How to Choose a Returns Management System: 5 Factors  

Point of View
Implementing a gatekeeping system for managing returns

Industry-leading enterprises have long prioritized improving their supply chain because they recognized it as a competitive advantage: They optimized it, digitized it and more sustainably sourced it. Huge investments have been made in inventory visibility, fulfillment and shipping.

But the increase in online purchases (in both B2C and B2B industries) coupled with the demand for “easy” product returns have threatened to overwhelm companies with cost, waste and complexity.

16.6% of U.S. B2C sales were returned in 2021, up from 10.6% in 2020.

Up to 30% of B2B sales may be returned.

For every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, companies lose $10.30 to fraud.

Sources: National Retail Federation, Forrester and McKinsey

Software for managing product returns – a returns management system (RMS) – is a critical piece when solving the challenges of higher return volumes.

An RMS coordinates and streamlines every aspect of the returns journey and after-sales care management. It can be implemented in weeks, it integrates with other systems, and it has a near-immediate impact on costs, complexity and customer satisfaction. No more separate systems for different steps of the returns process!

Choosing an RMS: 5 Capabilities to Know

When evaluating a returns management system for your company’s needs, prioritize these five capabilities. They’ll give you the best tools for truly transforming how you manage and maximize the value of returns.

#1: End-to-end capabilities

A lot of solutions on the market only manage a slice of the returns process. An RMS that seamlessly integrates into your tech stack should reach across the entire ecosystem of returns, from start to finish. This includes…

  • B2C returns, B2B returns, and hybrid environments
  • Returns processing
  • Repair management
  • Easy exchanges
  • Order tracking
  • In-store returns
  • Return-to-vendor (RTV)

Fewer than one-third of retailers state that they have visibility of all related returns management costs when it comes to loss in inventory value in storage.

– Gartner

#2: Configurable workflows

Automated workflows must be flexible to address your specific needs and scenarios. RMS workflows can be configured by location, customer and product (for example, processing a returned shirt requires very different steps than processing a mobile phone).  Set rules and policies for partners that standardize the returns process across a network.

This is an especially important differentiator for 3PLs; with an RMS, 3PLs can orchestrate every aspect of returns, repairs and after-sales care. Deliver a high-value service that most customers haven’t mastered themselves…but that are willing to pay for!

#3: Data analytics and business intelligence

An RMS opens up a whole new world of data and analysis. Access customized reporting based on departments, user roles or locations so that distributed teams can always stay in sync. Get metrics in every module, queue and order.

Could more value be saved from repairing the return rather than replacing it? Is there a bottleneck in the returns processes at a particular location? An RMS centralizes and analyzes massive amounts of data, and its actionable insights help you make processes more efficient, identify problems faster and improve the customer experience.

By 2025, 80% of all B2B interactions between suppliers and buyers will take place on digital channels.


#4: Complete shipping visibility

Return shipment capabilities and forward tracking of order shipments should go hand-in-hand. By eliminating separate shipping and tracking systems, you gain analytics and functionality for easily capturing and reviewing orders, shipment performance information and consumer feedback in a single interface.

#5: An exceptional customer experience

Customers prioritize their experience with a product return when weighing their brand loyalty. Whether you’re in the B2B or B2C arena, the process should be branded, fast, easy, and with good communication. Online portals offer customer-centric features like self-service returns, easy exchanges and instant crediting that makes the whole experience hassle-free.

To go in-depth about RMS factors and capabilities, download our guide!