Reverse logistics is a complicated beast, but retailers have several tech-enabled options that can help.
Work with third-party logistics providers (3PLs). 3PLs offer several reverse logistics services to businesses big and small. Along with offering a solution for transportation and storage issues, 3PLs can pick up returns and take them back to a warehouse or other restocking site, offer supply chain and inventory management, handle customer refunds and more. In one example, waste-free meal delivery service Oco Meals uses a 3PL to pick up used meal containers from its customers and return them to Oco to be refilled.
Consider a frictionless solution. A frictionless solution looks like using software to automate the return and exchange process, providing shoppers with a seamless self-service experience or allowing customers to choose from several convenient options to make their return. Frictionless returns may seem counterintuitive—if the process is easier, won’t that increase returns?—but in reality, it’s quite the opposite. So, e-commerce returns company Happy Returns recently partnered with Inmar, Inc. to offer an end-to-end returns solution for retailers.
Happy Returns and Inmar’s solution offers consumers “the option for customers to return items, box-free and label-free, to one of Happy Returns’ 2,600+ Returns Bars around the country, which are physical drop sites located in retail stores.” Returned inventory is then “shipped to returns facilities in reusable containers instead of individual packages,” increasing the sustainability factor, which is a big deal to today’s consumers.
Adopt a fully integrated e-commerce platform. Tech-driven tools can help ease the pain of reverse logistics. Some examples include a virtual POS (vPOS), which allows you to manage all POS terminals on a single store server, reducing friction on the backend and lessening “wrong size or product” returns. And a loyalty program through your POS will nurture existing customers—and loyal customers are less likely to make a return.
The reality is, reverse logistics is a crucial part of a business’s success. (Was it Shakespeare who said, “The customer is king”?) As complicated as reverse logistics has become, increasingly intuitive technology and solutions are here to help.