From kerbside collections to peer-to-peer sales: integrating new customer return methods into your stock management strategy
6 min

From kerbside collections to peer-to-peer sales: integrating new customer return methods into your stock management strategy

Returns are a battleground where customers are won and lost on convenience. 

Shoppers prefer retailers who make it easy to send things back. 92% of consumers say they’ll repeatedly buy from someone with a straightforward returns process. 

As a retailer, you recognise the value of the return process. It’s an opportunity for customers to explore your brand and products, safe in the knowledge they can send back what isn’t their style. 

However, with 25-40% of items ordered online being sent back, returns management is an operational burden. And new return options are making matters even more complex. 

To increase omnichannel customer convenience, retailers are exploring innovative ways to collect unwanted orders. But these emerging methods must be carefully integrated into your stock management strategy. Otherwise, your customer experience could create a massive pile of products caught in the returns process.  

How are retailers raising the bar on returns? 

Retailers have been tweaking the returns process for years to make it smoother and simpler for consumers. Multiple courier options, removing printed labels and extending the returns period to 90 days have all made it easier to send back unwanted orders. 

But for some retail leaders, refining existing methods isn’t radical enough. They want to offer consumers something new and different to make product returns a competitive advantage

As a result, we’re seeing the introduction of new returns methods that give shoppers greater value and convenience. These initiatives include: 

Kerbside collections: Many consumers struggle to find the time to package unwanted items and return them via post. They want a quick and easy way to get their returns back to the retailer – and kerbside collections tick this box. 

Target is one of the retailers trialling kerbside collections, having launched its Drive Up service in 2023. Mark Schindele, Target’s executive vice president and chief stores officer, says, “Allowing our guests to process a return from the comfort of their car underscores our commitment to helping our guests shop—and return—however they choose.”

Home pickups: For the next level of convenience, some retailers are ‘taking the mountain to Mohammed’ and getting their associates to collect returns directly from customers’ homes. 

For example, Walmart has started offering collections as part of its InHome service, which entitles customers to home deliveries and returns for a monthly subscription fee.

Peer-to-peer sales: Only 1 in 5 items are returned due to defects. Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with a product; it’s just not the right style, or the customer bought something in multiple sizes to find the best fit. 

Rather than routing returns back to the retailer for re-sale, technology companies are developing ways to support peer-to-peer sales. Shoppers can buy unwanted items at a reduced price, which the original purchaser sends to them directly. 

With peer-to-peer sales, customer #1 gets a full refund, customer #2 gets a new item at a lower price, and the retailer avoids the cost and hassle of processing a return and reintegrating it into your stock pool.

What challenges do these product returns create? 

While each new return method has nuances, a common challenge affects all returns: the experience needs to be frictionless. 

From the customer’s point of view, sending something back should be convenient and quick. It should also result in a prompt refund, so they’ve got the funds to shop again.

From your perspective, returned goods must be reintegrated into your stock pool as quickly as possible, ready to be re-sold. Whether you’ve got two, five or 10 returns options, the questions remain the same: 

  • How quickly can you process product returns to get goods back in your available stock pool? 
  • Where’s the best place to hold returned stock, given products often come back into your business in a different location from where they were sold? 
  • How do you maximise sell-through to ensure that as many returned goods as possible are re-sold? 

Adding new returns methods can make answering these questions more complex, as you’ve got more variables to deal with. However, retail order management software (OMS) can simplify this complexity and help you manage customer returns from multiple channels and sources more efficiently. 

How does OMS software make multichannel returns easier to manage? 

Retail OMS software simplifies the returns management process and enables your business to reallocate returned goods from a single, unified stock pool. 

OMS software makes it easy to initiate returns from multiple channels. Still, your chosen technology also needs to provide visibility over what orders have been returned and where those goods end up. In short, you need omnichannel returns management capabilities to limit the cost of product returns. 

OneStock OMS automates the return authorisation process by applying pre-defined rules and policies. These rules ensure that returns are managed consistently for the customer while creating streamlined workflows that ensure rapid reintegration of returned stock. 

Our software updates inventory in real-time, so your retail associates always see accurate inventory information. Items aren’t showing as out of stock because they’re either stuck in your returns pile or haven’t yet made it onto your system. 

Critically, rather than trying to return goods to their original location, OneStock OMS allows you to allocate orders based on current availability and stock position. This approach reduces operational complexity and makes returns cheaper to handle. It also means you can make cost-effective choices about fulfilling new orders and incorporate returned stock into your decision.  

Our software can even facilitate circular economy returns to promote sustainable practices and help your business reduce waste. 

For a deeper dive into the benefits of omnichannel returns management, read our blog post: Reducing the cost of returns using an Order Management System.

Improve your returns management process with OneStock 

As your returns services grow and evolve, access to dynamic inventory information will prove pivotal to minimising the financial impact of returns on your business. 

A hassle-free returns experience will enhance customer satisfaction and make people more likely to shop with you in the future. However, you don’t want a convenient returns process to result in products being unavailable for other customers to purchase. 

An omnichannel retail OMS solution like OneStock can solve this challenge by unifying your stock pool and giving you real-time information on your total inventory, its location, and availability. 

With OneStock, every order is allocated based on optimum conditions at that point in time, whether your stock is fresh from the factory or recently returned.

Request a OneStock demo to see how our returns management capabilities can improve your stock availability and sell-through rates.

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