3pl returns processing

Using 3PL Returns Processing to Your Advantage

Ecommerce expanded dramatically over the past year, at least in part due to the pandemic. However, the trend toward increased online sales has been apparent for several years, which means businesses would have seen an increase even without the extra push generated by COVID-19. Your company’s logistics may be flexible enough to handle increases in business, but are you prepared to handle returns efficiently?

Industry statistics indicate close to ten percent of items sold online are returned. That means a system must be in place to handle those products. While processing returns results in costs to a company, there are strategies to keep those expenses low. Using a 3PL, or third-party logistics, provider like Your Logistics Corp. to handle shipping and returns frequently proves to be the optimal solution for companies.

Understanding Returns and Their Importance for Your Bottom Line

Handling returns in a brick-and-mortar store is relatively simple. The customer walks in with the item they wish to return, and a clerk refunds the price paid. From that point, the process will vary somewhat depending on the type of merchandise, but the end result is generally the same—the item is restocked or sold at a discounted rate.

Since ecommerce customers are rarely in a position to return an ordered item in person, the process becomes more complicated. The item must be packaged and shipped back to the selling company. Once received by the selling merchant, the item must be inspected and returned to inventory or disposed of, depending on the situation. If the return isn’t handled properly, the item may be damaged or lost, which means the company’s bottom line suffers. That’s a time-consuming process, not all selling organizations are willing or able to take on themselves. That’s where a 3PL company like Your Logistics Corp. comes into play.

Discover the Advantages of 3PL Returns

Today, a high percentage of sellers don’t physically handle the items they market. Instead, manufacturers ship inventory items to third-party shippers who handle all the shipping to clients of ecommerce marketers. The shipping company packages items, generates shipping labels, and uses the best option to move the items to the end user.

In an increasing number of cases, the 3PL provider also handles returns. They frequently provide customers wishing to return items with packaging instructions, shipping labels, and advice on ways to minimize potential shipping problems and issues with receiving a refund. The 3PL returns processing requirements are kept simple to avoid losing customers or having items being returned damaged in the process.

Why is that important? Having a 3PL provider handle all shipping provides continuity and simplifies the overall system. The provider will handle all the problems associated with returns and restocking, eliminating the need for the ecommerce company to have in-house staff dedicated to shipping duties. That type of service delivers real cost savings and should, as a rule, speed up the return and restocking process. Customers have their refunds faster, which means they’re happier and more likely to make additional purchases in the future.

What Are the Steps in the Return Process?

Whether you’re handling returns in-house or having a 3PL provider handle the details, there are steps companies must take to keep the process moving successfully and reduce the overall costs of returns. Here are just a few of the steps ecommerce merchants routinely take to reduce returns and keep the cost of returns under control.

  • Minimize Shipping Errors. One of the best ways to reduce the return rate is to ensure the accuracy of all orders shipped. The 3PL provider should always have steps in place to reduce the rate of picking errors. Shipping the correct products the first time also enhances customer satisfaction rates.
  • Have a Clear Returns Policy in Place. To avoid issues with customers, always establish a clear, concise return policy. For example, if consumers know any return must be made within 30 days before making their purchase, the odds of problems developing are reduced.
  • Authorize the Return. Part of the return policy should explain how returns are authorized. When a customer follows the established return policy, shipping labels can be created to speed up delivery and reduce the odds of an incorrect address being used. The process will also alert the warehouse staff of the pending return. Using an appropriate authorization process reduces mistakes, makes inventory control easier, and keeps customers and staff members happier.
  • Inspect the Product for Damage. Once the returned product arrives at the warehouse, a staff member must inspect the item for damage, handle any repackaging necessary, and properly dispose of items when appropriate. The company determines how to handle returned items.
  • Plan Ahead for Busy Seasons. Generally, the weeks following Christmas will generate the highest level of returns. Make sure the 3PL staff is capable of handling the expected level of returns. If you have sales events, it’s also a good idea to expect more returns in the coming weeks. Ramp up staffing to cover the increased needs.
  • Always Make the Process Easy for Customers. If a customer wants to return an item, they are likely to be upset. Don’t make matters worse by creating unnecessary hurdles. Make the return process as simple as possible.

Of course, your business may have unique needs that will alter some of the above standards or add others. Your Logistics Corp. will tailor the returns process to accommodate those needs. It’s always important to communicate any special requirements early in the planning process to ensure shipping and returns are always handled appropriately for your business and meet your clients’ needs.

Start Planning Now

If you’re not sure what types of 3PL services your organization needs, take the time now to contact a representative and discuss the available options. Doing so provides a great way to learn more about how to use a third-party logistics team to manage all your company’s shipping needs.

Once you’re familiar with the options, it’s easier to make plans for marketing efforts. Knowing Your Logistics Corp. has all your shipping needs under control means your customers will get their products in a timely manner. If there is a need for a return, we will handle the entire process.

Andrew Kirk

I am an experienced logistics and supply chain executive with over 15 years in the global end-to-end logistics field, including retail, direct sales, and B2B. I leverage strong relationship skills, a team-oriented management style, and a focus on talent development to drive results and lead change for our internal team and clients alike.