Making Waves (Part 5): Supply Chain Disruptors Revolutionizing Holiday Returns

Improve Customer Experience & Retail Profitability
In our previous four blogs, we explored a variety of types of supply chain innovators, from e-commerce to last mile delivery.  In this edition, we take a closer look at supply chain technology companies that are actively disrupting the retail sales space, changing the way that holiday returned goods, excess inventory and reverse logistics processes are handled.  While tough on retailers, returns are a standard operating procedure, essential to the positive perception retailers are trying to cultivate with their brands. According to the National Retail Federation, to ensure a successful Customer Experience, retailers need to make sure that return policies meet shopper expectations, especially those dealing with the critical holiday sales period.

With so many returned goods flooding the market from the retail industry every year, retailers need technology tools to reduce the costly returns process as well as the time to process returned merchandise and get it in front of consumers for potential resale.  Top retailers have taken notice and are starting to adopt new, disruptive technologies in order to utilize tools that can improve the profitability of handling returned merchandise.

From Dyson retailers to eyeglass retailers, no less than the future of retail is at stake as returns cut deeply into profit margins.  It does not take someone with an executive education in supply chain finance or an expert in supply chain consulting to explain that online retail is challenging shopping malls and traditional retailers, slicing profitability and in person visitors.  Finally technology is coming to the rescue.

Inturn, Supply Chain Software that Helps Both Retailers and Consumers

One technology helps reduce the challenges of selling excess inventory resulting from retailer returns.  Using Inturn can make inventory move 80% faster so that the close out margin can be increased 23%.

When brands or traditional retailers work to sell excess or unwanted inventory to off price stores, a list of codes corresponding to each style available for sale is provided.
These code lists are challenging to interpret.  Because of this, off price buyers end up wasting valuable time searching for images of the merchandise.  In lieu of this, buyers sometimes end up placing bulk orders for unknown inventory items.

Inturn is software makes it possible for brands and retailers to make the process of buying and selling inventory easier, faster and more profitable.  Using Inturn’s automated workflow tools streamlines the transaction process.  Retailers can create a database of inventory with images that can be sorted, organized and classified.  This makes the inventory easy to search.  This helps to expedite goods to stores faster so that consumers have access to in-season merchandise. It also facilitates purchase by off price retailers like T.J. Maxx and others so that merchandise can be bought on a collection basis, often more attractive to consumers.

Merchandise can be classified and allocated across a variety of channels.  For increased visibility, retailers can use product tags. Using the Inturn system, retailers can build product offers.  The system allows users to create customized pricing rules as well as restrictions as to when, where and how your inventory can be sold.
The Inturn system also facilitates communication between retailers and potential buyers.  This makes it easier to come to an agreement more quickly on pricing and other terms so that goods can be in stores and sold to consumers much faster.

In order to sell excess inventory, first you have to be found by potential buyers.  Inturn includes the ability to create company and user profile pages, similar to that on other social media platform and includes search and networking features.

In addition, Inturn includes the ability to manage your internal team.  This facilitates the tracking and optimization of inventory

Using Inturn

·         Empowers pro-active inventory management so that goods are not oversold

·         Streamlines order entry processes, reducing time, error and labor

·         Provides real time inventory visibility and critical data needed for improved decision making

·         Cuts down the time spent finding buyers and negotiating agreements

·         Expands the global network of potential buyers with minimal effort

·         Makes it possible to sell more goods to full price buyers at minimal discount rates

Happy Returns, Driving Consumers Back to Retail Stores

 

With the rate of returns now reaching 15-30% for e-commerce retailers, companies are searching for ways to process the huge volume of goods quickly so that they can recoup as much value as possible to offset the costly return. Today brands are retailers are highly focused and in tune with providing an optimal Customer Experience (CX).  Notably, consumers give high ratings to easily executed returns that can be done in person.

Here is where Happy Returns comes in.  Happy Returns is actively building a network of physical brick and mortar locations called “Return Bars” to facilitate in person returns by online shoppers. This helps retailers that do not have physical store locations improve the Customer Experience for those all-important consumers.  Think about it.  Brick and mortar stores have continued to lose foot traffic year after year.

They need a means of enticing shoppers back to their locations.  Once inside, chances increase that a consumer will make a purchase following a return.

Happy Returns connects with your company’s back end system in order to retrieve customer orders so that returns can be processed.  This enables e-commerce retailers to promote the availability of in person returns.  Because Happy Returns amasses returned goods prior to shipping, money can be saved on each returned goods transaction.

Happy Returns provides the software, hardware and training to enable acceptance of returned goods and a positive experience for consumers.

As of December 2017, Happy Returns reported that they are partnered with 20 online retailers and have 50 “Return Bars” across the United States.  These locations include concierge desks at shopping malls operated by Simon, Westfield and Macerich.  Additional Return Bar locations include specific Eloquii stores in Chicago, Washington D.C and Ohio as well as a Taplin’s Petals N Wax store in Marina del Rey.

Consumers can return goods purchased from a Happy Returns partnered online retailer at a Return Bar.  Happy Returns provides return bags, shipping labels and an iPad and UPS handles the shipping.  The return is processed on the spot while the consumer is there. The returned goods are then bundled and shipped to the Happy Returns warehouse in Santa Monica.  To cover the cost, the online retailer partners pay a fee per item returned to Happy Returns.  The fee is lower than the cost of that incurred by the online retailer handling the process itself.

Although the Return Bars are not paid a fee, they benefit from an increase in foot traffic and potential sales.  According to one Happy Returns partner, of the 20 of the 50 consumers who frequent one location each week to process returned goods, nearly half make a purchase.  Product return transactions are processed quickly, typically in less than three minutes.

Summary

So often it is the top story on the news.  It seems as if every day we hear or read reports from Wall Street proclaiming the dire fate of brick and mortar retail.

Yes, it is a cold, cruel world out there for retailers but technology is offering new hope.  Whether it is to speed goods to market, facilitate the processing of returned merchandise or bringing consumers back to physical stores to return goods, technology is jump starting the process, breathing new life into retail.

Supply chain technology tools such as Inturn improves inventory management, facilitates real time information visibility and empowers supply chain solutions to solve challenging real world problems facing the retail industry.  Happy Returns makes the business process of processing the in person return of goods purchased online a means of generating new sales.

 

Online retailers, take notice.  Traditional retailers, seize the day!

The Friday Report May 25, 2018

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