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For all the good work that is being done in returns processing and handling our survey and research showed there is still much more to be done. The survey showed that, for many, returns rates are rising and for some this is not simply because of a comparable rise in sales. Whilst some are addressing this with improved returns options and solutions others are seemingly ignoring the problem.

Doing so is little short of crazy. Improving the process of returns isn’t just good for customer retention but customer loyalty and sales too. The research and current thinking suggests that whilst many retailers have a slick returns or refund process in place, with ever more convenient options such as third party returns points, many are missing out on the sales side of returns – that of simply keeping the customer happy and the product sold. Online retailers to be fair often do this well but they have to in order to prevent the shopper going elsewhere.

Instore however store staff often simply go through the returns process without trying to resell to the customer. Whilst the customer doesn’t want to feel pressured in many instances there is more to be done on educating customers as to how products work and finding out if they would be interested in a different product instead rather than simply issuing a refund.

Retailers said in the survey that maximising asset recovery is their biggest challenge when handling returns – half of those surveyed said so – but there is much more to be done here. Proper, efficient handling of returned product through specialist companies and returns processing centres are ensuring higher levels of product than ever is being returned, refurbished and resold, maximising gain for the retailer and reducing waste. Turnaround times are improving and sales as a result.

Understanding the customer – both in terms of what they are thinking and how they are acting – is crucial when dealing with returns. That ranges from simply identifying returns patterns early on to understanding when you have fraudulent activity going on. As in sales data and patterns in returns that retailers can actually act on whilst reviews really help to understand in more qualitative detail what the customer is thinking.

The survey showed that too many retailers are putting off improving their returns processes – some because they don’t want to make returns too easy and others because they simply don’t feel it’s a priority or don’t have the budget to invest in it. This is not good practise. Improving the returns process doesn’t just benefit the consumer – it benefits the retailer too. Ignore that fact and it’s you as a business that will be missing out. Returns is no longer the poor relation of retailing.

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