Retailers prepare for months for the all-important holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the holiday season can account for as much as 30 percent of an individual retailer's total sales. The NRF also notes that the holiday returns process accounts for about 24 percent of returns for the entire year.
Online retailing combined with in-store sales has created a mountain of returns, and as a result, retailers are struggling to gain control of the returns management process. UPS has even established a "National Returns Day," which took place last week.
Technology can help increase efficiency in the returns process. Numerous startups have developed solutions to address the returns management process in unique ways. For example, one startup partners with retailers and manufacturers looking to resell returned items as well as excess, unsold merchandise. Software is provided to retailers to manage and redirect their extra inventory and returned products for sale on sites such as eBay, Amazon and others.
For specific industries such as the high-tech and telecommunications industry, there are specialized returns management providers. One such business refurbishes damaged or defective products such as smartphones, laptops and tablets and sells through its online channel and offline franchisee. In 2015, FedEx acquired Genco, known for its reverse logistics handling and the upcoming returns season will reveal the merit of that acquisition.
Another way in which technology can improve the returns process is to understand the data generated from returns. Oftentimes it is difficult to harness this data and, as a result, it could mean a missed opportunity for retailers. A group of startups are focused on this data dilemma and have devised analytical solutions for retailers to understand their return rates, identify fraud, reduce the number of returns and create customer value.