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LogisticsNewsStartupsSupply ChainsTechnology

Happy Returns launches a kiosk that takes ecommerce return items

 Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Happy Returns, a startup that simplifies the process of returning products purchased online and at retail, announced today (March 4) the availability of a self-service return solution for omnichannel retailers. The solution is a return kiosk that carries the retailer’s brand and runs on Happy Returns’ reverse logistics software, and can be used stand-alone or in combination with other elements of the company’s Full Stack Returns solution.

“We are tackling the returning of products purchased online. Our software enables online shoppers to return items in person, rather than via mail. We take care of the logistics, because ultimately we are in the business of moving those returns from the point of drop-off and back to retailers in the most cost-efficient manner possible,” said David Sobie, the CEO of Happy Returns.

The increasing value of returns over the last few years is fairly proportional to the growth of ecommerce across the country. This is because when shopping online, people often tend to return items three or four times more often than they would if they were shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. When buying online – especially with regard to fashion apparel – people frequently buy two sizes of the same model, just to try on both the sizes, find the right fit and return the other one.

The returns factor is quietly becoming an inevitable part of the ecommerce transaction. Sobie explained that this was the observation that led him to found Happy Returns. “It’s a combination of the growth of ecommerce, the fact that people shop differently online and just hate dealing with mail if there’s a return,” he said.

Mail return processes are exhausting, as shoppers have to print a label, find a suitable box, wrestle with the packing tape, and finally take the item to the carrier or the post office to send it back. And even if people navigate the sending part, they have to wait an period of time before they receive their refund. Ecommerce has also raised service expectations, making the cumbersome mail return processes very unpopular among shoppers. Happy Returns enables shoppers that buy online to return the items at its locations instead of using the parcel return process.

With the launch of the self-service return kiosk and the Full Stack Returns solution, people have the easier option of returning items at a Happy Returns return bar. There are currently 300 locations in 51 different metro areas.

To increase efficiency in the returns’ logistics operations, Happy Returns aggregates individual returns into one large palletized shipment. “In a return bar, we may accept around 40 items a day, which can come from 20 different retailers. But all those items are going together in a single box to one of our processing hubs, where we aggregate across all the return bars, and send one large aggregated shipment back to the retailer or the next best place,” said Sobie.

The idea is to move items across the supply chain in bulk, which ends up reducing costs for the shippers. Sobie contended that reducing cost is a compelling need for shippers in an age when consumers expect retailers to split the bill for the cost of returns.

Using the newly launched returns kiosk is simple. Customers access an easy-to-use return flow via an integrated tablet on the kiosk. On the tablet they can look up orders, select items and choose to return or exchange each item. On their end, retailers can instantly add items back to the store stock or choose to utilize Happy Returns’ reverse logistics services.

The return bars are spread across physical store networks, shopping malls and even in college bookstores. Sobie mentioned that getting storefronts to take back online returns turned out to be a great idea, as the retailers can now understand the type of items that are being bought (based on the items being returned), and can possibly put up similar products to serve as a better alternative for buyers.  

“Retailers are now waking up to the idea that having an easy return process is going to end up increasing customer loyalty. Return policies might influence where people decide to shop,” said Sobie. “Though returns have been such a big part of shopping online, it’s been overshadowed by all the investment that has gone into things like payments and delivery – pushing funding on the parts of the initial shopping experience and not having an appreciation for the returns process.”

The reality now is about shippers anticipating when a shopper will return an item, based on the previous buying and returns data. Having technology like the return kiosks not only helps with an improved 360-degree customer experience, but also helps retailers reduce their workforce and decrease the logistical costs of returns.  

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Vishnu Rajamanickam

Vishnu predominantly covers stories coming out of Europe within the logistics and transportation space, especially related to the trucking sector - be it current affairs, trend analysis, trade forecast, or technology. He also connects with key stakeholders within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes net-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate on international politics.
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