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Thinking Outside the Box: Why it’s time to ditch the pre-printed return label

by Laura Gee

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Over the past few years, pre-printed return labels and in-parcel return forms have grown in popularity amongst UK retailers. On the surface, it’s a quick, convenient way to offer consumers easy returns; but if you peel back the layers, is this method really in the best interests of retailers or consumers?


Let’s start with the obvious one. 
If you chuck a return label in with the dispatch note, you have zero visibility of returned items until they show up at your warehouse. If you scale this up internationally, that statement becomes increasingly worrying for any fast-fashion brand with dreams of global expansion.

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According to an article by RetailNext, it is estimated that 30% of all goods bought online are returned. This means that if you were shipping around 10 Million outbound orders a year, with a 30% returns rate applied, that's 3 Million surprises!

 

Returns Black Hole

The damage doesn't end there either...when you unwrap the surprises in the warehouse and eventually discover what is coming back, there is still a huge grey area around why the items were returned. We've looked at the in-hub returns process for some of our fashion clients and the number of shoppers who do not correctly complete the returns form is eye-watering. When we examined the return reasons logged after returns were processed, we saw anything from 10% to a colossal 54.8% of returns forms which were either incorrectly filled in or not filled in at all.

To put that in context of the 3 million returns, that's a potential 1.6 Million blind spots for your merchandising and marketing teams! All because your shoppers do not complete the in-parcel return form.

If someone was trying to sell you a returns solution that meant you would have no idea what was coming back, why it was coming back, or when it was likely to arrive, you probably wouldn't buy it. Why then, is this the method that many retailers have come to expect as the norm? We're in 2018 where data is the new oil, and yet many retailers have no insights on one of the most important (and costly) aspects of the customer buying journey. We can’t be the only ones who are thinking something isn’t right, can we?

Capturing visibility of returns online is key to allowing your ecommerce teams to analyse returns data and gather actionable insights. Watch this space to find out more about ReBOUND’s own returns intelligence technology.

 

Shoppers in the dark too

As shoppers, we all expect to be given status updates when we buy online. It’s a no-brainer. So why do we not apply the same thinking to the return journey? 60% of shoppers told us that they only received an update once the refund had been processed (and 11% of these received no communication at all!). By supplying the return label in the parcel, you sacrifice the ability to proactively communicate the status of the return with your customers. That doesn’t do much to inspire confidence does it? Now I don't know about you, but I’m unlikely to part with more cash when I don’t know what’s happening with my pending refund.

Poor communication and unclear processes lead to increased enquiries (or complaints) into your customer service teams, meaning extra time and resources are needed to resolve these issues. With a huge percentage of refund disputes now aired over Twitter and other public social media - what damage could this be doing to your carefully cultivated brand?

ReBOUND retail clients tell us that they have seen a positive impact on their customer services operations with return tickets seeing a typical reduction of 20%. Many retailers also increased first time resolution of customer queries by 50%.

 

From post-purchase to re-purchase

Finally, research from UPS shows that 45% of shoppers made an additional purchase when processing a return online. By offering an online experience, you have the opportunity to re-convert returners using marketing promotions, or personalised product recommendations based on their returns data. ReBOUND’s own returns portal bridges the gap in your customers return experience with space for a retailer branded advertising banner at the final step of the returns portal.

So, there you have it, the pre-printed label is a thing of the past and as retailers you should be doing more to improve your returns process. With our offering of a more intelligent, data-driven approach to managing your returns, we’re taking you into the returns future. 

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