Product Return Rates - the Biggest Retail Challenge is Virtually Free to Fix

The Christmas season often feels like a race to the finish for retailers. However, for most in the industry, the first week of January marks a whole new challenge. According to Optoro, each year consumers return about $380 billion worth of goods − $90 billion of which are processed during the holiday season. In a recent CNN Money article, Jonathan Byrnes, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics, says that retailers have accepted “free returns” as a price of doing business. Yet he urges that retailers can take steps to avoid product returns.

According to Byrnes, many returns are caused by incorrect or inconsistent product details. Therefore, ensuring product information is accurate actually cuts down on the frequency of returns.

“It’s the number one problem for retailers,” Byrnes notes. “And it’s virtually free to fix.”

Let’s take a look at how a product information management (PIM) system gives retailers the tools they need to improve the accuracy of their product information, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately curb return rates.

A New Approach to Cutting Your Product Return Queue

According to Optoro’s studies, the growth of omnichannel and ecommerce has accelerated a rise in returns overall. While brick-and-mortar stores see 5-10 percent return rates, ecommerce businesses experience return rates between 18-35 percent.

On top of the obvious expense, returns create a logistical headache for retailers and suppliers. Retailers often take on the cost of return shipping, and then reselling and restocking the item at lower prices. The labor costs and wasted resources involved can be staggering.

Because the ease of returns ranks high on consumer concerns, retailers have put significant effort into making the returns process more convenient for shoppers. Yet, is there a better way to tackle this issue? As Byrnes notes, perhaps the more important goal is to prevent consumers from needing to return items in the first place. That’s where a product information management system can be a game-changer. Once this tool is in place, it can make a significant impact in overall customer satisfaction.

How Product Information Management Helps Curb Returns

Using a PIM system, companies can curb returns by providing accurate, up-to-date, seamless product content such as:

  • Fit predictor tools that help shoppers determine the correct size.
  • Verified, accurate product details and specifications, shared seamlessly across touchpoints.
  • Compelling videos and photos – updated through Digital Asset Management (DAM) – to help consumers fully understand the look and feel of products to make informed decisions.
  • Peer reviews, which can be improved when consumers fully understand what they are purchasing and have higher satisfaction rates.
  • Information and feedback from consumers that provides retailers and brand manufacturers with information that can help improve merchandising plans and product quality.
  • Links to sites like SmartLabel™, where shoppers can learn what their products are made of, how they were produced, country of origin, genetically modified organisms (GMO) inclusion, allergens, and nutritional information.

PIM systems also help retailers quickly and seamlessly integrate with new standards and regulations (like GDSN and Google GTIN mandates).  Updates to product information can be immediately and seamlessly syndicated to ecommerce sites, trading partners, and more. Integrated portals for suppliers and vendors can also directly engage product suppliers in the process of onboarding vital information.

Preparing for the Year Ahead

Along with curbing product return rates, deploying a PIM and master data management (MDM) solution can help retailers power through the constant barrage of industry and marketplace changes. An advanced PIM solution drives sales and margin growth with compelling, differentiated experiences through a single view of content across suppliers, partners, customers and marketplaces.

By utilizing PIM solutions to compete with accurate and consistent content in context, retailers, distributors, and manufacturers can lean into new strategies for combatting challenges like shipping pressures and product return rates during the holidays and year-round.

The 2017 holiday season is coming to a close – which means it’s time to prepare for 2018! For more tips on maximizing your product content, download our ebook, Tis the Season for Product Content: A Playbook to Maximize Your Holiday Sales with PIM.

Let’s Brainstorm at NRF 2018

Ready to brainstorm and learn more? Visit EnterWorks at the 2018 NRF Convention and EXPO!

At NRF 2018, EnterWorks will showcase its multi-domain (product plus customer, brand, location, and digital asset domains) approach. Contact us to set up an appointment in EnterWorks Booth #2231!

In addition, EnterWorks CEO Rick Chavie will present an NRF Big Idea Session. Save the date and time for “The New Shopping Reality: How the Visual Store Uses Augmented Reality @ Scale.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018
1:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Expo Hall, Room 1, Level 1

Kerry Young

Kerry Young

Kerry Young joined EnterWorks in 2006 when Ennovative, Inc., the multi-channel publishing software company he co-founded, was acquired by EnterWorks. He directs EnterWorks’ operations and leads EnterWorks’ professional services and consulting organization, ensuring effective customer implementations and ongoing success. Mr. Young brings more than 25 years of technology and business management experience to EnterWorks, having served as CTO for a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, and earlier as VP, Information Technology for Marshall Industries, a $1.7 billion industrial electronics distributor. He previously managed information systems for a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Mr. Young holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from California State University Fullerton.