A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Omnichannel Returns
Rebecca Fox

May 19, 2024

Omnichannel returns are about making it easy for your customers to return items however they want, regardless of where they bought them.

Let’s explore the challenges and benefits of managing omnichannel returns, and take a look at some practical strategies to streamline your omnichannel returns process.

What Are Omnichannel Returns?

Many brands today sell products through a variety of channels like eCommerce stores, marketplaces, and in-person retail stores. Inevitably, returns flow in through all these different sales channels too, which can become difficult to manage.

While you may have heard the term “omnichannel” thrown around a lot, what does it really mean when it comes to returns? Omnichannel returns refer to the process of enabling customers to return items purchased through any sales channel, and to return them through any channel. You want to essentially say, “Hey, you bought it however you wanted; now return it however you want.”

81% of customers say that they want more self-service options, so giving customers the flexibility to return items however is best for them makes sense. For example, some customers might prefer to ship their items back, while others would rather walk into a physical store location and return their items in person.

ReturnGO’s comprehensive post-purchase solution takes care of the entire returns flow for all sources of returns. Whether online or in-store, you can receive the same level of data, insights, and visibility, empowering you to make actionable, data-driven decisions across your entire business.

ReturnGO data shows that 88% of retailers already offer multiple methods for returns, so it’s a good idea to keep up with the industry standard by offering omnichannel returns too.

Types of Omnichannel Returns

Give your customers a choice of return methods, from ship-it-yourself options to QR code returns to drop-off locations, to ensure a seamless omnichannel returns experience.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular channels businesses offer for returns.

1. Buy Online, Return In-Store (BORIS)

Buy Online, Return In-Store (BORIS) returns simplify the returns process by enabling your customers to return items they purchased online to a physical store location.

In BORIS returns, the customer simply submits an online return request and selects the return to drop-off location return method. Then, they bring the items to a physical store location, where a staff member can process the return. 

ReturnGO supports BORIS returns, enabling you to let customers return their items in-store, saving them the cost and hassle of shipping back the returned items and waiting for them to be validated and processed. This also reduces the environmental impact of return shipping.

2. Printerless Returns with QR Codes

The future of return shipping lies in printerless returns, and ReturnGO is at the forefront of enabling businesses to adopt this cutting-edge approach. 

This innovative solution transforms the returns process by eliminating the need for customers to print out return shipping labels. Instead, customers receive a convenient QR code that they can easily access on their mobile phones, offering a contactless and paperless alternative to traditional returns.

Customers drop off their returns at designated locations, further enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of the entire process.

By offering printerless returns through ReturnGO, you contribute to a more sustainable and customer-friendly returns experience. This forward-thinking approach can position you as an innovator in the eCommerce landscape, appealing to eco-conscious and convenience-driven customers.

3. Drop-off Locations

Integrating with designated drop-off networks, like those provided by partnerships with services like Happy Returns, adds a layer of convenience to the returns process. Rather than navigating the complexities of return shipping, customers can use designated drop-off locations for quick and hassle-free returns.

Many customers don’t have a printer with which to print pre-paid return labels or don’t want the hassle of repackaging and shipping out returned items. 

With drop-off returns, instead of dealing with printing out a label, packaging the item, and going to the post office, customers can simply drop off the returned items at a drop-off location, where the items are then processed, validated, and consolidated into bulk shipments to your warehouse.

ReturnGO streamlines this process and enables you to enhance the returns experience by offering a convenient, efficient, and stress-free option for customers. 

4. Home Pickup Services

For maximum flexibility, home pickup returns elevate the returns process by dispatching drivers to collect returns directly from customers’ doorsteps based on scheduled pickup times. 

This white-glove service caters to the preferences of customers who prioritize convenience and want a personalized, efficient returns solution.

Whether it’s a large item or a customer who values the convenience of at-home service, home pickup services can offer a premium returns experience that makes things easy for customers.

5. Return Shipping

Lastly, of course, the classic return method of shipping back returned items is always a good option to offer. This gives customers the flexibility to either print out pre-paid return shipping labels or ship with their preferred carrier at their own expense.

For those living in remote areas or far from physical return locations, the option to ship back items is highly practical. This is especially relevant during busy times or times of public health concerns, it can be a convenient alternative to in-store or drop-off returns.

ReturnGO recognizes the importance of return shipping and seamlessly integrates with shipping carriers and aggregators to automatically generate pre-paid return labels and track return shipments.

Challenges of Managing Omnichannel Returns

Now that we’ve covered the basics of omnichannel returns, let’s navigate the challenges that they bring.

1. Complex Logistics 

Omnichannel returns must flow through multiple separate systems and partners to complete the returns journey. 

For example, a customer may return an online purchase to a physical store location, which must then pack and ship the item to a third-party logistics provider for inspection and processing before it is sent back to your central warehouse and inventory system. 

