Within the past two years, retailers around the globe have begun to focus more on the entirety of the customer journey while building a successful supply chain, including the dreaded ecommerce returns process.
Traditionally, marketing divisions are given large budgets with the purpose of acquiring attention, gaining brand loyalty and driving sales. However, with this strategy as a primary focus companies often forego the necessary details to execute a successful delivery and returns journey. So… the effective marketing drives consumers to purchase but when the sale doesn’t go as planned, an inefficient ecommerce returns process will generate the dreaded negative feedback and loss of a customer.
Happy customers equate to long-term consumer retention – isn’t that what we all want?
Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, presented critical data that speaks to the importance of shifting your focus from products to customer experience. In our supply chain world, that translates to: Great delivery and returns = a positive customer experience. Bova found that consumers now place greater importance on experience than products 84% of the time, rising as high as 90-95% in the last three years.
This quantifiable data means you can drive strategy on the back of actuals – no pixie dust and unicorns needed! And, studies show that businesses with a premium customer experience will grow 4-8 times faster than competitors that don’t.
When we look at ecommerce returns, most retailers and suppliers think it begins and ends with a sticky front-end consumer portal. It’s the first step towards making your customer happy and creating buzzworthy feedback all brands strive for; but, that’s really only part of the overall solution. Consider: What happens when ecommerce returns are cross border and not coming back to your fulfillment center? How do you manage and view all orders globally and domestically? How close are you to the data when your customer decides to return it? How nimble are you at meeting local customer expectation in terms of carriers, label presentation, language and expected credit times? When products arrive, do you have an automated refund/credit process in place?
Fortunately, none of the above is too scary to deal with, and there are vertically integrated solutions available to support your next steps in winning the customer experience game. Here are some things you need to think about.
Private equity funds are pouring millions into front-end portals that are for the most part quite effective. The importance of a frictionless portal that engages your customer is absolutely critical to a successful supply chain. These days, people expect to receive personalized content, quality messaging and a flexible, easy returns process. Leaders in the field exemplify key elements that make the difference, giving you the flexibility to work with any carrier and operational partner.
Operational control is imperative and it isn’t hard, if you work with someone that understands how to properly manage it. None of the major returns providers today actually operate and control their own warehouses. So, teaming up with an operations partner removes the worry from the equation when it comes to handling ecommerce returns, controlling operations and most importantly, the complexities of cross-border customs compliance.
Integrated Operational Platform
Whether you’re an Australian company selling to the EU, a UK business selling to Israel, or a U.S. merchant managing returns domestically, you need a platform that manages all aspects of your reverse logistics through one version of the truth.
The next consumers coming through are very connected and well informed. Look to options that allow you to sell in a market where it is possible to reduce your carbon footprint for our kids and their kids’ sake. Every little bit matters. Start building your plans now!
Data, Data, Data
We live in a data-driven world. Make sure you or your partner has access to every touchpoint in your returns supply chain. From the time your customer drops off their return package at the local post office or courier partner, you own that stock. That has implications for the buying team, the ecommerce team, finance and supply chain. You need access to data as early as possible, and in near-real time, to make the right decisions on restocking SKUs, sizing updates, fit descriptions and photos. This accuracy ensures consumers receive the necessary information and less items get returned.
Returns Are Here to Stay
No matter what you do in retailer or ecommerce, you’re going to have returns. Whether you embrace them as a marketing tool, expect them as part of your day-to-day business or hate them with a passion, the lack of a best-in-class returns option will stunt your growth. Ouch! So, step up and start owning this! Arm yourself with the right questions, answers and team to make your supply chain as effective as it can be.
Justin Irvine is Commercial Director, Asia Pacific for SEKO Omni-Channel Logistics