The Future of Returns Automation: Trends and Predictions
Rebecca Fox

May 21, 2023

Returns automation is the future of eCommerce, and it’s revolutionizing the way eCommerce returns management works.

Managing returns can be time-consuming and costly, which is why returns automation is the key to improving returns management. Returns automation streamlines the return process, reduces errors and costs, increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, and provides valuable return data insights. 

Here are some of the trends and predictions for the future of returns automation, and how you can leverage them to optimize your returns management.

The State of Returns Management Today

In order to understand where returns management is going, it is important to first understand how it has worked until now.

Many eCommerce businesses still rely on manual methods to manage their returns, using spreadsheets, emails, phone calls, and paper forms to track and process returns.

Manually managing returns is inefficient, error-prone, and costly. It’s easy to have delays, mistakes, miscommunication, and dissatisfaction, as well as it being hard to analyze and optimize your return process.

That’s why more and more eCommerce businesses are turning to returns management systems (RMS) to automate their returns. By automating your return process you can save time and money, improve the customer experience, increase operational efficiency, and gain a competitive edge in the eCommerce market.

“Returns automation is the future of eCommerce. At ReturnGO, we’re dedicated to providing innovative solutions to streamline returns and help businesses stay ahead of the curve.”

– Aviad Raz, CEO of ReturnGO

Trends That Are Changing the Game for Automated Returns

The world of eCommerce is constantly changing and evolving, and returns automation is no exception. 

More and more eCommerce stores are automating their returns to streamline the returns process and enhance the customer experience.

Here are some of the trends that are changing the game for automated returns:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Returns Management

One of the most significant trends that are changing the game for automated returns is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in returns management. 

AI enables computers to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving. 

With businesses becoming increasingly aware of the potential of AI, automation is increasingly being integrated into day-to-day workflows to help achieve greater efficiencies, save costs, and more.

The role of AI in returns automation is growing as it contributes to:

  • Predicting return rates and reasons based on customer behavior, product attributes, seasonality, and other factors.
  • Recommending optimal return policies and strategies based on your business goals and customer preferences.
  • Detecting fraud and abuse in returns by analyzing patterns and anomalies.
  • Optimizing return logistics by finding the best routes, carriers, and warehouses for each return.
  • Enhancing customer service by providing chatbots, voice assistants, and self-service portals for return inquiries.

As AI technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more accurate and efficient returns management, leading to a better customer experience and streamlined returns process.

Seamless Integrations

Integrations are the glue that brings everything together in returns management. By integrating different services and platforms, you can automate the entire workflow, including shipping, inventory management, customer service, and processing returned items. With everything in sync, different teams can work together smoothly and stay updated.

For example, the shipping provider can generate return labels and track shipments while the warehouse team processes and verifies returned items and the customer service team has access to all the necessary order and return information at their fingertips. Automated integrations bring these teams together, enabling them to communicate effortlessly and ensuring that everyone is on the same page. 

With seamless integrations, data flows smoothly between systems, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing the risk of errors. This means less time spent on tedious tasks and more time to focus on improving processes and delivering an exceptional customer experience.

The trend of integrating various systems together is gaining momentum as businesses recognize the immense value of interconnected systems in streamlining the returns process. 

Personalization and Customization

Personalization and customization are growing trends in eCommerce, with customers expecting a personalized experience based on their preferences, needs, and past behavior, and 80% of customers being more likely to make a purchase when provided with a personalized experience.

In the returns process, this means that customers expect more than just a generic return policy and instead want a return experience that suits their individual needs. Returns automation can help you personalize and customize the returns process.

Returns automation makes it easier to personalize the returns experience by:

  • Segmenting customers based on their demographic, behavior, purchase history, loyalty level, etc.
  • Offering different return resolutions such as refunds, exchanges, store credit, etc.
  • Creating dynamic return windows based on customer segments, product categories, seasons, etc.
  • Providing a variety of return methods such as return to a drop-off location, ship with a pre-paid label, etc.
  • Sending personalized messages to keep your customers updated on the status of their return.

Today, it is rare to find an online store that doesn’t offer some level of personalization in the shopping experience. And still, the potential of personalized eCommerce has not been fully explored. 

As returns technology and data analysis continue to advance, eCommerce stores will have even greater opportunities to tailor the returns process to each individual customer, thereby increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Self-Service Returns

Self-service returns are a growing trend in the eCommerce industry that is transforming the way customers return products. 

It used to be that customers had to contact customer service or go to a physical store to request a return. Now, customers can initiate the return process themselves through a self-service return portal, without needing to jump through so many hoops.

This provides a faster and more convenient experience for customers, while also freeing up customer service resources for other tasks. Return portals provide customers with the flexibility to initiate a return at their convenience and from any location.

Customers increasingly expect a self-service experience, with 81% of customers wanting more self-service options.

A self-service returns process is a win-win for both customers and the store, providing a better return experience and reducing costs. 

Return portals are already becoming the standard in returns, and soon it will be hard to find an eCommerce store without an online return portal.

Bold Predictions for the Future of Automated Returns

As the eCommerce industry continues to grow and evolve, the shift towards returns automation is likely to continue, with automated returns management becoming the norm.