Keeping track of returns as they move across this complex infrastructure of systems and facilities is extremely challenging with disconnected workflows, making it hard to gain a clear view of the entire returns process across all channels.

ReturnGO simplifies this issue by integrating all your tech stack, so that all your systems and tools are synchronized regarding returns. Your shipping carrier, warehouse management system, and helpdesk can all be synced to ReturnGO, so that your different teams and services can stay in sync, ensuring a streamlined workflow and fewer errors.

Gain return analytics and data-driven insights, enabling you to track metrics like return rates, return reasons, and more across all channels and return methods, enabling you to optimize your processes and improve your business.

2. Inconsistent Customer Experiences

Omnichannel returns mean customers can interact with multiple different retail channels, locations, and systems for returning items. 

Policies, instructions, processing, and timelines often vary across channels, leading to an inconsistent, confusing customer experience. Customers expect seamless, unambiguous experiences when returning purchases regardless of channel.

ReturnGO enables you to provide your customers with a branded return portal that they can access from their smartphone, computer, or tablet, and for in-store returns, your team can use ReturnGO to easily process the return.

Send branded return notifications to your customers throughout the returns process, keeping them updated on the status of their return, regardless of how it was initiated.

3. Regulatory Compliance

Returns regulations around return windows, product tracking, recall management, hazardous materials, and more become exponentially more complex with omnichannel returns. It can be a struggle to maintain compliant processes across multiple channels and systems.

Using ReturnGO, you can uphold return windows, keep track of products, and automatically enforce your return policy, saving you the hassle of handling ineligible returns and maintaining a smooth returns experience.

The Importance of Offering Omnichannel Returns

Now that we’ve explored the hurdles, let’s delve into why mastering omnichannel returns is more than just a necessity – it’s a strategic move for your eCommerce business.

1. Increased Sales

Customers are more inclined to commit to a purchase when they know they have the flexibility to return items seamlessly through various channels. This increases immediate sales and also contributes to long-term customer loyalty.

Providing customers with convenient returns builds trust, so they are more likely to go through with the sale.

By offering flexible omnichannel return options, you can eliminate friction in the customer journey and directly influence conversion rates and repeat purchases. 

2. Improved Customer Experience 

A seamless return experience is an important part of the overall customer journey. Omnichannel returns present a unique and valuable opportunity to positively engage with customers. 

Beyond processing returns efficiently, it’s about creating a positive and memorable interaction at a crucial touchpoint in the customer journey.

Given that 88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services, it’s important to make sure you’re providing the best experience possible.

Customers who experience a seamless and customer-centric returns process are more likely to view your business as caring and responsive and are more likely to come back and buy again, turning into loyal customers.

Omnichannel returns are a key component of delivering an exceptional customer experience, enhancing customer satisfaction throughout the entire shopping lifecycle.

3. Reduced Fraud

Implementing connected and centralized returns across channels is a strategic move to combat return fraud and abuse. Omnichannel returns empower you to establish consistent policies and procedures, regardless of how an item was purchased or returned.

The interconnected nature of omnichannel returns enables your business to track returns seamlessly across different touchpoints, making it possible to identify and flag any irregularities in the process.

By maintaining control over the entire return journey, you can reduce return fraud and establish a secure environment, thereby safeguarding your business.

4. Data-Driven Process

Combined data and insights from omnichannel returns give you valuable information to improve how your eCommerce business works. By looking at why and how customers return items across different channels, you can find ways to improve your processes. 

Tracking your returns data can help you see where things might not be working well and fix those issues. Is a surge in “wrong size” returns hinting at inaccurate sizing charts or unclear product descriptions? Are specific items disproportionately returned, suggesting quality control issues? 

By pinpointing these patterns, you can proactively address them, whether by refining product details, improving packaging, or collaborating with suppliers for better quality assurance.

Using the data generated by omnichannel returns enables you to stay responsive to customer needs, adapt quickly to changing market conditions, and ultimately thrive in the competitive eCommerce landscape.

5. Competitive Positioning

In an era where customer experience is everything, offering omnichannel returns has become a defining feature of a forward-thinking and customer-centric brand. ReturnGO data shows that 88% of retailers provide multiple methods for returning items.

Providing the convenience and flexibility of omnichannel returns positions your brand as a market leader with a deep understanding of customer expectations and needs.

By consistently providing an exceptional customer experience and adopting innovative practices, your store can become a top choice for customers looking to shop efficiently and with confidence.

Best Practices for Managing Omnichannel Returns

Successful omnichannel return management requires a strategic approach. Here are some best practices for managing your returns across multiple channels.

Implement a Returns Management System (RMS)

The key to seamlessly managing omnichannel returns is implementing a Returns Management System (RMS).

RMS software ties everything together, integrating all return channels into a single, cohesive platform, providing complete visibility as returns make their way back from the customer to the warehouse and back into inventory.

Key features include self-service return portals, customizable workflows to automate all the steps of the returns process, and detailed return analytics and reporting. 

