Nearly a third of all eCommerce sales are returned and this is particularly true of fashion items that are sent back because of fit or style.

Nearly a third of all eCommerce sales are returned and this is particularly true of fashion items that are sent back because of fit or style. In addition, the free shipping and hassle-free return policies offered by large retailers such as Amazon make it risk-free for consumers to buy now and return later.

It is important for companies to establish a good exchange policy for addressing customer returns, one that avoids confusion. Returns, however, can be costly and may eat away at a business’ bottom line.

Effective inventory control has a positive impact on the returns process and will help organisations to better manage this area of the customer experience.

Customer returns policy

Consumers generally favour brands with a liberal returns policy, one that is simple and easy to navigate. Return policies can even increase sales because shoppers are more willing to make purchases when they know that sending items back will be stress-free.

The challenge then is to develop an effective multifaceted returns policy that enhances customer service and reduces the costs associated with customer returns. Some ways to do this include:

  • Accepting the return of online purchases in-store if you are a multi-channel retailer
  • Offering customers a variety of return options, such as choosing between a cash refund, product exchange or a store credit. This gives customers greater control over their returns decision
  • Partnering with third-party logistics providers to undertake purchasing, staffing and warehouse management on behalf of eCommerce stores
  • Having an arrangement with manufacturers to instantly swap any product, under warranty, which is returned due to defect or damage on arrival.

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Inventory control

Product returns are fundamentally complex because they affect many functions of the organisation and the impact returns have on a business can be huge.

Putting large quantities of inventory back into stock not only affects physical inventory but also electronic inventory and accounting systems. It requires additional handling and extra space. Returns can also affect a business’s ability to procure and sell new products.

An inventory system that integrates across your supply chain can improve the performance and efficiency of reverse logistics. With the use of handheld scanners and portable barcode scanning technology being especially valuable, providing real-time visibility of customer returns.

Inventory control technology can be integrated into warehouse management to ensure immediate inventory allocation, instant picking from the returns area and cross-docking. With inventory management and barcode scanning, you can more effectively manage your reverse supply chain and improve communication within your organisation.

An effective inventory control system helps maintain customer satisfaction when it comes to product returns. You can track the status of returned packages and capture extensive data to understand the issues driving returns. Valuable insights can help improve inventory purchasing decisions to drastically reduce losses caused by returned products.

Outsourcing

Remember, not all returns need to be managed in-house. Third-party logistics providers are a viable option for managing international returns. Instead of shipping customer returns to the country of origin, returned goods are resold locally, saving customs and shipping fees.

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