5 tips for revolutionising returns

shutterstock_279469385As a retailer, you know just how service-conscious today’s shoppers are. But do you really understand the role that your returns policies play in delivering business success? For many organisations, returns incur a significant cost to the business. Yet they could be generating revenue.

Omni-channel return policies are increasingly important to purchasers; in a recent survey, 40% of customers say they would buy more online if they could return to stores. Yet many retailers are struggling to move away from unfriendly legacy processes: charging people to return across channels, offering short return windows, and having complex receipt requirements. But there’s more at stake than just customer experience. Better returns management can help you to stop margin erosion, as making returned stock visible and available across your network enables you to deliver every transaction with maximum profit.

Here are five top tips for formulating more successful business outcomes from omni-channel customer returns:

1. A hassle-free cross-channel return experience can convince customers to buy from you.

Quite simply, businesses that make it easy for customers to return items across channels will see an increase in sales revenue too. The proof? In a recent survey, 30% of customers said they’d chosen to buy from the retailers with more flexible returns policies. Choose an intelligent Order Management system to give your staff instant access to complete customer order information from any location, so online orders can be quickly and efficiently returned to any store. High levels of personal service will keep them coming back, whilst delivering the impressive sales revenues you want.

2. Rapid returns processes reduce markdowns and lead to better business outcomes

When online orders come back to a store, it can be difficult to know what to do with the returned stock. Integrating items into the store’s inventory seems the quickest way to get them back on sale – but it’s not always the smartest choice. The right Order Management system determines in real time the most profitable location for your returned items: adding them to the store shelves, making them available for a ship-from-store order, or returning them to a central distribution centre.

3. Take returns into account when making restocking decisions

Implementing cross-channel returns can create complexity in businesses with separate inventories. Items sold from online stock, for example, are replenished regardless of whether there have been returns to a store. It’s a recipe for over-investment in stock and a drop in your profitability. A robust Order Management platform helps you to calculate your inventory accordingly, bringing together all of your stock channels to create a single inventory pool that’s visible and available across your entire business. Any in store returns are visible as soon as they’re processed, becoming instantly available for fulfilment in any location or channel. It means replenishment decisions are always made on the basis of complete insight, improving your turn rate and leading to greater profitability.

4. Make the maximum stock available to customers without the restrictive returns policies

Online orders returned to stores aren’t always processed in the most effective way. Adding items to the returning store’s inventory adds to a silo of stock that can’t be accessed for use in other channels, even when they’re out of stock. Intelligent Order Management systems allow you to deliver true omni channel operations, managing returns efficiently and cost-effectively, no matter how, where or when an item is made. You’ll increase customer loyalty and satisfaction too, creating an endless aisle where products returned anywhere in the network are available for sale immediately from any location.

5. Get the most from every returning customer with in store incentives

Enabling omni channel returns delivers an important change in behaviour – getting online customers to visit a physical store. Every purchase these shoppers make while they’re in store is highly valuable incremental revenue. It’s why some retailers have adapted their store layouts to put the customer returns team in a strategic location, or to display on-sale items at the tills. With a highly sophisticated Order Management platform, you’ll bring together insight from multiple sources, including the customer’s purchase history and inventory and latest stock information, to generate targeted offers for each customer.

Craig Sears-Black, UK MD, Manhattan Associates