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We Were Live Blogging From The Returns Revolution 2019!

October 9, 2019

Please Note: This blog is being written live, please excuse my typos!

It’s been just over a year since the very first Returns Revolution Conference, and now we’re back! Whilst some things have stayed the same (the stunning views of The Skyloft were just too good to refuse), this year promises to encourage retailers to continue the discussion around returns, bringing focus to a topic that never seems to get a slot on the agenda. 

Kickstarting the conference is Graham Best, who boldly goes where no man has gone before. Our CEO welcomes the audience to The Returns Revolution and shares ReBOUND’s own journey in a 20 minute presentation deliberately without any slides. The ReBOUND journey is a great one, and despite our growth, our pledge to you is that we will never lose our integrity. This is why the vibe we set out to create at The Returns Revolution is deliberately relaxed. We invited attendees to have a ‘natter’ with our sponsors. We’ve banned big old exhibition stands, so they can go and sit on the sofa in our ‘natter pods’ safe in the knowledge that they won’t be on the receiving end of a sales pitch.

GRAHAM TRR

Yes, it’s only been a year since the very first conference but what a year ReBOUND has seen. We were listed Number 10 in the Tech Track 100 and named as finalists in the Lloyds National Business Awards, to name but a few achievements. We’re now proud to have over a hundred retailers join The Returns Revolution today, and we’re so excited to get into the agenda and uncover the where the future of returns lies.

UP NEXT: "What's happening in the market?" - Brody Buhler, Accenture

With the Brexit deadline drawing ever closer and the constantly evolving retail landscape, Brody Buhler from Accenture is a great early start to the conference. His presentation gives attendees insight into the current state of the retail market, context which will serve as a great reference point throughout the day. 

Accentures research shows that 47% of shoppers say returns are ‘very important’ when deciding where to shop online, so for retailers willing to embrace the returns there’s a real opportunity for them to get ahead of the competition. 

BRODY TRR

Brody reveals that “The people who return the most are most profitable customers, with the top 5% of returners being 30% more profitable”. As these high returners buy more, they get better at buying and understanding what fits them, leading to a reduction in marketing expenses.

Brody ends with a message of “Last mile was last year, returns is this year”, and we couldn’t agree more!

UP NEXT: The Challenges Facing Retailers With A Multi-Brand Approach

How many retail acquisitions have there been in 2019 already? In a world where giants are monopolising the retail market (think Boohoo Group, Mike Ashley etc.) Are retail groups at an advantage?

We put Rebecca Holland from Fanatics the hot seat to learn more about the challenges and opportunities of managing multiple brands. Here’s a breakdown of some of the questions we asked her.

How do you approach a new market?

  • We’ve learnt to make sure we have the right supply chain partners so we can lean on them for more than just warehousing. We can talk to them about market research and help with understanding of the local market. 

Are returns a problem? How are you tackling these platforms?

  • They are. As a consumer you know what needs to happen, but as a retailer we’re definitely on a journey. We’re now looking at how we can get shoppers their money back quicker. Currently we don’t refund until it gets back to our UK warehouse, so now we’re looking at setting up hubs in multiple countries to improve our customer experience.

How do you see the future of Fanatics?

  • Definitely the UAE is on our radar. We’re finding now that sportswear is fashion, not just team support, so we’re switching things up to accommodate for this. We’re know we’re good in the US and Europe, so now we’re partnering in new countries to learn from others about the markets they’re experts in. 

Do you see multiple peaks throughout the year? If so, how do you manage them?

  • Yes, with handling multiple sportswear retailers, we see multiple peaks throughout the year. The Superbowl for example can sometimes be more busy than Black Friday. All our teams work from the same calendar to help us prepare for these events, but we can only plan so far. For example, we can plan for different sporting events, but we can never plan for who’s going to win, so our manufacturers have to be really responsive to this demand.

UP NEXT: PANEL - Customer Centric Returns, Buzzword or Bull? 

After a quick coffee break, we're now back into it with our first panel of the day "Customer centric returns, buzzword or bull?" featuring Callum McKeefery (Reviews.io), Mike Richmond (Doddle) and Lauren Wolfe (Klarna)

You’ve heard the old cliché “Customer service is king” a hundred times. Hands up, we’ve used the expression ourselves plenty of times in this very blog. Has a “customer-first approach” or the notion of “customer-centricity” just become a buzzword, or is it a load of bull?

Alot was covered in the 30 minute session, so here's a summary of our panellists thoughts to give you a flavour of what was discussed. 

Callum McKeefery (Reviews.io) - For modern customers, the priority absolutely has to be speed. We see that of the large amount of returns reviews on our platform, a huge number also contain the keyword of  'speed'. Make the entire process quicker so that people can get their money back quicker. Today's consumers are extremely demanding, so retailers really need to be focusing on speeding the entire returns process up so that ultimately shoppers can get their refunds quicker. 

