The importance of flexible shipping options for consumer returns

By Julia Ebelthite

A broad and flexible shipping network is just as important for returns as it is for deliveries. Especially in an age where speed and convenience are at the top of consumer’s minds. 

By being selective and partnering with a variety of postal carriers, brands can ensure that they’re tapping into the best services for their customers, as well as themselves. As each carrier offers different features, such as fast ‘next day’ shipping, green transport options, local drop-off points and lockers, to name but a few, brand can ensure they’re creating the most relevant and custom returns flow for their operations and customer base.

At ReBound, we work closely with e-commerce brands, using our existing network of postal carrier partners, to secure the most seamless return streams, globally.

Local and Convenient Return Shipping Options

Whether consumers are in remote locations, urban areas, or anywhere in between, their return experience should be consistent and convenient. With 76% of consumers indicating that they prefer local returns options, it’s clear that this is a highly valued feature and one which brands should aim to meet to secure customer satisfaction.

As 79% of consumers state they have access to a local drop off service, most often postal providers partner with local businesses to create these package access points. Yet, depending on the provider and their service, these may vary. Not only in terms of locations, but also price points, transport type and estimated delivery times.

As no two customers are alike, it’s important to have a variety of postal carriers, and their diverse set of services, to appeal to each type of customer, their lifestyle, budget and preferences. For example, one customer may value a greener way to return through a postal carrier using clean energy vehicles, whereas another may prioritize a low price or fast return delivery lead times.

Teaming up with a host of these providers will ensure that each customer has access to a local returns option that handily fits in to their day-to-day life. An experience that falls outside of this may be seen as an inconvenience and reflect poorly on the brand. Perhaps even depriving them of potential future sales through return shoppers or via recommendations.

How to Cope with Peak Season Returns

 A reality universally acknowledged by retailers selling online is that many channels fall under pressure within a short space of time during the final months of each year as peak season rolls around. In the approach to Christmas, it’s obviously expected that more people will be shopping online, for gifts or holiday preparations. Yet when this coincides with sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, order volumes skyrocket.

Peak season 2020 saw an increased popularity due to the pandemic as more people chose, or had no other option, than to shop from home. A trend that is likely to spill over into this year’s festivities. Although numbers vary, it’s clear there is increased use of ecommerce channels during this time. This year, for example, it’s expected that up to 41% of German consumers intend to buy on Black Friday.

With sudden order volume increases come higher returns volumes too. If not optimized, returns channels may become overwhelmed during peak, leading to delays in customers receiving refunds, and brands being able to resell desirable ‘in-season’ stock.

The postal logistics-side of this returns flow is essential to get right. Brands with access to numerous carriers, across a variety of locations, have the luxury of flexibility during this busy period. If one channel becomes too busy, another can be utilized so that the customer is unaffected by the sudden volume increases.

Sustainable Return Options

Alongside convenience and price, sustainability is now valued highly by consumers. For example, a recent study revealed that 75% of those questioned wanted access to a more sustainable way to return. Of those, around half also said they would pay to guarantee this service.

Brands failing to meet this requirement may lose out to competitors who do. Plus, it’s in everyone’s best interest, including brands, to ensure that the returns network has less of an impact of the environment.

The environmental impact of ecommerce is a joint responsibility to tackle amongst brands, postal providers, and their consumers. Collaboration here is key which is another reason why retailers should look to partnerships with shipping providers. Some offer green transport options, while others may help reduce emissions by providing very accessible drop-off points that most customers can simply walk or travel short distances to.

Of course, no returns at all are the greenest form of returns. But this service remains essential to the overall sales experience, so it’s important that brands use the correct partners for their reverse logistics operations to ensure that the process is less detrimental in terms of emissions.

Quick, Convenient and Green Returns Can Co-Exist

The logistics side to returns is essential to get right to create an overall seamless return experience, for customers and brands themselves. A flow that is quick, convenient, and sustainably driven.

Partnerships and collaboration with local, national and international postal carriers are vital to this optimization. To find out which carriers and services are already existing within ReBound’s network, reach out for more information.


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