In this episode, we will be discussing omnichannel reverse logistics and what it actually is. 

So, Let’s Talk – Omnichannel Reverse Logistics

In the omnichannel world, keeping track of the various forms of logistics is complicated at best. Omnichannel implies a need for seamless shopping experience across online and physical interactions, and that functionality must transcend all devices, browsers, and other options for shopping. The complexity continues to grow, and as customers grow more accustomed to e-commerce and omnichannel, more organizations are needing to rethink their omnichannel reverse logistics strategies. But, omnichannel reverse supply chain processes tend to be inherently misguided and result in significantly higher returns rates compared to traditional, isolated shopping channels. Let’s take a closer look at this issue and what supply chain executives can do about it.

In the omnichannel world, keeping track of the various forms of logistics is complicated at best. Omnichannel implies a need for seamless shopping experience across online and physical interactions, and that functionality must transcend all devices, browsers, and other options for shopping. The complexity continues to grow, and as customers grow more accustomed to e-commerce and omnichannel, more organizations are needing to rethink their omnichannel reverse logistics strategies. But, omnichannel reverse supply chain processes tend to be inherently misguided and result in significantly higher returns rates compared to traditional, isolated shopping channels. Let’s take a closer look at this issue and what supply chain executives can do about it.

Bringing Omnichannel to the Forefront of E-Commerce

Common Misconceptions of the Omnichannel Reverse Supply Chain

Common misconceptions within omnichannel reverse logistics reflect a misinformed approach to what constitutes a return in today’s world, and customer returns are also an opportunity to improve the customer experience. To fully understand the state of omnichannel reverse logistics, supply chain executives need to understand its top misconceptions:

  • All returns are junk. As reported by Curtis Greve via Inbound Logistics, “This is the biggest, most pervasive returns myth. Returns are not junk. In fact, only about 20% of returns are actually defective, according to many studies.”
  • Brick-and-mortar stores can handle all returns. While dedicating brick-and-mortar stores to managing returns would be ideal, it is not feasible. Some customers will inherently want to send their e-commerce purchase back through shipping channels, avoiding the need to visit a store.
  • Returns are a minor issue. Returns are also a key issue affecting all retailers. Depending on the source in question, some e-commerce returns rates have soared well past 30%, and industry tends allude to a growing demand for e-commerce returns policies in the forthcoming months.
  • Customers are willing to pay for return shipping. Believe it or not, some companies still believe customers will pay a premium for free returns shipping. Wait, what? That simply doesn’t make sense. Why would a customer opt to go with your company if Amazon offers free shipping on returns? The reality is that companies need to offer customers a hassle-free returns policy that is clear and easy to understand. And, charging customers for returns is not the answer.

Omnichannel Reverse Logistics Require Better Demand Management

Take a moment to think about what really goes into reverse logistics management. Supply chain executives need to understand the rate of incoming returns and repairs that form the basis of all reverse logistics needs. Without this level of understanding, how can any organization hope to plan for possible returns? To answer that question, organizations must know the facts, read the data, affecting all shipments.

According to Sender Shamiss of Supply Chain 24/7: “When sellers are able to process returns using the original purchase data, they can create a seamless experience for customers and eliminate reconciliation errors on the back end. What’s more, leveraging the original purchase data automatically reconciles the original purchase price, including discounts or coupons, with the amount to be refunded. Additionally, the integrated nature of omnichannel helps to prevent fraudulent returns, and the native tracking aligns inventory data with real-world availability while also enabling merchandise to move into the reverse logistics supply chain swiftly.”

How to Improve Reverse Logistics in Today’s Omnichannel Supply Chain

Creating proactive omnichannel reverse logistics strategies begins with taking a few simple steps to better manage returns and connect with customers after the sale. These steps include the following:

  1. Unify data across supply chain systems. The first step is the simplest. Supply chain executives need to unify transportation data within a common platform, such as a transportation management system (TMS).
  2. Apply intelligent systems to manage reverse logistics. Intelligent systems that go beyond the traditional capabilities of a TMS, such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, can dramatically improve management of omnichannel reverse logistics by providing insights into what is happening, what may happen, and what should happen to achieve the best possible experience and reduce costs at once.
  3. Provide more accurate descriptions for products sold by e-commerce. Another low hanging fruit on the tree of omnichannel reverse logistics involves the amount of information customers see before making a purchase. When customers understand what to expect, they are less likely to request a return. Obviously, some issues are inevitable, such as a defective product. However, organizations that maintain strict accuracy and integrity standards within all online details and information can successfully force the rate of returns into retreat.

Deploy a Transparent, Accessible, and Strategic TMS to Succeed

The omnichannel supply chain is everywhere. If your organization has not yet taken the steps to bland its channels through unified, comprehensive strategies, your organization is behind the trend. Omnichannel reverse logistics takes the traditional challenges of reverse logistics and amplifies them by adding the need to offer reverse logistics across any channel and without adding an undue burden to customers or supply chain partners. Therefore, more organizations are turning to experts to help guide them through the process, including third-party logistics providers (3PLs), such as Cerasis.

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