Turning Around Reverse Logistics: Q&A with CouriersPlease

Natasha Sholl By Natasha Sholl | 17 Sep 2019

We sit down with CouriersPlease to find out what’s new and what’s next in the reverse logistics landscape and how retailers should be leveraging returns for growth.

When it comes to returns and reverse logistics, many retailers feel like they’re chasing their tails. It’s one step forward and three steps back. But how do you turn returns into a win? We sat down with Jessica Ip, Head of Commercial & Transformation at CouriersPlease (CP) to find out.

The million dollar question: What do consumers want when it comes to returns?

Consumers want to be able to return their purchase with ease without having to wait long periods of time for their refund. They want clear, simple refund policies which require minimal interaction with the retailer (this is especially important for e-tailers considering the ease to purchase the item with just a few clicks).

What changes have you seen the reverse logistics landscape recently? What is driving these changes?

As a service provider to many retailers leveraging the Boomerang Returns service, CouriersPlease knows one of the key challenges is to provide our retailers transparency of when the return is coming back to the warehouse. This transparency provides the retailer knowledge of inventory levels which need to be restocked and have ready for the next consumer to purchase. The need to reduce cost in this highly competitive e-commerce market means retailers and carriers must innovate to provide traceability at every step of the logistics journey, and reverse logistics has always been a blackhole for most.

Where are we headed? Higher consumer expectations? Retailer innovation? What changes will we see when it comes to returns in the next year or so?

The ‘pain’ of returns continues to be a hot topic amongst retailers heading to 2020. CP conducted a survey of over 1000 respondents. The results suggest that retailers who offer free returns are also the leaders in building customer loyalty, promoting higher chances of repurchasing and influencing consumer purchasing decisions. While free returns may not be a barrier for purchase, it does deter from the customer’s appetite to experiment with the range or selection of the retailer’s catalogue.

At CP, we believe the returns process will be tightly weaved into the forward logistics process in the coming year. We see more and more consumers are purchasing with the intent to return – especially with fashion items where multiple sizes of the same item would be purchased or to cater for an unwanted gift. This trend is contributing to the increase of the average shopping cart spend and to return volumes.

What are the biggest pain points for retailers when it comes to returns?

Speed and transparency of returns from the consumer to distribution centre, quality assurance-related costs, and customer service and logistics costs associated with individual returns.

What are the biggest pain points for consumers when it comes to returns?

  • Complex retailer returns policy
  • Inconvenience – must return to store or having to queue at the post office during business hours
  • Having to contact a retailer for returns authorisation

What’s the ROI on a product like Boomerang? How do retailers remain profitable while offering a generous and easy to use returns process?

The key thing to remember about having a great returns experience is consumers are likely to replace the item they have returned. Recapturing that revenue will ultimately be the goal of any retailer to ensure an ROI on any spend in reverse logistics.

What’s the danger of not offering a seamless returns process?

For retailers who have not perfected the returns experience, they are in danger of causing anxiety and frustration for their customers who will ultimately disengage from a retailer’s brand no matter how great the product/services are.

Eliminating ambiguity in return policies and streamlining how a consumer should return their items will give consumers more confidence to repurchase from a retailer and build brand loyalty.

What are the mistakes you see retailers making when it comes to returns?

  • Complicated returns policies and procedures
  • Lack of options for consumers – ie. one service at a set price, eg. drop off at Post Office during business hours and pay for postage
  • No SLAs on returns – consumers waiting weeks for their refunds/exchange/credit
  • Discounting the importance of returns as part of the customer journey – ie. a bad returns experience potentially ruining a good purchasing/shipping experience

Since launching Boomerang, what feedback have you had from retailers?

Most retailers in Australia do not offer free returns. As a result, consumers have been asked to choose their own provider to return these goods to the retailer which means the retailer has no visibility of the goods coming back to their warehouse. We see Boomerang as a real advantage in this space where we can offer your customers the facility to process their return payment (if you don’t offer free returns) and provide you with the transparency to efficiently re-stock your shelf for repurchasing. The transparency also means you are now able to hold your warehouse provider accountable for the speed of stock returning for repurchasing.

What are your top tips for retailers to succeed in the current retail landscape?

  • Take away any ambiguity in your returns policy
  • Refund your customers as quickly as possible
  • Offer free or subsidised returns to your customers
  • Offer both in-stall and online returns where possible

For more on the power of returns and the benefits of Boomerang, you can download CP’s free whitepaper Returns: The Competitive Advantage here.

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