Anywhere Returns: The Most Overlooked Pillar of Omnichannel Retail

December 17, 2015

Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year, positioning the weekend after Christmas to be a huge revenue opportunity for branded manufacturers and retailers. But in addition to the shoppers hoping for great after-Christmas deals are the consumers looking to return a gift. In fact, as many as 23 percent of all returns for the year happen right after Christmas, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Today’s consumers consider returns an inevitable aspect of shopping. And just as shoppers now expect flexible fulfillment options, they also demand the same experience and options when returning a product. Unfortunately, retailers are still struggling to adapt to these newly evolved return expectations.

When considering omnichannel retail strategies, brands and retailers sometimes overlook the last and final step in the consumer shopping experience: Returns. Often, a retailer or branded manufacturer offers a seamless online and in-store shopping experience, but doesn’t offer the same flexibility after the sale.

If you aren’t establishing anywhere returns as a pillar in your omnichannel strategy, can you allow consumers the flexibility to:

  • Buy online and return in-store?
  • Buy in-store, but return to a different store?
  • Return an item to a store, even if it was shipped from a third-party vendor?
  • Buy in-store, but return via a shipping carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc.)?
  • Receive the full amount paid for the item, even without the receipt?
  • Return only one part of a multi-item online order?

Making Anywhere Returns Easy with an OMS

Rather than treat returns as an unavoidable requirement, retailers should consider them just one more touch point in the customer omnichannel journey. One way to solidify brand loyalty and ensure excellent customer satisfaction is to offer anywhere returns as an important element in your omnichannel strategy.

To do this effectively, retailers need to create an omnichannel infrastructure that provides all customer touch points integrated into a single system. An enterprise-level order management system (OMS) connects all of your data together and allows for real-time, accurate data about the item, its actual purchase price and its full history. An OMS can allow you to accept returns at any location, offer partial or full returns and get the item back into inventory as soon as possible.

With an enterprise-level OMS that displays all your orders in one common location, regardless of where they were placed, you can reap the benefits of anywhere returns:

  • Allow customers to return a product the way they choose: At any store or shipped back to a warehouse
  • Empower store associates with the ability to easily look up an order, then process returns from any retail location
  • Gain business intelligence into return trends by capturing the customer’s return disposition (Return reasons can include: Changed my mind, wrong size, didn’t work, wasn’t what the website described, etc.)
  • Take a partial or percentage of a return if the item looks washed, worn or maimed
  • Return only one of the items from an online, multi-item order
  • Identify and flag serial returners in the system for analysis and action
  • Return items back into your inventory as quickly as possible, and know which warehouses or specific stores now carry that product
  • Take advantage of the opportunity for additional sales while the customer is in the store. A customer that returns an item in the store is more likely to exchange that item for another or get store credit rather than a refund.
  • Deliver superior customer service and further endear the consumer to your brand

With return policies affecting purchasing decisions, especially during this season of gift giving, you can’t afford to ignore this final step in the omnichannel journey. Through an order management system that allows you to offer anywhere returns, you can increase online conversions, customer confidence and brand loyalty.

What do you think? When shopping, do you give preferential treatment to brands with good return policies? As a retailer, do you have the capability to offer anywhere returns?