Reducing the Impact of Returns on Retailers

Recent research estimated that returns cost retailers an average of £20 per item. The returns process is time-consuming and error prone, which can mean a 30% loss in profit, costing UK retailers a huge £7 billion a year.

On average, 20% of online-bought products are returned. This leaves retailers with a considerable amount of admin, taking up valuable staff time and resources. In some industries, if items are not back on the shelves within a short time, seasonal and on-trend items may need to go directly into a discount sale or potentially end up being binned.

Retailers need to reduce the burden and cost of returns on their business, whilst still offering the same level of service that their customers expect. The easiest way to do this is via technology that can be flexible to the needs of each return and speed up the process.

The Complex Returns Process

There are so many variations that each business encounters when dealing with returns, exchanges, and refunds, and you’ll probably struggle to find a system that can handle them all.

Often, retailers have to create manual workarounds to handle every return scenario to circumvent the lack of capable technology, which adds even longer timescales to the process.

You may have many variables in your retail returns, such as:

  • Return all or return part
  • Refund all or partial refund
  • Exchange all or exchange part
  • Restock everything, restock part, or don’t restock
  • Raise a full credit note, a partial credit note, or no credit note

You know you are offering customers the best return process and flexibility to ensure it meets their needs by having these options. Now, you just need to reduce the burden on your business.

Streamlining Processes

TIDEConnects’ customer Air & Grace deals with hundreds of returns each week, which they have to process via their online Shopify store and update their Unleashed inventory management system.

Like most online shoe retailers, they have customers ordering shoes in multiple styles and sizes that need to be returned, exchanged, or refunded. This has led to a complex refund and exchange process.

Air & Grace had recently moved to a new inventory system as their previous software was about to be discontinued. They chose Unleashed, but due to the complexity of their returns process, they needed a way to get the platform to talk with Shopify and set up efficient processes between the two systems. So they asked the TIDEConnects team for help.

Imagine this scenario that Air & Grace encounter regularly:

  • A customer buys multiple sizes of shoes in different styles.
  • They return part of the order and want some of the returned shoes exchanged for a different size and others refunded.
  • The Air & Grace team needed to bring the refund items back in stock, issue credit notes, and send the money back to the customer.
  • For the exchanges, they needed to restock the shoes sent back, create new orders, and send the new shoes out.
  • Added to the complexity was also the use of Air & Grace’s new customer discount codes, where customers still get the full discount even though they return some of the shoes. Shopify won’t allow this, so the team had to find manual workarounds.
  • And, what if when someone receives the exchanged shoes, they still aren’t happy – Air & Grace then have to return and refund.

That is a lot of work for just one order, so the Air & Grace team knew they needed to get the processes as tight as possible to save them time.

Connecting Systems

Kasia Taylor, Operation Manager at Air & Grace, found that the manual processes were taking up hours each week to process returns. Because their systems didn’t offer all the return options, they manually copied and pasted details from one system to another. Somebody then had to check spreadsheets daily,  which could take Kasia most of the day, every day, so she struggled to fit in the rest of her workload. This has now been reduced to a few minutes each day, where she does a few quick changes or glances at returns sheets.

TIDEConnects worked with the Air & Grace team to understand the many returns and exchange scenarios. They came up with a solution that reduced the burden and manual workload of the already-stretched staff. Not only does the data now pass two-way between Shopify and Unleashed, but it also compensates for some of the lacking features, such as adding order numbers to credit notes in Unleashed.

Kasia told us, “The TIDEConnects team was friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable. They were very hardworking and would turn even the most complex requests around quickly.”

When you have complex business processes, it can be hard to find systems that can handle your needs, and it is even more challenging to find two platforms that communicate with each other completely. This is where businesses like TIDEConnects come in. A platform that can handle the individual processes of your business and help your systems talk to each other in a way that both works for you and reduces your costs

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