How do I know When Ecommerce Return Automation is Right for my Brand?
Return management is one of the most complex and costly challenges in all of ecommerce.
Returns directly impact your customer service and operations efforts, but they also have widespread implications throughout the supply chain, merchandising, and even accounting.
Traditionally, the return process is full of manual interactions and repetitive tasks. But intelligently crafted automation is vital to a more efficient workflow. Before we dive into ecommerce returns automation, let’s set the stage for where these workflows fit into the broader operational picture.
What is Ecommerce Automation?
Ecommerce automation is any labor-saving technology that makes workflows operate automatically with minimal human involvement.
Simply put, automation reduces human effort in manual or repetitive tasks.
But the answer isn’t more automation; it’s smarter returns automation. ReturnLogic strives to mechanize the most labor-intensive tasks while allowing retailers to engage with and control their workflow.
How do I Automate my Ecommerce Business?
There are a lot of places for ecommerce merchants to infuse automation into their shops. So many that it can leave you feeling dizzy and confused. Platforms like Zapier, Shopify Flow, and Klaviyo give you powerful automation for a fraction of a penny per action.
The question is: what should I automate, and when should I automate it?
It can be tempting to automate for the sake of automation. But it’s important to remember that broken or inefficient automation can leave you cleaning up the mess it makes. Instead, only focus on automating processes and workflows that have proven to be manually effective.
When you automate a proven process, you’re using technology to replicate success.
Look for workflows within your business that have you logging in and out of systems to transfer information. Also, look out for places where you’re currently using shared spreadsheets.
Both of these situations are time vacuums prone to human error and thus are opportunities for automation.
What Percentage of Purchases get Returned?
The greater your returns volume, the more of an impact that automation will have on your business.
While the percentage varies by industry, ecommerce return rates often fall between 15% and 30%.
Retailers in the Fashion/apparel industry typically have the highest return rate, hovering between 20% and 30% of total sales.
The market of tech accessories, such as phone cases and chargers, usually has a return rate of around 5% to 10%.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, one thing is for sure: as your business grows, your volume of returns will grow, too.
How do I Manage Ecommerce Returns?
For the sake of organization and coherence, let’s walk through the lifecycle of a return chronologically.
Creating a Return
Product in hand, a shopper decides they would like to return the item.
They navigate to the appropriate page on your website and begin a return by searching either their order number or email address in the return portal.
No more returns form to fill out, and no more back-and-forth emails with customer service.
ReturnLogic gives you the power to enforce your return policies automatically.
You determine the length of time in which the shopper is allowed to return the product, and you can use product tags to designate specific products or groups of products as non-returnable.
On top of that, the return type a shopper selects can dictate the period in which they can return an item. For example, you could establish a 45-day return window for exchanges and a 30-day return window for refunds.
Automating return policy enforcement saves you the time and hassle of confirming that the criteria are met. It also prevents shoppers from reaching a point of friction with customer service.
No one wants to give shoppers bad news. Automated policies eliminate the need to do so when the shopper is starting a return. A better return experience means happier shoppers.
In the case of an exchange, ReturnLogic’s platform removes lots of the hurdles shoppers may face.
Customers no longer have to email your customer service to explain which products they would like to return and which products they would like to receive.
A shopper can now click the products they would like to return and browse your selection to find the products they would like in exchange.
You can decide whether you want shoppers to be able to search your entire selection for an exchange or just variants of the original product.
Furthermore, you can use product tags to exclude products or groups of products from being requested for an exchange.
These items will not appear when the shopper browses your product selection.
ReturnLogic also provides an inventory threshold to prevent out-of-stock issues in the exchange process. For instance, if you set the threshold for an item to 20 units, shoppers will not see the option to request a product for exchange if its current inventory level is less than 20.
A powerful yet overlooked capability in return management is gift returns.
Through ReturnLogic, the gift recipient can begin a return with nothing other than the shipping label on the box and their email address.
The recipient then has the choice of store credit, exchange, or warranty. The best part is – the gift giver never has to know.
When done correctly, gift returns remove the recipient’s friction between customer service and the gift giver.
In the case of all returns, you can choose whether you would like them to be automatically authorized or manually authorized.
Automatic authorization means that the shipping label is issued as soon as the shopper submits their return request. Manual authorization gives you the discretion to examine the case before you decide to approve.
Collecting Return Data
In addition to these automated returns creation abilities is data collection.
Return data allows you to improve your processes and create value for your shoppers. The ReturnLogic platform captures key pieces of information on each return, such as product, return type, and return reason.
You can also decide whether additional fields, such as open-ended return comments or images, are required or optional, based on the return reason.
Next, the return type or return reason can dictate the shipping type for each return. For example, you could choose to provide free shipping on exchanges but not refunds.
Once the return is authorized – either manually or automatically – the shipping label is issued, and the shopper can send back the return.
Once the shopper sends their return back, you can automatically keep them updated on its status.
The two main checkpoints in the workflow are acquired and completed.
The acquired status indicates that your warehouse team or 3PL has received the return and should be processed shortly. “Completed” expresses that they’ve fully processed the return and have issued the refund, exchange, or store credit.
Shoppers expect to be kept in the loop about the status of their returns. Automated emails prevent back-and-forth communication and create a more seamless customer experience.
At the same time, your warehouse team or 3PL can clearly see the statuses of returns. Your teams have visibility into designations like “in-transit” and “delivered,” giving them ample notice of what’s headed in their direction.
Additionally, you can choose to have returns automatically received in the ReturnLogic platform once they’re delivered. Doing this triggers the “acquired” step and helps streamline the return process.
More efficient operations begin with better visibility.
Collecting a Return
Your receiving team can quickly read and collect the information of a return with a basic barcode scanner.
In this process, they can mark the disposition of the returned products to indicate whether the products are ready for resale, dirty, or damaged.
It also eliminates the need to use massive spreadsheets to keep a record of returns and keeps different teams on the same page.
Completing a Return
When a return is fully processed, the “completed” email mentioned above goes to the shopper. The email lets them know the company has completed their return and will issue their refund, exchange, or store credit shortly.
You can also choose to send these emails separately if you would like more time to inspect the return or more personal communication with the shopper.
Finally, ReturnLogic provides the ability to restock returned products directly into your Shopify inventory, assuming the products are eligible to be resold.
This feature allows you to avoid inventory headaches and get the returned items back into action as soon as possible.
In addition, doing so will update the inventory count in your inventory management software if it’s integrated with Shopify.
What is the Outcome of Ecommerce Returns Automation
The typical return workflow is full of manual steps and repetitive tasks. But that’s not anyone’s fault – return management is an immensely complex challenge.
Automation allows retailers to expedite the most laborious steps in their return process.
Operational efficiency is one of the most integral yet complex components of return management solutions.
ReturnLogic constructs intelligently crafted automation that improves operational efficiency while allowing retailers to maintain their involvement in the process.