Online shopping has increased at an unprecedented rate. The pandemic sent shoppers online and out of stores, with around 20% making online purchases at least once a week. The online boom in sales is not slowing down anytime soon. Unfortunately, this boom coupled with the growing labor shortage can significantly affect how companies manage returns and ensure customer satisfaction.

The pinch and the expected backlog are being felt throughout the country. According to a U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Survey, between October 11 and 17, 45% of businesses reported they struggled with domestic supplier delays. Even worse, the holidays are right around the corner, which means higher sales volume and a significant increase in holiday returns.

Retailers, 3PLs, manufacturers, and anyone with a large facility need to answer the labor shortage now, and it begins with the right technology solutions. It’s imperative e-retailers invest in a robust returns management system (RMS) to take back control of managing their e-commerce returns and increase brand loyalty and profit margins.

RMS Solutions to the Rescue
Integrating an RMS solution that streamlines the returns process allows retailers to relieve headaches that often accompany the return process. A solution to the labor shortage cannot take months to implement. With the right solution in place, an RMS can be up and running smoothly in six weeks or less. And with its ease of operation and reduction in tedious manual work, employees are eager to adopt an effective RMS, which increases efficiency, creates a more positive work culture, and a more fulfilling customer experience.

By fully integrating with other supply chain solutions, a single, purpose-built platform gives departments across the supply chain a way to streamline their workflows, manage complexities, and provide more visibility across warehouses and shipping locations. For example, manufacturers receive the help needed to effectively process returns and return-to-vendor items, perform repairs and refurbishments, and complete put-aways. These capabilities are a strategic way for supply chain leaders to manage their tasks and teams amid turbulent supply chain disruptions.

Companies can increase net profits by implementing an automated, cloud-based RMS platform to enhance current processes with advanced, AI-enabled technology. Additionally, the solution provides e-retailers with retail-specific workflows, fast implementation, and hardware agnostic software to future-proof the company’s investment. This is achieved by the RMS platform breaking the logistics of returns down into three focal points – initiation, processing, and tracking/recovery -- to streamline the returns process across the supply chain.

Return Initiation and End-to-End Visibility

Customers today demand the process of returning an item should be as simple as when they purchased it. Therefore e-retailers must have a strategy to make the “post-purchase” experience as seamless as possible. A critical aspect of creating a seamless process is keeping customers informed on the status of their return requests. By providing informative updates on the status of their return, companies eliminate the need for customers to call customer service for updates and demonstrate proactive, efficient customer service.

For retailers, once the product return has been initiated and arrives at the warehouse, the RMS platform assists with repackaging and restocking, recycling, scrapping, returning to the vendor, liquidating, or disposing of the product – ultimately orchestrating and managing employees across departments, from start to finish.

Returns Processing and Tracking & Recovery
Companies can streamline how returns are completed by leveraging data to determine the most appropriate shipping protocols and restocking plans based on cost, location, and facility fulfillment needs. Because of increased labor restraints, supply chain disruptions, and the number of returns rising, an RMS platform can demonstrably simplify and expedite the process. By automatically determining which warehouse to send the returned product to before final disposition, an RMS solution eliminates the complexity of placing a returned product back in inventory and automatically deploys recovery efforts to reduce inventory waste and profit loss.

By offering a holistic returns processing strategy, retailers can improve profit margins, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction. Supply chain leaders enjoy advanced visibility for better efficiency and configuration for faster workflows by automating and optimizing reverse logistics processes. It also provides the necessary tools for quality after-sales care while significantly reducing operating costs. The current supply chain disturbance and the labor shortage are disproportionately affecting retailers. Still, the best way out of this problem is to utilize advanced technology specifically designed to help during easy or trying times. Retailers can provide a positive experience by offering an accessible and convenient returns process that effectively manages the supply chain's many facets.

Gaurav Saran is CEO of ReverseLogix, the only provider of end-to-end, centralized, and fully integrated returns management systems built for retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, and 3PL organizations. Prior to founding ReverseLogix, Saran led enterprise sales for Fortune 500 companies at Microsoft. He has held leadership positions at numerous start-up organizations, successfully transforming them from early stages to established growth companies.