Shopping is supposed to be more convenient, faster and, thanks to mobile technologies, achievable anytime and anywhere. Global retail chains focus on omnichannel commerce. It is not always easy. The challenge for retailers starts when they e.g. have to introduce the entire range of products available for sale at a brick and mortar store into the online channel. The organization of returns is also a problem.
As online shopping grows, the tendency to return products increases. The idea of omnichannel is, among other things, that online complaints can be submitted for goods purchased at a traditional point of sale and that the goods purchased online can be returned in a nearby shopping mall.
A survey conducted by Lizard Media specialists last year (concerning omnichannel functionality in the following industries: sports goods, jewellery, pharmacies and home electronics) shows that there are significant differences in the levels of implementation of omnichannel functionality between different types of online shops and their chains of brick and mortar stores in Poland. The main problem is the update of inventory, which in some cases takes place several times a day, and even once a day, at the end of the day. Not every store has advanced technical solutions to automate omnichannel functionality. Many activities are carried out manually. There is no good interconnection between the ERP/CRM system and the e-commerce platform.
Studies show that 32% of online shops do not provide for the possibility of returning goods purchased online to a brick and mortar store.
When operating on omnichannel basis, it is worth facilitating the efficient handling of complaints or returns through showrooms. This is confirmed by a survey conducted by GfK Polonia, in which as many as 96% of the respondents stated that they would like to be able to return goods purchased in an online shop at a brick and mortar store.
Consumers expect trouble-free handling of complaints and returns, specifically the possibility of making a complaint about goods purchased in a retail store through an online form and vice versa. What is important is the transparency and availability of information about the status of the complaint, which the customer can check through their account in the online store. The same applies to returns: it is about the ability to return a product in a freely chosen way (online or offline), no matter how you bought it.
i-Systems specialists confirm that the smooth processing of returns, complaints and exchanges is one of the key features of multichannel operation. In their opinion, it is not only the possibility to buy a product in different sales channels that build trust in the consumer’s eyes.
There are solutions allowing for efficient processing of complaints, and thanks to the full history, reducing the risk of non-response to customer inquiries. This is achieved through mobile applications integrated with the brand’s e-commerce system or the use of web kiosks in showrooms. It is up to the retailer to decide who and where should handle returns (e.g. assessment of product condition, a decision on their further use or disposal). This can be outsourced to a third party or can be done in-house at a distribution centre or at a retail store that accepts returns.
The fact that logistics operators are also preparing appropriate solutions is evidenced by the example of Fiege. The proximity of the S3 expressway and the Polish-German border are among the reasons why another distribution centre was established in Zielona Góra, handling returns for several clothing brands, whose products are sold to a large extent via the Internet.
Clothing retailers struggle with the problem of a large number of returns (in the case of clothing they often account for 40-50% of shipments)
According to a report prepared by HRC Advisory, the handling and management of returns is one of the main challenges for e-commerce. This requires IT systems, advanced warehouse solutions, as well as centres facilitating the return of ordered goods and their rresale The portfolio of Fiege includes such brands as: Zalando, Esprit, Mango, and Deichmann.
The opening of a new location in Zielona Góra, which handles returns, is a response to the growing customer demand for efficient, dynamic and flexible service in the e-commerce industry. Attractive location and acquired know-how will enable the launch of a cost-effective center. Sophisticated procedures, experience and process optimization will minimize the number of operating errors and speed up returns,” says Piotr Kohmann, CEO of Fiege.