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Warehouse Management Blog

Our team of Fulfilment Consultants share warehouse management best practice and advice.

6 tips for handling eCommerce returns

How To

WRITTEN BY Jonathan Bellwood /

01 December 2015

In eCommerce returns are a fact of life. It might be that someone in your warehouse made a mistake with an order, or it could be that the customer didn't want the item. Returns are going to be a part of your operation whether you like them or not, so to save your business time and money, it's a good idea to have a flawless returns process in place.

Tip 1: Give them space

When returns come into the warehouse it can often be tempting to leave them at the receiving point or in an office somewhere until you have time to process them. Well, that time is never going to arrive unless you make it happen. To handle your eCommerce returns well, dedicate a specific area of the warehouse and assign a member of staff to check every order for defects or for repackaging.

Sports and outdoor fashion retailer, Surfdome, manage their returns very well by having a setup similar to their pack bench where an operator can check and repackage each item in minutes.

Tip 2: Automate

Any manual action in your warehouse is going to eat up valuable time so the more processes that can be automated, the better. With warehouse management software dedicated to eCommerce, it should be possible for your operators to scan all necessary barcodes when repackaging an item, eliminating the need for any typing or careful human work, besides maybe folding. Not only does this save time, it also reduces the chance of a mistake being made.

Tip 3: Have a clear product profile on the website

In order to try reducing the number of returns that you receive, ensuring that your online product descriptions accurately depict each item can help to avoid any misunderstandings for the customer when the product is delivered. Use multiple high-quality photographs and succinct yet descriptive copy that includes all important information such as measurements, colour, or necessary product care.

Tip 4: Get product reviews

Another way to help minimise the quantity of returns is to use customer reviews on your product pages. Particularly with women's fashion, sizing can generally vary between manufacturers so what may be listed as a size 12 may come up a little smaller. Customer reviews are often a very good way of having these issues flagged up before the customer makes their purchase.

Tip 5: Streamline your process

Wherever possible, you should be aiming for ultimate efficiency for every process within the warehouse. When it comes to returns, this could be as simple as basic training for your staff as to what constitutes a faulty return and what is suitable for resale. Having a 5-point checklist at your returns station for operators to follow when checking a return can make a real difference. The faster you can handle your returns, the sooner your customer can be refunded or have their exchange shipped out, and that is a surefire way to make them smile.

Tip 6: Get visibility on numbers and reasons

Particularly in a manual warehouse, it can be difficult to keep track of just how many returns have been received and what the reason for the return is. Not being able to track this information means that you can't analyse the data and make meaningful decisions. Having a warehouse management system in place will allow you to have full visibility on every item, as well as logging the reason for every return.

As a result, you may then be able to identify a common trend in your returns, such as the wrong item being shipped, and take steps towards stopping these errors from happening in the future.

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