teryx, Atomic, and Wilson. They implemented ReverseLogix for both their B2C and B2B returns and have reported that they can now process twice the volume of returns in the same amount of time. They can see expected arrival queues and staff according to what’s coming in. They’re getting better control of their processes because they have new data around return reasons and trends. This has enabled them to work with their brands on what needs to be improved and how to reduce returns overall.
Did that “Wow! Experience” have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Amer Sports first implemented ReverseLogix RMS for their B2B returns, and that experience wowed them so much that they expanded our RMS into their B2C returns. We’ve also worked with brands under their umbrella, like Salomon and Wilson. Additionally, Amer Sports is an important member of our customer advisory board, giving us valuable feedback on our technology and helping to influence our product roadmap.
A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?
As I mentioned above, really well-trained and empowered team members are an important part of the experience, whether they’re in the store, on the chat, or on the phone. Another is detailed online product descriptions that give customers a precise idea of what they’re buying and how it will look on them or in their homes or offices. This increases the likelihood that they’ll be happy with the purchase and not have to make a return or exchange.
A fantastic retail experience also requires a fantastic and agile supply chain. The Pandemic taught us the importance of a nimble supply chain, and that goes for the reverse supply chain, too. The ability to offer the right inventory to the right customers at the right time and to efficiently manage and resell what’s returned while ensuring customers ultimately find the right product for them all contribute to a standout experience.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more?
1 . Ease: It should be easy for the customer to find a product, purchase it, and return or exchange it if needed. After implementing ReverseLogix, many of our customers report a decrease in customer service calls about returns because they’ve streamlined, automated, and improved the process.
2 . A fair and fast returns experience: Up to 30% of eCommerce purchases are returns, so the return experience can’t be overlooked. Keep the customer informed about when a return is received and processed and when they can expect a refund, credit, or exchange. Make sure that the process is fast by using an RMS in the warehouse. Use RMS data to find gaps and opportunities for improving your products and the customer experience.
3 . Choice: Give customersmore choice in returning a product: Perhaps it’s returned in the mail, in the store, or at a third-party drop-off location with a QR code. Companies with a returns management system can track the efficiency and costs of all of these choices, which is important for balancing customer ease with cost efficiency.
4 . Exclusivity: With customer loyalty so fickle, retailers should think of ways they can make their site or store the only place where a customer can get a certain product. Stores like Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Target shine in this area by offering products you can’t get anywhere else.
5 . Flexible and sustainable supply chain: A superior supply chain will ensure you’re stocked with the products customers expect and that they will get those products fast. Supply chain sustainability is especially important to younger consumers, and so demonstrating metrics like carbon reductions or less packaging can improve brand loyalty and make your customers feel good about shopping with you.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The impact of product returns on the environment is well documented: Returns cause more packaging, more emissions, and many products end up in a landfill. Our customers can reduce each of those impacts with an RMS, and I’d like to see the move toward sustainable returns speed up even more. Sustainable returns can help drive the triple bottom line: happy customers, healthy profits, and reductions in waste and emissions.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!