Today’s online shoppers expect returns to be just as easy as ordering. At least 30% of all products purchased online are returned — compared to 9% in brick-and-mortar stores — and 41% of shoppers say they buy variations of a product with the intent of returning, according to data from website consultant Invesp and package tracking company Narvar Inc., respectively.
However, this consumer approach can end up costing businesses a lot of money, time and resources. This is especially challenging for manufacturers and retailers that sell electronics, as they must be prepared to handle reverse logistics for high-risk, heavily regulated lithium-ion batteries.
Return shipments must comply with the same hazmat rules as shipping items to customers. Since it’s the shipper’s responsibility to comply with hazmat transportation regulations, customers must be equipped to adhere to these rules whether they’re aware of them or not. This is where effective returns management processes become paramount.
Improving Returns Management
The efficacy of your returns management process directly impacts customer satisfaction and your ability to maintain regulatory compliance. Consumers don't want to figure out safe transporting procedures — they simply want to put an item in a package, ship it and get on with their day.
To expedite returns of lithium batteries and related devices, retailers and other supply-chain entities should consider investing in next-generation shipping boxes that arrive pre-assembled and pre-labeled with simple closure instructions. Some packaging options are comprised of materials engineered specifically to provide a thermal barrier when transporting lithium batteries, making returns safer and easier. This not only improves the customer experience, but can provide competitive differentiation, risk mitigation and better brand equity and reputation.
A Strategic Approach
Developing a comprehensive returns management process begins with a clear understanding of how reverse logistics impact your supply chain and overall business. A strategic, holistic approach to returns management should:
A growing number of lithium batteries will continue to enter reverse logistics supply chains. Now is the time for companies to formalize and streamline returns management operations, integrating safety protocols and customer and employee education into the process. This will further position them to ensure safety of all stakeholders and improve the customer experience.
Brian Beetz is director of regulatory affairs and corporate responsibility at Labelmaster.
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