TRR PANEL 1

Mike Richmond (Doddle) - It's very common for retailers to create impersonal returns policies, without the customers or demographic in mind. From my perspective, there has to be more personalisation and individualisation within the policies (not the harsh legal jargon we're used to seeing). It's also a common trap that we fall into of not looking at return timeframes in enough detail. There's lots of focus on how long it takes a return to get back to warehouse once it's been dropped off, but very little talk about what goes on before that. Retailers need to be empowering shoppers to send their stuff back quicker so that it shortens the time to resale.  

Laurel Wolfe (Klarna) - I think it all comes down to shoppers wanting their money back faster. The key here is not take money from the shoppers in the first place. Retailers need to get more products into their shoppers hands using pay later initiatives to all shoppers to fall in-love with more items once it's in their hands. It used to be that loyalty programmes were the norm, but as a business so focused on customer experience, our ethos is that by providing a good customer experience, people are happy, so they come back again.  

NEXT UP: A fireside chat with Missguided

Scott Barker, Head of Customer Service at Missguided takes to the stage with our MC for the day Charles Brewer, to discuss what makes Missguided tick, and why they decided it was time to focus on returns. 

SCOTT TRR

Scott reveals how Missguided's need to focus on returns was really driven by 1 in 4 of their customer service called being returns related. As Head of Customer Service, heading up their returns project with ReBOUND was a natural fit for Scott. 

"When it comes to returns, there are 2 elements. The first side is that a return means that for whatever reason, something went wrong. So the second side of that is questioning how that experience can be made into the best it can be."

We were thrilled to here that in Scott's wrap-up we hear that he's coming on-board with the ReBOUND ethos that returns are an opportunity, not a problem. 

NEXT UP - ReBOUND's vision of the future. 

Unlike his fellow co-founder, Phil Smith (ReBOUND CTO) has lots to reveal with his slide deck entitled 'ReBOUND's vision of the future'. Phil begins by talking the audience through ReBOUND's tech journey so far, and revealing how the ever-changing retail landscape has shaped the journey we've been on. 

Whilst you had to be here to get the full effect, Phil continues by revealing 'ReBOUND's vision of the future' and how are tech journey is going to continue moving forward. We don't want to give too much away just yet, but to whet your appetite we're on a journey to revolutionise ReBOUND as you know it, whilst bringing retailers more returns data than they've ever had before...and us entering a new space entirely. (Watch this space, there's more exciting stuff to come on this soon!).

Now for a spot of lunch before the afternoon kicks-off with a presentation from Martin Price at Gymshark!

UP NEXT: Gymsharks Growth Story

The afternoon kicks off with the growth story of eCommerce sportswear giants Gymshark. Martin Price, Logistics Manager, takes us through how Gymshark evolved from operating from a small warehouse with table tennis table, to the international champions they are today. 

Starting from humble begins, we learn how the Gymshark 66 campaign helped shaped their international growth story, and the how to Gymshark, family and culture is everything. 

With the returns opportunity coming onto the Gymshark radar a couple of years ago, they saw a real opportunity to embrace returns and use the to their advantage in their cross-border growth strategy. 

I'm sure you'll agree whether you were here in person or not, Gymshark certainly are a force to be reckoned with!

UP NEXT: Tapping into new markets

A.J Hernandez (SkyPostal) takes attendees through the opportunities on offer in perhaps the untraditional market of Latin America. Whilst government instability and high import taxes might appear as an initial blocker for retailers, theres an enormous eCommerce opportunity for those willing to take on the challenge. 

A.J explains how the key for retailers looking to take advantage of these Latin America countries is to utilise partners to help them understand these extremely complex markets. 

UP NEXT: Technology's answer to fashion's sustainability problem

Given recent news reports, this panel falls at a perfect time! Sustainability is still one of those topics where nobody has the whole answer, so we thought we'd share some of the key quotes from our panellists as food for thought!

Jack Ostrowski (Yellow Octopus)

  • “People are blaming fashion, but then copying their supply chain model” 
  • “We are not going to change the way people shop, they’re never going to buy less”
  • “People want recycling to more convenient and they want something out of it” 
  • “Lets hug the trees together will not take us very far” 

Verane Gross (Carbon Smart)

  • "I think there's still a lot to be done. People are finally starting to look at the logistics piece, but in the returns element alot of people aren't looking at that yet” 
  • “There is scope to communicate these solutions and the impact of those kind of flights and what it means to choose next day delivery in those kinds of market and the impact of returning those items”  

Felix Winckler (Reflaunt)

  • “Consumer habits are only changing in that most consumers now are looking at the resale value of what they buy” 
  • "We’re not incentivisng enough to tell shoppers what to do with the product once they don’t want it anymore."
  • “Instead of pushing another pair of trainers on them, why not ask how the first ones are,  it needs to be a marketing initiative."

That's a wrap folks! Thank's so much to all our attendees, speakers and sponsors. It's really been a great day and there is no denying that returns were in the spotlight for a change!

Keep an eye out for our highlight video of the day coming soon!