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Poor practice from retailers contributes to returns boom

27 May 2015

Contrary to popular belief, eCommerce returns are often not down to fickle consumers but can be traced to poor marketing decisions made by retailers, said a returns expert at a recent exhibition.

Clear Returns CEO Vicky Brock said: "A lot of attention is placed on the capricious nature of consumers, and while there is truth in that, retailers are often to blame by posting misleading product information or showing out of scale product pictures.”

Vicky made the comments at the Omni-channel Panel seminar provided by the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport at the recent MultiModal event.

She continued: "There is often a mis-match between expectation and experience. This is exacerbated by very pushy marketing. If you have put something in your basket to buy but don’t, if the website repeatedly reminds you, there is a greater chance you will order it. But when it arrives you may think ‘I never wanted this in the first place’ and send it back. This type of technique correlates with greater returns.”

Vicky added that website fitting technologies have made people more comfortable to buy online, but have had very little impact on the rate of returns.

In addition, she revealed eCommerce patterns were starting to impact in-store buying patterns, with people buying clothes, trying them on at home, and taking them back if they don’t want them.

Not so free-ride

As well as returns the issue of ‘free deliveries’ was discussed, with the Omni-channel Panel chair and CEO of CILT, Steve Agg vexed by the idea.

"We all know there is no such thing, yet we continue to tell consumers this. A new generation may think delivery costs nothing and is worth nothing. These are the same people we want to enthuse to join the industry, so we are doing ourselves no good,” he said.

Catherine Weetman, vice chair of the CILT’s Environment and Sustainability Forum tackled collaboration as a means of introducing much needed efficiency to the supply chain.

She explained: "In the supply chain, competition means asset-heavy networks with a lot of overlap. Perhaps the answer to creating efficiencies is a collaborative network, an ‘internet of delivery’? Shippers and buyers don’t need to know who the company is behind the capability, just that it is done efficiently.

"Price pressure could prompt new collaborative thinking among couriers. After all, the idea works for pallet networks.”

Other developments highlighted by Catherine are:

• Deploying re-usable packaging at standard sizes that can be taken by any carrier.

• Underground freight pipelines, such as the Mole project in Northampton.

• Uber cargo - for ad-hoc, small scale logistics.

• More urban consolidation centres. Existing examples include Bristol and Southampton.

Deliveries & returns

Handling & Storage Solutions is focusing on Deliveries and Returns in the next issue of the magazine.

To take advantage of excellent advertising opportunities contact Angela Lyus on 07818 574304 / alyus@western-bp.co.uk for more details.

Naomi Landman from freight forwarder IJS Global also spoke on the subject of drones. Mooted for eCommerce delivery by Amazon, the idea may seem like pie in the sky, but it is close to a reality in an IJS scheme to deliver pharmaceuticals to remote areas.

"I speak both to relief organisations and pharmaceutical companies who are challenged to use drones in a positive manner to deliver vaccines etc. At present up to 75% of vaccines are wasted,” said Naomi.

"The Health Express is our proposal but we still face challenges. The products need to be kept at a certain temperature, we plan to deliver to areas that will not always have electrical supplies, and we are looking to build a drone that will carry a worthwhile payload 80-100km.”

IJS proposes to provide distribution and inventory management, including an app for mobile phones and expects to start deliveries in Congo in 2016.