An Innovative Approach To The Future Of Returns

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It’s a common experience for online shoppers: an item arrives in the mail, either doesn’t fit or is no longer needed and now must be returned.

But the process of making the return is cumbersome and requires printing shipping labels, packaging the item, making a trip to the post office and then waiting up to a few weeks to get the refund.

With all the advancements in customer experience and online shopping, the return process for many companies has stayed the same—inconvenient and outdated.

But an innovative approach to returns improves both the customer experience and sustainability.

David Sobie is co-founder and CEO of Happy Returns, a company that partners with DTC and e-commerce brands to provide streamlined return practices. When a customer needs to return an item from a Happy Returns partner, they start the return online and get a QR code and directions to one of 2,600 drop-off locations around the country. Customers bring their items to the Happy Returns return bar, drop them off without worrying about packaging and get a receipt and an instant refund. That part of the process greatly improves the customer experience.

But Happy Returns’ real work is just beginning. The drop-off centers collect items from dozens of brands and then ship them together in reusable totes to a Happy Returns regional processing hub. There, the items are sorted by store and then bulk shipped back to each merchant to re-sell or use how they want.

The entire process is a win for everyone involved. Customers get a much smoother and faster return experience, e-commerce brands save on return shipping by sending items back in bulk and the reusable totes save the environment from an influx of cardboard and packaging materials.

Sobie had the idea for Happy Returns years ago, but it wasn’t until the partnership of Kohl’s accepting Amazon returns that people came around to the idea and saw what was possible. The idea has taken off recently due to the huge increase in online shopping (and returns) during the pandemic.

This modern approach to the return process shows the importance of prioritizing customers in all aspects of the customer experience, from start to finish. Sobie says that to be successful, companies must have physical and digital systems working together for cohesive software and logistics.

This innovative approach to returns should spread to other companies and showcase the creative ways brands can improve their customer experience and reduce friction.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

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