Rethinking Returns: Innovative Strategies for Retailers to Drive Growth in 2024

Long viewed as a necessary evil, the retail returns process is emerging as an unexpected avenue for growth and customer engagement. In the rapidly expanding ecommerce market, projected to reach $3 billion in 2023, a significant 20% to 30% of online purchases end up being returned. This substantial return rate highlights a vital opportunity for retail leaders: by revamping the often-overlooked returns process, retailers can unlock a new avenue for driving customer satisfaction and business growth.

But even amidst these opportunities, the returns process remains fragmented and outdated, with issues that are multifaceted. The practices adopted are often unsustainable, leading to both environmental and financial repercussions.

The Cost of Maintaining the Returns Status Quo

The existing fragmented and outdated returns process carries significant costs for retailers, both in financial terms and in customer satisfaction. Sticking with this outdated approach can lead to higher environmental impacts, unnecessary financial losses and dwindling customer trust.

Think about the everyday shopper: for many, the nearest returns location isn’t just around the corner. It might involve a time-consuming trip across town, navigating traffic and juggling work or family schedules. This inconvenience can turn the simple task of returning a product into a burdensome chore, detracting from the overall shopping experience.


There’s also a cost consideration for retailers: faster and more convenient returns mean products are restocked sooner, and customers who return items are more likely to shop again quickly. This cycle not only improves inventory efficiency but also encourages repeat business, creating a win-win for both the customer and the retailer.

Speed-to-restock is key in the returns cycle. The quicker a return is processed, the sooner the item can be restocked, and the faster the customer is ready to make another purchase. A streamlined returns process not only minimizes the time products are out of circulation, but it reduces the likelihood of items becoming outdated or irrelevant. The current approach to returns often overlooks these crucial aspects, leading to a cycle of inefficiency and missed opportunities.

Retailers must recognize that an efficient returns process is not just a cost-saving measure but also a growth strategy. By shortening the returns cycle, retail leaders can keep their inventory fresh and appealing, encouraging repeat business and customer loyalty. A proactive approach can help transform the returns process from a logistical challenge into a strategic advantage, aligning with the evolving needs of both the business and its customers.

A Proactive Approach: A Returns Experience Focused on Customer Convenience

Imagine a woman who orders a dress online only to find that it doesn’t fit. She faces a return process that’s anything but straightforward. First, she has to figure out the return policy, which can be buried in fine print. Then there’s the hassle of printing a return label, carefully repackaging the dress and taking time out of her busy day to drop it off at a shipping location. Each of these steps adds to her frustration and delays her decision to return the dress — prolonging the entire process.

On the other hand, the retailer waits for the dress to be returned. During this period, the item is out of circulation and can’t generate revenue. Delays in the return process can lead to logistical challenges, affecting stock levels and ultimately sales. Efficiently handling and restocking returned items is critical for retailers to keep their inventory fresh and appealing.

This complexity underscores the need for a smoother, more customer-friendly returns experience. Retailers should see improving this process as a chance to improve customer satisfaction and build loyalty. Making returns as effortless as online purchasing not only benefits the customer but also reflects positively on the retailer’s brand.

Improving the returns experience requires more than just logistical improvements; we need a fundamental rethinking of the entire returns journey, from initiation to processing and resale. This shift, akin to an “Amazon Prime moment” for returns, focuses on aligning the returns process with customer convenience. Simplifying steps for customers, such as eliminating the need for printing labels or packaging, can make a significant difference. Additionally, leveraging technology and data analytics can create a more intuitive and efficient process.

This is where innovative solutions like doorstep returns come into play. By offering customers the option to have their returns picked up directly from their doorstep, the hassle and complexity of the process are significantly reduced. This service aligns with the modern consumer’s desire for convenience and efficiency, transforming returns from a burdensome task into a seamless part of the online shopping experience.

Embracing a New Kind of Returns Strategy

For retailers, the way forward involves a dual approach: prioritizing customer needs while harnessing data to improve operational efficiency.

At the heart of this strategy is the analysis of customer return patterns. Understanding why and how customers make returns is key to tailoring processes that not only meet consumer expectations but also ensure business profitability. From here, retailers can identify trends that lead to repeat purchases and higher satisfaction, powering return processes that are both efficient and aligned with customer preferences.

So why do customers delay returns? Typically, returning items is seen as a hassle, leading to procrastination that disrupts both inventory management and the shopping experience. Retailers can address this by facilitating easier, faster exchanges, essentially transforming homes into virtual fitting rooms. Embracing trends like bracketing, where customers buy multiple options for size or color and return the rest, opens up new opportunities. Streamlined returns not only improve the customer experience, but also widen the customer base — attracting those who might have avoided online shopping due to complex return processes.

Operational aspects of returns are just as crucial. Efficiently managing the receipt and processing of returned items, along with effective inventory control, helps minimize financial losses. By understanding and catering to customer behaviors in returns, retailers can refine their processes to support profitable customer actions and align with broader business objectives. Quick and convenient returns like doorstep pickup lead to faster restocking and reselling, reducing overall costs and transforming returns from a logistical challenge into a strategic asset.

Looking Forward: Shaping the Future of Retail Returns in 2024

As we head into 2024, it’s clear that retail isn’t just changing; it’s evolving at breakneck speed. This evolution isn’t just about what we buy, but also about how we return it. For retailers, this means getting ready for more returns than ever before and finding smart and innovative ways to handle them without missing a beat, like easy-to-use smartphone apps for hassle-free returns.

This approach is about more than just keeping customers happy; it’s about reaching out to those who were once wary of online shopping. It’s about ensuring that the ease of buying something is matched by the ease of returning it. We’re crafting a returns experience that’s as pleasant and straightforward as shopping itself.

The future of retail returns is here, and it’s an exciting place to be. We’re at a point where we can redefine how returns work, turning them from a headache into a key player in growth and customer happiness. It’s about leveraging customer insights and turning them into actions that not only meet but exceed customer expectations, setting new benchmarks in the industry and building lasting loyalty.

Itamar Zur founded Veho based on the belief that getting a package should be a pleasure. After a failed delivery of a meal kit subscription led him down a customer service abyss, Zur realized that the experience he had anticipated for days fell apart in the last mile. Veho was built on this core insight: customer-first delivery experiences directly impact brands’ customer retention and customer lifetime value. With support from a team of industry veterans from FedEx, Uber and Amazon, Zur and his co-founder Fred Cook have grown Veho to provide the most transparent, customer-centric and flexible shipping solution for brands radically focused on first-rate customer experience.

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