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La logistique inverse : gestion des retours clients

The e-commerce sector has experienced exponential growth in recent years, with numerous companies entering the market. This growth comes with new challenges that businesses must become familiar with. One example is the management of customer returns; this is referred to as “reverse logistics” (the product is transported not from the seller to the customer but from the customer back to the seller).

According to Statista, the average return rate was 39% in 2022 in France. This figure is increasing and underscores the significance of the phenomenon. Of course, it should be contextualized as it varies depending on the industry and the time of year (e.g., Christmas).

Return management

If return management is a significant concern in traditional (“brick-and-mortar”) commerce, it is even more so in e-commerce. Indeed, handling customer returns has become a real challenge for e-retailers today (especially as return rates intensify). There’s a dual challenge here. On the one hand, there’s a profitability challenge, and on the other hand, there’s a challenge of customer satisfaction and retention. In other words, it’s necessary to both satisfy the customer and limit the costs associated with returns (transportation costs, potentially damaged products, customer refunds, etc.). Additionally, there’s the environmental dimension, which is becoming increasingly important due to the growth of returns and their ecological impact.

Far from being just a problem to solve, return management is actually a competitive advantage to seize. Optimizing customer returns is a strength for companies that focus on it, allowing them to attract new customers, retain existing ones, and reduce costs. It’s worth noting that return policies are now seen as one of the deciding factors for consumers when making online purchases. The quicker and cheaper the return process, the more likely potential customers are to complete their online purchases.

Thus, it’s crucial for e-retailers to clearly define their return policy strategy. This strategy needs to be tailored to each company, based on its specific needs, structure, and logistical capabilities. In any case, there should be no room for chance; return management is a type of reverse logistics, so it must be planned effectively. Additionally, it’s essential to inform the customer about our policy at the time of purchase (to avoid any unpleasant surprises that could ultimately lead to dissatisfaction or loss of the customer).

As you’ve understood, mastering return management is essential. Without delving too much into the details, let’s now see how to go about it and what best practices to adopt:

✅ Define a clear strategy (customers should have easy access and understanding of it)
🤔 Provide choices to the customer (offer multiple alternatives)
🔎 Ensure product traceability (and inform the customer in real-time)
🔁 Automate the return process (time-saving, simplification of the procedure, efficiency, etc.)
👌 Leverage an ERP system to effectively manage stocks and orders
🥇 Be responsive (the quicker a return is handled, the better for the company)
👩 Even if the procedure is automated, ensuring control and adding a human touch can be relevant
🗓️ Rigorous organization and efficient information system
📢 Inform teams about the importance of proper return management (and provide training if necessary)
♻️ Consider the environmental aspect (choice of transportation mode, for example) and offer a logistical solution that minimizes ecological impact

It’s worth reminding that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution; each company must have a strategy tailored to its needs. However, by following the various points above, you’re on the right track to implementing an optimal return policy.

As a logistics service provider, Futurlog is well aware of this challenge and has made it a priority by offering its customers simple, personalized, and automated return management. Feel free to contact us if you’d like more information on this topic; our e-logistics experts are at your disposal!

With Futurlog, optimize your return policy… And much more!