As logistics networks strain to accommodate the higher volume of packages being shipped in 2020, fulfillment companies are teaming up to provide superior service. The latest partnership, between customer engagement platform Narvar and UPS, is aiming to make returns more seamless by expanding the returns drop-off network to include more than 4,900 The UPS Store locations.
The returns process has become increasingly efficient, with many retailers investing in their offering and partnering with returns-specific solutions like Narvar, Optoro and Happy Returns. These integrations ensure that shoppers are able to easily initiate, track and complete returns, while simplifying the back-end logistics for the retailer. But some friction points have remained, particularly with the physical dropping-off of packaged product.
Not only do many consumers not have ready access to shipping materials, but the mailing of the package itself can be disorganized. Printed labels can be an inconvenience, particularly to those who previously relied on office facilities; travelling to a post office to manually send a package can be time-consuming.
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In order to make the returns experience as painless as possible, Narvar has collaborated with UPS to facilitate boxless returns, beginning with purchases made from Cole Haan. Initiating the return functions in the usual Narvar way: shoppers are given a QR code to scan at drop-off, which they can do at any UPS location.
“Once a consumer shows a QR code at The UPS Store, the store associate takes the item and packages each unit in a recyclable polybag and ships the item back to the retailer’s warehouse,” said a spokesperson for UPS. “This method minimizes packaging waste and sends the item back as fast as possible, so that the consumer can get their refund and the merchant can disposition the return back into stock.”
This system is efficient both in terms of speed and sustainability, which is a growing concern for today’s e-commerce merchants. The carbon footprint associated with shipping product to and from consumers, in addition to the packaging required to do so, can counteract the positive environmental policies that many retailers have implemented.
By utilizing the boxless method and replacing traditional cardboard packaging with recyclable polybags, the process is immediately made more sustainable. Narvar also provides dynamic dispositioning insights to its carrier partners, to ensure that each shipment is sent to the appropriate warehouse by as efficient a route as possible.
“Based on a number of variables including geography, product type, return reasons, and more, we can set up automated routing of returns directly to the most appropriate place,” said a spokesperson for Narvar. “As an example, one big box housewares retailer estimates that Narvar has saved them millions of dollars per quarter in shipping fees, by dynamically routing returns to the closest distribution center for processing.”
Footwear and e-commerce are both individually more susceptible to returns than many comparable markets. The variations in shoe sizing can make it difficult for a shopper to know which size to purchase, leading many customers to buy multiple sizes of the same style – with the intention of returning at least one. E-commerce suffers from a related problem: the inability to try items on in-person, thus creating more room for error.
For shoe companies selling online, this creates a perfect storm. But the returns experience doesn’t need to be a pain point; instead, it can provide an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their customer service. While a negative returns experience may permanently turn off a shopper from a company, a positive experience can in fact foster greater loyalty and prompt a return visit in the future.
“Although this has been a challenging year for retail, e-commerce has been supercharged,” said David Maddocks, brand president of Cole Haan. “It’s critical that we prioritize customer experience, including times when a customer wishes to make a return, which have long been a pain point for both retailers and consumers. It’s clear that this part of the journey can drive customer loyalty, and we’re happy to have been able to get this convenient option up and running quickly with Narvar and UPS.”