As e-commerce returns continue to accelerate, brands are looking for solutions that can reduce costs and improve customer service.
The National Retail Federation conducted a survey prior to the 2021 holiday season. The Consumer Returns in the Retail Industry 2021 survey found that $761 billion in merchandise was returned in 2021 among all retail channels. For every $1 billion in sales, retailers incur $166 million in costs because of returns. Online returns totaled $218 billion in 2021. Returns from online sales jumped to 20.8% in 2021.
Making the returns process easier is key to online brands retaining customers. Technology company CleverTap said that 76% of first-time shoppers said they are likely to shop with a retailer again if the return experience was “easy” or “very easy.”
Global shipping and mailing company Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) has been branching out in recent years as it seeks to build a seamless e-commerce offering for its customers. On Monday, the company announced a partnership with post-purchase firm Narvar to improve the returns process.
Returns’ convenience vs. cost
In a joint release, the companies said the new offering will enable brands to test the right balance between convenience and cost in returns. It will combine Pitney Bowes’ physical e-commerce capabilities with Narvar’s digital offerings.
“Post-purchase processes — and returns in particular — are not only significant cost centers for e-commerce brands but are becoming even more complex due to supply chain disruption and the macroeconomic landscape,” said Amit Sharma, CEO at Narvar. “The combination of Narvar’s post-purchase experience platform and Pitney Bowes’ e-commerce logistics capabilities will dramatically accelerate a retailer’s transition to a more personalized and efficient returns model, while simultaneously saving brands money and improving the customer experience.”
The joint offering will include:
- Pre-integrated technologies, onboarding and support, available to all Narvar and Pitney Bowes e-commerce clients.
- Label-less returns, nationwide home pickup services, fast refunds and store credit processing for optimum consumer experience leveraging Narvar’s post-purchase platform.
- Highly configurable returns routing, transportation and processing services, built to fit the unique brand experience and cost goals of each merchant.
The last point will leverage Pitney Bowes’ innovative Designed Returns services, which help brands configure their returns experience based on their needs. It includes hassle-free returns, transportation, processing and branded returns options.
Balancing returns’ priorities
“E-commerce brands are in a tough position. The cost reductions necessary among logistics teams today could unintentionally impact the customer experience,” said Gregg Zegras, executive vice president and president of Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce. “There is tremendous opportunity to create a win-win for brands and consumers by more closely integrating front-end experience technology with transportation networks and operations. The combination of physical and digital capabilities in this joint offering from Pitney Bowes and Narvar will allow merchants to easily test and design the most pragmatic post-purchase experience for their consumers.”
The partnership is the latest move for Pitney Bowes as it seeks to grow its e-commerce parcel share. In March, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company announced it would spend $23 million to expand its use of Ambi’s AmbiSort AI-powered robotics sorting systems in e-commerce hubs throughout the U.S. The AmbiSort was first used at Pitney Bowes’ Stockton, California, location through the 2021 peak season. According to the company, it nearly doubled throughput for parcel sortation to Pitney Bowes’ local direct-delivery units.
Pitney Bowes has made a series of network enhancements since peak 2020 to improve its e-commerce and parcel shipping operations. These include:
- New e-commerce hubs in Boston, Seattle, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio.
- Improved tracking and visibility of parcels within its network and accessibility by clients and their consumers.
- Increased use of machine learning and data science to project estimated delivery dates more accurately.
- An expanded Pitney Bowes-owned transportation fleet.
E-commerce-related parcel shipping accounts for more than 50% of Pitney Bowes’ total revenue.