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The Perils of a Manual Ecommerce Returns Process

Matt Blevins
Updated 06/19/20 7:28 PM

Dichotomy of Ecommerce Returns

Ecommerce today can in many ways feel like a vivid contrast, of the massive players like Amazon, Alibaba or Jet.com versus everyone else. In few aspects is this separation more apparent than returns management.

The industry giants have entire teams dedicated to product returns – and not only a team in the warehouse.

An assembly of project managers, software developers, customer specialists, scientists, operations managers, and vendor partners are also included to optimize the returns process and recover maximum value of the products that come back.

A complex problem needs a sophisticated solution.

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But, perhaps needless to say, not everyone is Amazon. Newer, growing ecommerce retailers are largely left to fend for themselves when it comes to product returns.

Without the resources, established processes, and technological systems, these companies can experience immense pain points in the reverse supply chain.

The burden often manifests itself as a costly, inefficient returns management operation as well as a lackluster experience for the shopper.

Examining a Manual Returns Process

If shoppers are buying, then they are returning. We see that anywhere from 30% to 50% of a retailer’s shoppers are at some point returning a product. And without an effective system for returns, a sizable portion of a retailer’s shoppers can quickly be disaffected.

Today's shoppers are more demanding than ever. A seamless returns process is the new movement of the customer experience.

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From our perspective, the flow of a manual returns process is often a case of siloed procedures with insufficient communication.

Many times, the process begins with an email address or phone number listed on the website for the shopper to contact. After a series of communications, the shopper is instructed to send the product back to the retailer.

A major point of friction for the retailer early on is trying to enforce their own return policies.

Without sophisticated workflows in place, it can be quite a time-consuming task for customer service to confirm if the product and case at hand meet their criteria for a return.

Not to mention, it creates a tradeoff between enforcing those rules versus providing the customer with the best possible experience.

Nobody wants to give the shopper bad news. It creates an unnecessary point of friction in the customer journey. By automating the enforcement of return policies, retailers can quickly relieve this acute pain point.

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Once the item arrives at the retailer’s location, it is received by a member of the warehouse team, who indicates in a shared document that the product has arrived.

From there, a customer service representative confirms that the item is accounted for, and goes to find the corresponding order in Shopify, their email, or a ticketing system – in order to initiate the exchange or refund.

Meanwhile, the warehouse team is tasked with directing the product to its next destination: whether that be restocking back into the store’s inventory, selling through a secondary market, or simply disposing of it.

The entire process lacks integration between the various components. For example, it’s typically not brought to the attention of customer service that the product has been received. And at that point, there is no expedient way for the representative to find record of the original order.

The end result, here, is an inefficient returns process. For some retailers, it can take nearly two weeks to completely process a return. But with ReturnLogic, they can process returns in a matter of minutes.

In addition, it can be difficult for retailers to balance customer centricity with their own policies and procedures. The manual return process can present a mess of pain points for shoppers.

Using ReturnLogic, retailers don't receive nearly the same volume of emails and tickets to their customer service team. Shoppers are able to initiate returns on their own with an easy and customizable interface.

Returns management is notoriously one of the dark corners of ecommerce. But with operational visibility and automated rules enforcement, it doesn't have to be.

It Works… Until it Doesn’t

A manual returns process is never ideal for a retailer. But often times, it functions sufficiently enough for a while. The problem is, by the time the issue becomes abundantly obvious, you have already been enduring the burden.

As your brand grows, you would expect the pain of product returns to grow proportionally. However, more often than not, the pain you feel will actually grow at a faster rate than your own scale.    

What was once a matter of a couple thousand dollars can quickly escalate to tens or hundreds of thousands, and returns can no longer receive the same degree of individual attention.

As you prioritize customer service more heavily, the slow and inconvenient back-and-forth contact simply can’t contend. On top of that, inefficient operations are a fundamental obstruction of growth.

Frequently, retailers continue with a manual returns process for too long because they’re unsure of when returns management software is the right option for them.

Learn How to Evaluate Returns Management Solutions

Getting Ahead of Returns

The good news is that solutions like ReturnLogic provide plenty of alternatives to a manual returns process.

An investment in ecommerce returns automation is a strong investment in your business. The benefits in operations and customer experience will scale with your business.

The key is to be proactive. ReturnLogic strives to alleviate the burden of returns before it becomes detrimental to the retailer, and scale with the retailer to continually provide value.

We're not just here to help manage your returns - we're here to help you grow your bottom line.

10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Returns Management Software

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