Returns are possibly the single biggest problem online store owners have to grapple with. They are especially common in the fashion industry, but are an issue in all sectors of the eCommerce market. In this article, we will show what our process looks like when it comes to handling returns (yes, it is one of the activities that we take on as logistics partners of online stores). If returns are a big problem for your company - be sure to read on!
Returns of products ordered online are a problem in every sector and in every market. It is estimated that globally they may constitute up to 30% of products purchased online. Similar conclusions can be drawn from our own experience. In the case of customers from the fashion sector, returns account for between 17% and 30% of all orders. Fortunately, the overall score among all our partners is slightly lower. In October 2021, returns accounted for just over 10% of all orders among our customers.
Interestingly, even before buying, customers often check the store's return policy (67% of respondents do so). And as surveys repeatedly show, customers don’t expect to pay for returns.
Returns require a lot of time & effort
Returns are always a challenge for online stores. First, they involve extra work that no one pays for. Returned goods must be picked up, their condition checked and returned to the warehouse. If it is a garment, it is sometimes also necessary to wash and iron it. In addition, there is the issue of communication with the customer (which can be a special challenge when the return cannot be recognized, e.g. due to the condition of the returned goods) and accounting issues to be dealt with as well.
Our experience shows that as much as 18% of returns are not resellable.
Also, returns are associated with additional costs. If clothes are returned, the cost of washing and ironing is added. The courier does not deliver the returned product for free and the time spent on product verification has to be counted too, which can be particularly troublesome in the case of electronic equipment.
As a result, eCommerce business owners are looking for opportunities that will help them handle returns more easily and not spend more time on them than is necessary. One solution to this problem may be to offer free returns in exchange for something (e.g. for reaching a minimum order amount or for creating an account in the loyalty program). Thanks to this, the store can at least partially make up for lost time and resources.
However, a much more comprehensive and beneficial answer to this problem is cooperation with a professional logistics company like Omnipack. When we work with online stores and other companies that regularly send goods to customers, we take over the entire process, including processing returned goods, assessing their condition and preparing them for resale.
How does all this look in practice? We asked two Omnipack experts to help us with their insights.
Returns in Omnipack – Maintaining quality is always first
QUALITY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE SELLER
The highest possible level of transparency of the return process is crucial for our merchants and they want to be informed about returns as soon as possible. To meet these requirements, it’s best to allow the submission of returns online (instead of using the standard, paper form that the customer attaches to the package). In such a situation, the seller learns about the return earlier and can prepare in advance.
At Omnipack, we do everything to make the entire process as short as possible. Registration of the return, assessment of the condition of the goods and the decision on further actions (referral for washing / repair or re-entry into the warehouse) should be completed within a maximum of three days. This is especially important in the fashion industry, because extended return processing may result in the product not being sold quickly a second time (e.g. if someone returns a summer dress in the middle of winter, you should assume that the goods will remain in the warehouse for some time).
QUALITY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE BUYER
On the other hand, the way the return is handled has a huge impact on the overall perception of the store and can be a critical experience that can make customers happy enough to stay or frustrated enough to leave. A good return policy should be designed to meet the needs of the end customer and, above all, be clear and easy to follow.
There are other things you can do to make returns less problematic. Create a separate section on the website where you can easily explain how to return any ordered goods. Also, consider adding the online form mentioned earlier if possible — it helps both sides and results in less paperwork.
What else can you do to help your customers get through this unpleasant return process? Here are some ideas:
- Add a ready return form with filled in company data inside the package
- Use packaging with a double adhesive strip, which will make it easier to use the same packaging to return the ordered goods and saves packing material
- Offer an extended return period — as counterintuitive as it seems, it results in fewer returns
These activities will help customers buy from you with a greater sense of security, which means they will buy more and more often. Also bear in mind that one major reason consumers often cite for not buying online is the inability to see and touch the products for themselves. By making it easy to return items, you have a better chance of overcoming this barrier and gaining new clients.
Our work in processing returns
Our priority is to make sure that the merchant does not have to be involved in the process. We assess the condition of the returned product and decide whether to return it for resale or send it for repair (we have a detailed assessment manual developed by our merchants to use for returned goods). Thanks to this, the seller basically does not have to worry about returned goods at all. We take care of everything.
Secondly, because the fashion industry is one of our specialties, we have the necessary infrastructure to quickly send goods back to the warehouse after they are returned.
Ironing station for returns
Finally, we help our clients to plan the entire process in a way that ensures that it is as streamlined as possible.
To make everyone’s work easier, we have prepared a special service that automates the handling of returns, called Return Tool. In the panel of this tool, the seller can, for example, define which details need to be verified when accepting a return. It also displays all returns along with information about their current status. In the case of damaged products, we photograph them and upload those pictures to the platform. If there are documents accompanying a given case (like a return form), we also scan them and upload them to the client's panel so that everyone involved has access to all documents.
THE RETURN PROCESS IN OMNIPACK
During the process, we check whether the return is complete (that is, whether it contains all the products from the order, whether the products themselves are complete, in what condition they are, whether they have any damage, etc.). It should be added here that Omnipack distinguishes between factory defects and damage caused by end customers.
If the product is in some way damaged or defective (the merchant in question decides how these terms are defined), the seller decides what to do with it next. If the item has only minor defects, it goes to a special station for additional attention, where we improve it to a condition that allows it to be resold. This includes things like:
- Replacing the packaging
- Cleaning the item
- Ironing clothing items so they look like new
Summary: Outsourcing logistics and returns
Processing the return of goods purchased online can be a difficult and time-consuming part of your business, but working with a professional logistics partner can significantly speed up and simplify the entire process. If you run an online store and are struggling to keep up with returns, this may be a signal that it's time to consider a fulfillment partner.
To learn more about how we can help, you can contact us using the form below. Omnipack experts will be happy to answer your questions and help you choose a solution that works best for you.