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How to Offer Customers the Best Returns Experience

Posted by Amanda McLaughlin on Dec 2, 2021

We conducted a survey recently that tells us a little something about consumers; 51% expect to returns or exchanges to be possible in-store without a receipt. Interestingly, just over 25% were ambivalent, which suggests retailers make returns online pretty easy. The takeaway? Customers expect easy, convenient returns processes across every channel.

Clearly, there’s still work to do. However, handling returns efficiently across channels can be complicated and unnecessarily expensive. Customers often defect for delivery fees; they almost certainly will for return shipping costs. 

But retailers don’t need to keep absorbing the fees. In-store returns offer powerful ways to not only reduce costs but also present opportunities for growth and greater customer satisfaction.

How do brands provide a smooth and convenient returns process in-store? It starts with connecting all of your data.

Potential Challenges with Returns

‘Do returns better’ is a simple concept, but inevitably harder to execute. Much of the issue sprouts from legacy systems that aren’t flexible enough to keep up with complex modern consumer journeys. 

Without systems that talk to each other and share data, you wind up tangled in knots of disconnected information and siloed systems. 

There are many challenges you’ll face from cross-channel returns. Here are the highlights: 

The theme here is connection. We’re in the age of unified commerce. Every touchpoint in an order lifecycle affects your bottom line, so connecting all of your data and having visibility over all of it, is crucial. 

Without that visibility, brands will have a tough time implementing services like BOPIS and BORIS that leverage stores. 

Connecting Systems, Data, and Customers

Effective returns demand brands can see the entire order lifecycle, whether they start online or offline. That’s where retail tech like powerful and flexible omnichannel order management systems (OMS) come into play. 

Visibility over the entire lifecycle of an order is key. Regardless of where it is captured, omnichannel OMSs store all order data across enterprises. This intricate level of detail lets retailers track every step an order takes, which is what makes services like BOPIS and BORIS possible.

This creates a lovely perpetual feedback loop. BOPIS and BORIS fulfillment options encourage customers to visit your stores and immerse themselves in your brand. Your associates can then upsell and cross-sell by leveraging customer preferences. Then all of that additional purchase data will flow back into the OMS to be used again. 

Leveraging Stores to Improve Returns

In today’s retail environment, consistent and unified shopping experiences are a must. With an OMS as a single source of truth, stores, and store associates, become the ultimate weapon for improved returns management. 

In-store returns give customers autonomy 

Fundamentally, customers want to initiate the returns process themselves. And recent research shows us that they want in-store returns. For example, according to our survey, 43% of consumers expect associates to be able to accept items, without a receipt, bought from any other store.

In a legacy environment, this would prove incredibly tricky. However, it’s pretty straightforward with an integrated OMS. Associates can swiftly verify who bought the item, where they bought it, and how they bought it. All from their point of sale. 

With the single source of truth from an OMS, customers can drop into their local store then get back to whatever they would rather be doing. 

In-store returns speed up post-purchase events 

Handling appeasements, refunds, and credits in-store is much simpler. For example, as the holidays approach, in-store staff can simply scan an item and offer a refund or exchange it for the customer in a matter of seconds. Leaving them ready to start a fresh sales cycle in that same store visit. Customers don’t have to wait multiple days for a return authorization or for their refund to be processed. It all happens right there, in person.

By encouraging customers to return items in-store, it means products in good condition can be dropped back into the stock pool to be re-sold quickly. Associates can then swiftly access real-time information about the returned inventory across the entire organization, organize it, then ship it off to customers through store fulfillment like ship-from-store. 

Best of all, driving returns in-store can even unlock additional revenue, because 75% of consumers using services like BOPIS and BORIS end up buying more items. And that’s perhaps the biggest benefit of in-store returns; the opportunity for store associates to turn lost online purchases into revenue.

Treating Returns with Same Reverence a Transactions

The idea is for brands to approach returns with the same friction-free emphasis that they do transactions; end-to-end omnichannel systems with connected POS and OMS which equate to a simple ‘buy, fulfill, return’ flow.

Not sure how to get started? We’ve helped retailers like UNTUCKit ditch their old-school retail tech to enable easy returns and even better customer service – all from an iPhone app. 

We can help you do the same. Get in touch. 

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