Australia, Companies, Delivery, Features, Freight, Logistics, Supply Chain, Warehouses

Navigating the maze of returns: beyond the basics of processing

Shiperoo co-founders, Nishan Wijemanne and Rizan Mawzoon.

MHD takes a seat with Nishan Wijemanne and Rizan Mawzoon, Shiperoo’s co-founders, for an in-depth conversation. As the retail industry gears up for peak season, we delve into their insights and anticipations, aiming to shed light on what lies ahead for both consumers and businesses.

The retail landscape is experiencing a paradigm shift, primarily driven by the e-commerce boom and evolving consumer expectations. This shift has brought to the forefront the intricate and often underestimated realm of returns management. 

Shiperoo, an innovator in this space, is steering a revolution in returns and fulfilment processes with state-of-the-art automation technology, pioneering software and a customer-centric approach.

MHD: How do you perceive the escalating challenge of retail returns during this upcoming peak season?

Nish: With the surge in e-commerce, we’re seeing not only a higher volume of returns but also increased complexity in managing them. Recent forecasts by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) project Australians to spend an astounding $66.8 billion in the upcoming peak season. 

Consumers are becoming more budget-conscious due to factors like rising inflation and interest rates. 

This, combined with their tendency to leverage early sales, suggests we might see a higher rate of returns post-peak season, especially after February 2024. 

This trend imposes a substantial financial burden on online retailers, who must navigate the cost of returns while ensuring customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

MHD: Can you give us an in-depth understanding of the complexity of returns in the e-commerce sector and how they impact the overall customer experience?

Riz: Returns, often regarded as a major challenge in e-commerce, are much more than a logistical hurdle. They present a unique opportunity to enhance the customer experience. Every return is not merely a lost sale but a window into consumer behaviour and preferences. 

The traditional approach of ‘process and forget,’ as employed by many third-party logistics (3PL) providers, is no longer sufficient in the rapidly evolving retail landscape. A comprehensive approach to managing returns is essential for ensuring customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

During our initial discussions with various retailers in Australia, Europe, and the US, we noticed that their returns strategies were often vaguely defined from a supply chain management perspective. 

Historically, returns management hasn’t been seen as an opportunity, which is a mindset we’re eager to change. By re-evaluating and optimising the returns process, retailers can gain valuable insights and improve their overall service.

MHD: How is Shiperoo’s software a game-changer in end-to-end returns management service?

Riz: Shiperoo’s proprietary software stands at the forefront of our innovative strategy, offering a game-changing approach to returns management. It’s designed to provide retailers with comprehensive visibility and advanced planning capabilities, leveraging the power of AI. 

This software goes beyond mere logistical management; it’s a strategic asset that revolutionises the entire fulfilment journey.

By automating crucial tasks such as picking, packing, and processing returns — encompassing receipt, order validation, and quality assessment — the software doesn’t just execute operations; it also delivers valuable insights to retailers. 

This includes actionable data on returned items, which is vital for both recovering lost revenue and enhancing future planning.

Moreover, Shiperoo’s software significantly reduces errors while boosting speed and precision in handling returns. 

It facilitates rapid categorisation and quality assessment of returned items, enabling efficient decisions regarding restocking, refurbishing, or recycling. This not only improves inventory management but also minimises the risk of stock imbalances, ultimately contributing to a more streamlined and effective returns process.

While technology is a cornerstone of Shiperoo’s approach, the human element remains pivotal. Each return is treated as a unique case, with decisions made on whether a product should be restocked, refurbished, or recycled. This approach ensures maximum value recovery from returned items, turning a potential loss into a strategic advantage.

MHD: How does Shiperoo plan to maximise efficiency in returns management during peak retail periods?

Riz: The efficiency of returns management is crucial, especially during peak retail periods such as Christmas and Boxing Day. As we anticipate a significant influx of returns post-February next year, largely due to extended return periods offered by most retailers, preparation for handling high volumes of returns becomes paramount. 

Leveraging our extensive experience in supply chain workflow optimisation and decades of expertise in process optimisation through automated workflows, we have developed a system that seamlessly integrates with robotics for handling returns. 

This system includes software-enabled machine vision technology and is complemented by the skilled tasks performed by our team throughout the journey of returned items.

Shiperoo’s proprietary software stands at the forefront of its innovative strategy.
Shiperoo’s proprietary software stands at the forefront of its innovative strategy.

Our approach to designing and implementing a smooth returns management strategy for these peak seasons is centred on efficiency and speed. Thanks to our software, setting up a bespoke returns workflow is quick and straightforward, typically taking less than a week after an initial discovery meeting. 

This efficiency not only streamlines the returns process for retailers but also builds trust with customers through transparency and reliability, ensuring a positive experience even in the busiest retail periods.

Moreover, communication plays a vital role in managing returns effectively. At Shiperoo, we emphasise the importance of regular updates and detailed reports to foster trust and transparency with our clients. 

Understanding the ‘why’ behind returns is just as crucial as understanding the ‘how.’ By providing retailers with insights into the reasons behind returns, we empower them to make improvements in product quality and customer service policies. This approach not only streamlines the returns process but also contributes to a better overall customer experience and product offering.

A pivotal aspect of our approach is our strategic choice of urban locations for our facilities. This isn’t just a matter of convenience; it’s a strategic decision that boosts logistical efficiency. This is crucial in facilitating the quick processing of returns and the timely dispatch of orders and ensures that retailers can keep up with customer demands but also exceed them, offering a level of service that’s swift.

MHD: In the context of recovering lost revenue, how significant is the role of a strategic returns management approach for retailers?

Nish: The importance of a strategic returns management strategy for retailers, particularly in recovering lost revenue, cannot be overstated. At Shiperoo, our software is engineered to be more than just a hub for managing returns. It’s a strategic instrument, designed to extract and leverage valuable data. This capability allows retailers to identify trends, refine their operations, and even anticipate future returns.

Our technology is particularly capable of enabling retailers to rapidly resell products right at the point of inbound quality check. This turns what used to be a daunting volume of returns into a series of valuable data points, crucial for enhancing efficiency. 

MHD: Sustainability is increasingly becoming a priority in the business world. How does Shiperoo incorporate sustainability into its operations, and what impact do you think this has on shaping consumer expectations for the new generation?

Riz: Sustainability is not just an added feature at Shiperoo; it’s a core pillar of our operations. Our steadfast commitment to minimising waste and actively promoting recycling practices is a testament to our alignment with global environmental responsibilities. By focusing on sustainable practices, particularly in the area of returns management, we are not only fulfilling our duty towards the environment but also shaping a more responsible and environmentally conscious retail industry.

In a retail world brimming with challenges and opportunities, Shiperoo stands out as a leader in transforming returns management. As the industry gears up for high spending forecasts, Shiperoo’s solutions offer a pathway to resilience and growth, ensuring a smooth and efficient handling of returns during the busiest shopping seasons.

For more information on Shiperoo, click here

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