Multichannel distribution is about flexibility. It’s about engaging the multichannel consumer through every means he or she tries to shop: online, in person, or on a mobile device. It means making sure that they’re happy with every experience. The customer is flexible, so distribution centers and retailers have to be as well. These are a few trends we’re noticing in the world of Multichannel Distribution.
They sneak up on us every year, don’t they? The holidays are back again: the time of year where we get together with our families, eat huge meals, exchange gifts, and reflect on some of the great times we’ve had over the past year. Of course, in distribution, the holidays also mean that warehouses get heavily stocked to prepare for the holiday shopping seasons, and beef up numbers in the warehouse to make sure all of the items are going out exactly where they need to go. And while it’s great to reflect back on the previous year during the holidays, it’s also a time to look forward, and for many retailers, prepare for returns.
Earn your customer’s loyalty through e-commerce. Each transaction is a chance for you to show your commitment to customer service so that they feel like they have a personal relationship with your company, even when there is no face-to-face interaction. Minimizing shipping errors may be the single most important way to achieve this loyalty, because many customers are doubtful that an entirely electronic transaction will be hassle-free. But if you can make this happen smoothly, they’ll be more likely to order through you again. Shipping errors will happen due to a high volume of orders, and it’s impossible to guarantee that every order out of hundreds of thousands will be perfect. But here’s why and how you should reduce them.
Returns are costly, in more ways than one. Reverse logistics are time consuming and can get complicated. They require full-time employees who are able to focus on processing. The longer they take to process, the more likely it is that the customer who is waiting for a replacement or a refund gets upset and decides to never shop with that retailer again.
Simply getting items in a box and out the door, or in the case of returns, out of the box and back on the shelves are the two most basic functions in e-commerce fulfillment. But even those two most basic of ideas can be quite complex. Let’s dive into these core processes and examine where the costs add up.
E-commerce fulfillment isn’t all just filling orders, though piecing together an order can be complex all on its own. There’s the stocking, the picking, the sorting, the packing, and the shipping, and that all has to be done quickly and efficiently to make sure the right people receive the right products. When there are thousands of orders coming in, that’s a lot to keep straight. But there’s more. There’s the whole operation working in reverse. Not every order that gets fulfilled stays that way. Some people change their minds about what they ordered by the time they get it. Others might actually receive the wrong item if something went awry in the fulfillment process. So they return the product. C’est la vie, right? Well, hang on a second.
Businesses are proud of a lot of things, but the quality of the things they produce might be their greatest source of that pride. Because a customer purchases a product they believe is high quality, those businesses want to make sure that customer get what they ask for. When a product is well made, customers realize that and recommend it, and often the company, to their friends, and so on. Even with a focus on quality, though, things can slip through the cracks and damage a brand. Depending on your warehousing partner, some items that come in already damaged or not packaged correctly can still be shipped out in orders. There are many reasons why quality control at the warehousing level is important.
Returns aren’t fun for anyone. They aren’t fun for the customer, who was initially excited about whatever product he or she purchased and quickly learned it wasn’t for them. They aren’t fun for the retailer, who has to reintroduce the item into inventory, inspect it to make sure it’s in good condition, repackage it, and issue a refund. Then they have to sell it again. On both sides, it wastes time, money, and energy that could all be better spent on other projects. Fortunately, there are ways to limit the number of returns you get in the first place.
It is important to work with a reverse logistics partner who understands every aspect of returns processing, from the return authorization process all of the way through to maximizing the downstream value of returned merchandise. If your resaleable product is not being returned to stock in a timely manner, you risk losing sales and duplicating stock. This can add up to a lot of money spent unnecessarily.
The document found below provides in depth view of the benefits of a well managed revers logistics program.
The Reverse Logistics Association: "Leveraging all 5 R's of Effective Returns Management" by Kate Vitasek, Karl Manrodt and Peter Murphy