Cutting Costs and Improving Efficiency in Returns Management

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Returns management, once considered an afterthought, is fast becoming a crucial element to retail enterprises in the age of e-commerce. Retail businesses should improve the returns management logistical pipeline to reduce inefficiency costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Many retail enterprises see returns management as a major point of frustration. Although essential toward maintaining customer satisfaction, it is often a complicated and expensive affair. And because it involves no revenue to speak of, it is often a neglected aspect of business operations. Indeed, companies often prefer to avoid returns altogether, a herculean effort that becomes more difficult in the logistically complex world of modern e-commerce.

Today, the rise of e-commerce means that businesses can no longer afford to neglect returns operations, which have taken a turn for the complicated due to having no physical location for customers to return them to. Ensuring efficient returns operations is critical not only to maintaining positive relationships with customers but also effectively manage the costs of returns.

Measuring effectiveness

An efficient returns system is determined by three measures: speed, visibility, and control. Ensuring that the deliveries are delivered on time would not only meet the growing demands of customers but shorten the amount of time involved in processing return material operations (RMAs). Increasing the visibility of each product being returned is crucial to identifying the product being returned to the customer returning it. Finally, maintaining effective this complex operation is critical to minimizing errors and ensuring quality control and regulatory compliance.

Technology Tools

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The complex undertakings surrounding returns systems seem overwhelming at first glance. Applying digital solutions can play a critical role not only in getting a better picture of the state of the inbound returns system but also effectively track and control the flow of items. Technology solutions can be used to improve all three measures of returns management efficiency.

Incorporating data-driven artificial intelligence and RMA applications can all contribute to increasing the overall effectiveness of returns logistics while cutting costs. Data analytics can identify key process bottlenecks and other crucial areas for improvement within the system, as well as provide policymakers with potential ways to improve systems operations. Artificial intelligence systems can help streamline the process of identifying fraudulent returns, which can retailers prevent losses and mitigate store shrinkage.

Meanwhile, RMA application platforms can further streamline the validation process, ensuring the speedy delivery of returns and avoiding many of the major operational delays. Application suites can provide employees involved in the returns process with identical information on each of the returns being processed, ensuring a smooth workflow, and minimizing the likelihood of workplace errors. It can also be used to inform employees of distinct protocols used for different types of returns.


Inbound returns systems must stay efficient to keep up with the demands of today’s e-commerce buyers. Improvements that confer greater operational efficiency not only leads to better customer satisfaction but also allows companies to minimize delays and other operational inefficiencies that add to the cost of returns operations.

An efficient returns system also improves the effectiveness of value recovery. Speedy inbound returns can reduce the time involved in repairing damaged items or salvaging its raw materials for other purposes. Increasing efficiency can also be used to control of reusable assets such as containers throughout the shipping process.

All in all, an efficient returns system not only cuts down on the costs incurred by the returns process but also improves the standing of the business to the customer. A good returns policy paired with speedy service wins over the confidence of the customer, assuring them of satisfaction. These investments toward effective returns pay forward in customer loyalty.

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