On 2nd October 2018, ReBOUND hosted our first ever returns conference. With a packed agenda and a fantastically rich retail audience, the event was a huge success. In this blog, we step through the agenda as documented live on the day.
The big day is here! The Returns Revolution is underway! We’re putting returns in the spotlight with a conference totally dedicated to returns. When it comes to retail events, returns are rarely on the agenda, but at our event, they’re the total focus. With over 100 retail attendees registered, the conference is a great opportunity to knowledge share, talk to our sponsors and answer the question on everyone's lips – “What do we do about returns?”.
We’ll be live blogging throughout the day so that if you couldn’t make it, you can still keep up with the day. We’ll also be dishing out an abundance on follow-up content sharing what we learned throughout the conference.
9:20am – Graham Best, ReBOUND CEO, kicks off the first ever Returns Revolution Conference to a totally packed theatre at The Skyloft, Millbank Tower!
09:30 – Dave Clarke from ASOS takes to the stage for an interview with Graham Best, discussing how ASOS are using their returns as a competitive advantage.
As one of the few businesses with a dedicated returns team, ASOS are able to make smarter internal decisions, as well as predict forcasting and challenge their underlying return rates. When asked what single change he thinks has had the biggest benefits, Dave spoke about how the launch of free returns in several different markets was great from a customer perspective, and that, internally, the customer care portal has allowed the customer care team to be much more efficient.
With a belief that returns will start to become a new differentiator across the market place, it was great to hear how ASOS used their returns proposition to there advantage.
09:45 – Neil Kuschel, CEO Europe at Global-e delivers his presentation on ‘Cracking International Markets’. He dives into the importance of understanding your different international markets and the importance of adapting your strategy as each individual market changes.
He dived into the fact that 63% of returns come back due to a sizing issue! If you don’t make returns easy, people aren’t going to take the risk of it not fitting. “Returns is about creating a lifetime value with a customer” – When a customer makes a return due to sizing, a positive size exchange means the customer is learning about you and your brand, increasing their chances of purchasing with you again. Each international market requires a different returns proposition, its important to play around with your returns offering in each market to see what works for you and your customers.
10:15 – Doug MacGrain from Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles takes to the stage talking about how to make a business case for returns. Interestingly, they didn’t actually write one! They made all their decisions through a working group that involved everybody in the business that would be affected by returns. This included their commercial team, international marketing, customer services, operations and logistics and finance. They recognized that returns weren’t actually any one persons job, it need to be a collaborative process across the whole company. A large increase in their Q1 return rate in 2018, with no obvious reason as to why it had happened, meant that Wiggle had an aggressive timeline to fix their returns. Through conducting a deep dive into their existing returns offering, Wiggle quickly decided that they should remove returns labels from their outbound parcels – customers came to their website for everything else, why wouldn’t they come to their website to make a return? Sending customers online to make a return meant that Wiggle were able to get the key thing they needed to make actionable decisions moving forward – returns data.
10: 45 - Coffee time!
11:00 - It's time to start thinking East as Philip Murton from The Royale International Group takes the mic to discuss the enormous untapped potential in the Hong Kong and Taiwanese markets. Royale have found that one of the biggest inhibitors to overseas purchases is returns. With a Hong Kong and Taiwan both having booming markets, there's certainly money to be made for those that can overcome this enormous barrier. Philip discusses how one of the biggest drawbacks for Eastern shoppers is the lack of UK brands available to them. Being based in Hong Kong himself, Philip knows how expensive it can be to shop in Hong Kong. So, online retailers that can offer a great product at a great price, with a convenient returns process have the potential to soar in the Eastern markets.
11:20 - Time for the panel session! Vinesh Patel, Caroline James and Alison Parkinson dive into the issue of returns fraud in a discussion moderated by Andrew Starkey. The panelists cover a range of fraudulent returns behaviour from renting and wardrobing, to claiming something is faulty, or just sending back a random item altogether! Caroline James discusses how spotting returns fraud at a warehousing level poses difficulty for many retailers as those with a wide product and brand base can't possibly have total product knowledge and expertise at every level. While all the panelists took a different view on returns fraud, there was a unanimous decision that no, retailers shouldn't be turning a blind eye to returns fraud!
12:05 -Time for lunch!
13:05 - It's time to get technical as Vicky Brock kicks of the data portion of the agenda, explaining to retailers how they can leverage their returns data for actionable insights. Vicky's done the sums (many times!) and found that on average, 2% of you shoppers are committing identifiable returns fraud! But how can we spot this? The answer? Data. With a preview of ReBOUND's new returns analytics tool, Insights, (built by the Queen of Data herself!), Vicky shows attending retailers just how much returns data they could have access to.
13:45 - "The most important concept in retail is clairty". Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insights Director at IMRG dives further into the data, looking at the returns trends that IMRG have seen in their research. In their surveying of 1500 shoppers, IMRG found that the most important consideration for shoppers when it comes to delivery and returns is the cost. However, if we move cost from the equation, shoppers prefer to return items through a method with face to face contact such as drop-off points, couriers or returns to store.
Andy closed on the point that what the data is consistently telling them is that the most important aspect of the delivery/returns proposition is to have a clear understanding of what your customers want, and communicate your offering as clearly and visibly as possible.
14:10 - Time for the roundtable sessions! Hosted in two blocks, this is the chance for attendees to take a seat with other retailers and our table moderators and dive into specific returns focused topics. Topics covered:
- “Laying it all on the table – what don’t we know about returns?” - ReBOUND
- “Adapting your operations to suit the fastest growing global channel – online marketplaces” - Rich Insight
- “How can returns add value to the business as opposed to being just a cost centre?” - KPMG
- "How return processing can make or break your business.” - XPO Logistics
15:40 - Now we hear from the Returns Programme Manager at N Brown Group, Alistair Sercombe. He explains how retailers can work with different partners to develop an integrated returns chain. With online returns costing around £20 billion annually, its certainly time that retailers to start looking at their returns strategy, in order to be able to use their returns as a competitive advantage.
16:05 - When it comes to returns, naturally the environment has to be considered. Looking at how retailers can work to make returns more sustainable was Internet Fusion Group's Head of Sustainability, Adam Hall. Quoting Patagonia, Adam reinforces the point that "Doing good is good for business". Why? Getting your returns direct to the secondhand consumer not only reduces waste by 60%, and fuel related CO2 emission by 27% it can also lead to 15% more goods being sold.
16:30 - Robin Boles closes out the conference perfectly by introducing In Kind Direct and the idea of charitable donations and "smart giving" that can have a real impact in someones life. With the main message of "Donate, Don't Destroy", there was certainly a lot for retailers to think about when it comes to handling their returned stock. It's a great opportunity for retailers to do good, and ReBOUND are so pleased to be working closely with Robin and her team.
5pm - To the bar! That's all from us! If you made it to the conference, thanks so much for joining us, we'd love to here what you took away from the day. If you weren't able to attend, don't worry, we'll have plenty more to share with you soon!