Using an RMS improves omnichannel returns management in the following ways:

  • Reduces turnaround times – Speeds up return processing with automated workflows, reducing the amount of time it takes to process returns.
  • Enhances customer experience – Empowers customers with self-service return portals to improve their omnichannel shopping experience.
  • Improves accuracy – Minimizes manual errors by automating most steps of the process, ensuring accuracy in return handling.
  • Saves you money – Optimizes the use of resources across channels, resulting in lower manual labor costs and operational expenses.
  • Improves decision-making – Enables data-driven decision-making through accurate return analytics and reporting.
  • Provides seamless integration – Seamlessly integrates with other systems, creating a connected ecosystem for efficient returns management.
  • Ensures policy consistency – Ensures consistency in returns processing across multiple channels, in accordance with your return policy.
  • Enables adaptability – Adapts to changing omnichannel return requirements and business dynamics, ensuring long-term viability.

ReturnGO stands out by offering a holistic solution that takes returns management to a whole new level, providing an unparalleled level of automation and flexibility. 

With seamless omnichannel return processing, automated return workflows, extensive customization options, and advanced return analytics, ReturnGO turns returns into a strategic advantage, streamlining your operations and improving the customer experience.

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

Offer Multiple Return Options

There’s huge value in giving customers multiple options for returning items, as it enables them to return items in the way that’s most convenient for them. 

Offering flexibility in return options includes accepting in-store returns for online purchases, introducing innovative methods like printerless and QR code returns, and partnering with drop-off locations.

The more diverse the options, the better the customer experience – it’s about empowering customers to return items in a way that suits them.

Giving customers flexibility in returns:

  • Improves the experience – Making it easy for customers to return products helps create a positive post-purchase experience.
  • Shows you care – Addressing customer needs by providing a choice of return methods demonstrates your commitment to your customers.
  • Creates a positive brand image – Supporting multichannel returns can help your brand image, portraying your business as customer-focused, modern, adaptable, and committed to customer satisfaction.
  • Fosters customer loyalty – Having the customer-centric approach of omnichannel returns builds customer relationships, creates trust, and ultimately increases customer loyalty.

ReturnGO empowers you to provide your customers with flexible return options, including printerless returns, drop-off returns, pre-paid return shipping labels, and in-store returns, for a truly customer-centric return process.

Optimize Reverse Logistics

With omnichannel returns coming from multiple purchase channels, reverse logistics become increasingly complex, since returns are coming back through different methods and need to be correctly routed and processed.

Things you can do to optimize reverse logistics for omnichannel include:

  • Automate processes – Set up automated workflows for routing returns based on purchase origin, product details, etc, as well as auto-refunds and auto-exchanges to streamline the process.
  • Integrate inventory systems – Integrate with order management and inventory systems to simplify returns processing.
  • Track analytics – Analyze return data and metrics to identify process improvement opportunities.
  • Implement returns technology – Invest in innovative technology to efficiently manage returns at scale.

ReturnGO takes the complexity out of reverse logistics, simplifying and streamlining it for an omnichannel environment. By connecting points like stores, warehouses, and eCommerce platforms, ReturnGO enables you to seamlessly route items back to the right place and process and document them effectively.

Analyze Return Data

Leveraging data and analytics is critical to effectively manage high-volume omnichannel returns. By tracking detailed return metrics, you gain visibility into patterns, operational performance, and customer behavior insights. 

With these data points, you can identify ways to improve your policies, products, and processes. By continuously analyzing omnichannel return data points and leveraging insights, you can refine the customer experience while driving down operational costs. 

Here are some ways to improve omnichannel returns using analytics:

  • Identify issues – Pinpoint specific products or categories with high return rates.
  • Improve inventory management – Optimize inventory strategies based on return data.
  • Clarify product details – Refine product descriptions to reduce ambiguities and misunderstandings.
  • Mitigate losses – Mitigate losses associated with returns by making data-driven decisions.
  • Optimize the customer experience – Continuously improve the overall customer experience based on return insights.

ReturnGO provides advanced analytics to help you gain visibility into omnichannel return metrics. By tracking detailed returns data, you gain insights into patterns, operational performance, and customer behavior, so that you can improve your products and processes accordingly.

Omnichannel Returns are the Future of Shopping

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, mastering omnichannel returns more than just a strategic move; it’s a necessity for staying ahead in the competitive landscape. As customers increasingly demand flexibility in their purchase and return experiences, providing a seamless and diverse array of return options becomes a must. 

ReturnGO offers a leading returns management solution that connects channels, optimizes workflows, and provides data-driven insights. 

The future of returns is omnichannel, and ReturnGO provides the most effective solution to deliver seamless flexibility at scale. Now’s the time to transform omnichannel returns from a liability into a true competitive advantage – contact us to get started.

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Streamline your return process and ensure a great post-purchase experience for your customers.