Pivoting Retail Returns to Customer Loyalty

It’s been said that the first step towards solving a problem is recognizing that you have one.

But in the case of retail returns, the industry’s acceptance of this difficult and growing situation is often geared more towards “selling out” by increasing sales rather than actually addressing it. This is all the more true for e-commerce, where the disproportionate rate of returned items exceeds 20%.

Since some level of returns will always exist in both online and in-store retail, an increasing number of merchants are turning to solutions that at least reduce the pain of the inevitable and improve the experience for the customer. buyer and seller.

“We always look at pain points where customers are struggling or frustrated and try to remove any barriers before contacting us,” said Amy Williamson, voice of the customer supervisor at outdoor retailer Orvis. and sportswear based in Vermont. PYMNTS.

By taking a holistic approach that automates the multi-faceted returns process as much as possible, she said Orvis was able to reduce their “WISMR” (where’s my refund?) queries by 42% compared to the previous system. completely phone-based. .

“If customers are buying online, they should be able to complete the transaction online, including that exchange,” Williamson added, noting the reduction in administrative burdens the company has also achieved.

To manage

For Orvis, and dozens of other brands like it, minimizing the pain of the problem has meant bringing in an outside company to handle it — in this case Narvar, a California-based company that specializes in retail solutions. after purchase, including its recently launched door-to-door pickup service which it is currently expanding to 100 US cities after a successful pilot in the fourth quarter in 10 locations.

“Retailers see this as an opportunity to build customer loyalty,” Narvar’s chief customer officer recently hired. Anise Kumar said PYMNTS. “When we measure loyalty, 97% of consumers we surveyed said that if the return experience is easy, they are likely to return,” said the industry veteran who has spent the past 20 years at work at Levi’s, Walmart and Target.

With a mix of services ranging from customer-focused solutions such as curbside pickup or the ability to offer financial incentives on behalf of a retailer, as well as logistics management that directs returns to the nearest fulfillment center rather than a single location serving the entire country, she says, has proven to be a money and relationship saver.

“The time it takes a retailer [to get returned merchandise] return to their warehouse and available for sale has been reduced by 25%,” Kumar said, noting that the improvement starts from the moment a customer initiates the return for the first time.

Multi-pronged approach

Whether it’s better images, descriptions or videos or the use of better digital fitting technology that uses augmented reality to give customers a better idea of ​​the size and appearance of clothing in online, retailers of all sizes are investing in ways to reduce the need for returns before they arrive.

In addition to the financial and customer experience incentives involved, Kumar said these improvements also reduced fraudulent return activity and also had significant environmental benefits at a time when customers and retailers were increasingly demanding them.

“We also have to do it with an eye on sustainability,” Kumar said. “We are talking [about] sustainability and packaging all the time,” she added, pointing to the emerging use of boxless solutions as an example of future “in mind” solutions that will be implemented.

With e-commerce and omnichannel sales expected to be a large part of overall retail, the pressure to address the many aspects of the returns process will only increase, as will the demand for solutions that work for both the buyer and seller.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities in the post-purchase space both to optimize the consumer experience as well as the P&L,” Kumar concluded.

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On:Fifty-seven percent of consumers who used advanced identity verification methods such as voice recognition when contacting customer service say they would do it again. The Consumer Authentication Experiences report surveyed nearly 3,800 US consumers to find out how delivering innovative verification experiences helps businesses deliver superior customer service across all channels.

Joseph P. Harris