Here are some bold predictions for the future of automated returns:

Increased Adoption of Automation Technology in eCommerce

As eCommerce continues to grow and evolve, so will the demand for returns automation technology. 

More and more eCommerce stores will adopt returns management systems and other returns automation tools to streamline their return processes and gain a competitive advantage. 

Growing competition in the eCommerce industry will require businesses to differentiate themselves by offering better return experiences, and returns automation will help them achieve this.

The efficiency, accuracy, and scalability of returns automation technologies are becoming more widely recognized and sought after.

80% of companies are already using or planning on implementing automation software and tools, a trend that will become almost universal in the eCommerce industry over the next few years.

It’s clear that we’re heading towards a future where returns automation is the norm, rather than the exception.

Expansion of Automated Returns to International Markets

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and nothing illustrates this better than the growth of international eCommerce

As eCommerce continues to expand globally, returns management will also need to adapt to the complexities of managing cross-border returns. Returns automation can play a significant role in making this possible. 

By automating the returns process, you can more easily manage the flow of returns across various countries and regions, including customs clearance, local regulations, and language barriers.

Returns automation provides a centralized system that facilitates tracking and managing returns from anywhere in the world. This can include automatically calculating customs and fees, multilingual support for return portals and customer notifications, and localized return options for customers in different countries and regions.

By automating the returns process, you can also track data and analytics on the performance of returns in different markets, which can help you optimize your return policies and strategies for each region. 

With the continued expansion of eCommerce, returns automation will play a crucial role in enabling businesses to manage returns across different countries and regions effectively.

Greater Focus on Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Return Processes

Product returns have a significant environmental impact, generating waste, emissions, and carbon footprint that contribute to global warming and climate change. 

As customers become more aware of the impact their purchases have on the environment, there is a growing demand for eCommerce stores to provide sustainable return processes.  

78% of customers say their purchase decisions are influenced by a business’ environmental practices – they want to know that the stores they shop at are committed to working towards a more sustainable future.

This means that returns management will need to be designed with the environment in mind, from the packaging used to send items back to the way they are sorted and disposed of. 

We can expect to see more stores implementing reusable packaging and incentivizing customers to choose eco-friendly return options.

Some sustainable returns practices that are likely to become more prevalent include:

  • Reducing return rates by improving product quality, accuracy, and descriptions.
  • Reusing and recycling returned items instead of discarding them.
  • Using biodegradable or recyclable packaging materials.
  • Supporting social causes or charities by donating returned items.
  • Educating customers about the environmental impact of returns and encouraging them to make responsible choices.

With advances in technology and a growing focus on sustainability, we can look forward to a more eco-friendly future for returns management.

Best Practices for Implementing Returns Automation

Implementing return automation requires careful planning, execution, and evaluation. Here are some best practices for implementing returns automation in your eCommerce business:

Evaluate Your Current Returns Process

Before you start automating your returns management, you need to understand where your current returns process stands and identify pain points and opportunities for improvement. 

Use tools such as process mapping, SWOT analysis, and gap analysis to analyze your current return process and find out:

  • How long does it take to process a return?
  • How much does it cost to process a return?
  • How many errors or mistakes occur in processing a return?
  • How satisfied are your customers with your return process?
  • How effective are your return policies and strategies?

By evaluating your current returns process, you can identify areas for improvement and determine where automation can streamline the process.

Choose the Right Returns Management Software

Once you’ve analyzed your current return process, you need to do some research and choose the right returns management system (RMS) for your business. 

Here are some factors to consider when choosing an RMS:

  • Scalability – Choose an RMS that can scale with your business as it grows. Ensure that it can handle high volumes of returns without compromising performance.
  • Integrations – Look for an RMS that can integrate seamlessly with your existing eCommerce platform and other systems, such as shipping carriers and warehouse management systems (WMS).
  • Customization – Find an RMS that offers customization to fit your specific business needs, such as return policies, workflows, and user interfaces.
  • Customer Experience – Opt for a return management system that provides a convenient experience for your customers, such as multiple return options, automated return shipping labels, and real-time return tracking.

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can choose the right returns management system for your business and successfully implement returns automation.

Chat with our experts to boost your customer return experience and LTV today.

Constantly Track and Analyze Returns Data

For your returns process to be effective, make sure to constantly track and analyze your returns data after you have implemented returns automation.

Measure key metrics, including the return rate, return cost, customer LTV, and repeat purchase rate. By tracking these return metrics, you can identify areas for improvement and adjust your process accordingly.

Your returns management system gives you actionable insights that will help you make informed decisions. By consistently monitoring your returns data you can identify trends and patterns, address issues, and optimize your returns management process for improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Automation is the Future of Returns Management

As the world of eCommerce continues to expand and grow, it’s becoming increasingly clear that returns automation isn’t just a trend – it’s the future.

By automating your returns management, you can improve your efficiency, reduce your costs, increase your customer satisfaction and loyalty, and gain valuable insights into your returns data.
Stay ahead of the curve by automating your returns with ReturnGO and taking your returns management to the next level.

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