E-Commerce Returns Management: Why You Should be Automating Your Returns

Returns automation has the power to revolutionise returns management. In this guide, we’ll explore everything that e-commerce retailers should know about how to handle their returns with ease and efficiency, with the help of automation techniques.

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Whether you’re in the thick of the peak retail season or the tail-end, returns are unavoidable and inevitable in the world of e-commerce all year round. As your business grows and sales figures improve, the number of returns you’ll need to process is likely to increase. And while it might be disheartening to see customers returning your products, the way you handle this can have a huge impact on e-commerce profitability.

However, managing returns with the efficiency and speed that your customers will expect today can be a serious challenge to overcome without any additional tools or technology. So when you’re trying to keep up with the demand for seamless and quick returns, what’s the best way to create easier processes and ensure your customers come back?

In this guide, we’ll be explaining the role of a returns management system, how automation can help and the steps to take to achieve seamless automation in returns management.

What is e-commerce returns management?

In e-commerce, a returns management system (RMS) simply manages your e-commerce returns processes.

A basic, but effective management system will follow the reverse logistics of your e-commerce business. For example, when a customer purchases a product, your team will be alerted to the workflow required to ship the product out to the customer. When a customer requests a refund, the logistics should be flipped around to carry out the workflow in reverse.

As part of e-commerce returns management, the first step a customer will take is requesting to return the product online. They will then fill in a short form, download the shipping label, print it, package the product, and take it to a designated drop-off location where it will be shipped to a specified location. Once the package reaches its destination, a decision must be made by the e-tailer regarding moving, inspecting and repackaging it, alongside its potential to be re-stocked as a sellable item.

Why Automating your E-Commerce Returns is Key

Automation can benefit e-commerce returns management and operations in several ways, including increasing customer satisfaction and boosting retention rates. Below are just some of the ways automation can be crucial to this aspect of your online business.

Simplified returns processes

Returns can be a hassle to process manually, leading to errors and miscommunication. Automating the process can simplify things, making it quicker and easier to handle any volume of returns and keeping the process less complicated for customers. Rather than customers experiencing frustration at the hands of long and tedious forms and long waiting times, automation can significantly reduce the time and effort needed from your staff and customers.

Increase customer satisfaction

Automation can play a big part in increasing customer satisfaction when it comes to your returns process. Armed with automated reports and insights on key metrics like return rates, you can understand where the issues are and address them much quicker than before. Customers will see that their experience is improved and are more likely to be satisfied.

Boosted retention and loyalty rates

The faster and easier the process is for the customer, the more likely they are to return to your business and continue purchasing your products or services. Although it might feel like a blow to your profits when a customer requests a return, an automated process that improves the speed and efficiency of returns or exchanges can actually be a positive thing. By allowing customers to process returns with ease, you can actually create a positive interaction between your brand and the customer.

Fewer complaints to handle & room to focus on improvements

Better returns processes can also lead to a reduction in complaints, which allows you to turn your attention to any areas that might need improvement. Working out your return rate and why it’s lower or higher can be much easier with an automated returns management system. This can be something to stay on top of if you can see that a quicker process is lowering the rate.

Save money

With automation, it’s easy to cut out costly mistakes such as missing cases of fraud or errors. This is because you can create a set of criteria that must be met for a return to be accepted, rather than team members being required to manually choose whether customers can return their items. E-commerce businesses can also save money on resources since agents won’t be required to manually process returns, fill in lengthy forms and send out shipping labels.

How to Handle E-Commerce Returns with Automation

Setting up and managing e-commerce returns with automation is more straightforward than you might think. The first thing that’s required is a thorough analysis of how your current returns management operates. This should then be linked to any data you have about common customer pain points regarding the returns process to decide which areas your automation should target.

For example, a business with a high return rate is likely to benefit from automated reporting that tracks the common reasons for returns and frequency. Meanwhile, an e-commerce site that’s struggling to keep track of returns should look at automated tracking options that are available.

By strategically implementing technology and AI to automate your returns in a way that suits your business and customers, you can benefit from the following examples:

  • Generate returns labels: Automatically send out shipping labels without the need to manually input information and send the label to the customer.
  • Track returns: Easily track and monitor the status and location of returned items with real-time tracking, creating better visibility for you and the customer.
  • Issue refunds: By automating the process of calculating and issuing refunds or store credit, you can eliminate the need for crunching the numbers yourself.
  • Verify returned products: Inventory statuses and numbers can be automatically updated when items are returned to the warehouse.
  • Collect returns data: AI can create automatic reports and collect data based on your preferences, allowing your business to gain valuable insights on returns and make data-driven decisions.
  • Customised returns portal: Implementing a self-service platform allows customers to initiate returns requests with improved uniformity.

E-Commerce Automation: Beyond Returns

Automation can be incredibly useful in many other areas, including customer care. By using automation and AI, you can significantly improve the efficiency of your customer care services and make your e-commerce site more attractive compared to the competition. One way to achieve this is by incorporating chatbots on your website which can provide support and offer solutions. This not only saves time for your team but also for your customers, resulting in a better overall experience.

Automation and AI are continuously growing in popularity because of their universal usefulness, but their main pull is that they’re always getting better. The more that artificial intelligence learns, the better it gets. Improving returns and customer care could simply be the tip of the iceberg.

Considering automating key areas of your e-commerce business? Gnatta can help. Sign up for our free 30-day demo to discover how Gnatta can implement automation for businesses of all sizes and scales.

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