Stores are transforming the way that they process returns for online orders, and it's having a major impact on the warehousing and shipping industries. Th new services make returns convenient for shoppers, but they require a great deal of extra work for everyone else. Retailers, logistics providers and warehouses alike are now switching gears to accommodate new expectations. Let's explore the way this system is changing and what that means for the future.
Years ago, the only way to return an item purchased online was to ship it back to the retailer. The buyer would have to print a return label (usually provided for free by the retailer) and then take the item to the shipping company to be sent to the warehouse. Once the item arrived at the warehouse, it would be processed for return so the customer could receive a refund.
This system of returns was time consuming, inconvenient, and a major turnoff for buyers. That's why stores decided to change their methods entirely.
Most retailers that have physical store locations will now allow customers to return items purchased online at a physical store. The returned items are either put on the shelves at those stores or sent to a warehouse/fulfillment center to be processed. Amazon is taking that idea one step further by allowing returns at Kohl's locations in the near future. Walmart is speeding up their returns processing for online orders with a mobile app and an express customer service lane. The list goes on and on.
Now that customers have an easy way to return items they bought in stores, warehousing providers have to organize their facilities to accommodate for the extra influx. The stores take on part of this burden by re-stocking items on the shelves, but they aren't always able to do that. Moreover, there is no way to predict how many online purchases will be returned in stores.
In some ways, this setup works out better for everyone. Stores can send products to their fulfillment centers in batches, rather than having customers send them in individually. This saves on shipping costs and gives the warehousing providers chunks of items to process all at once. The customer has an easier way to get their money back, the store saves on shipping costs, and the warehouse has fewer individual items to handle.
As long as the warehousing industry continues to stay ahead of retail trends, everyone involved has tremendous growth potential.
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