5 Cloud-Based Platforms for Optimizing Retail Returns

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‘Tis the season of giving — and sending back. As online sales have soared, so have return rates. According to the National Retail Federation, retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6% last year, adding up to more than $761 billion in merchandise winding up back at stores and warehouses. 

A number of startups in the retail logistics space are attempting to solve the issue. These companies are using technology and artificial intelligence to optimize the way retail returns are processed. Retailers, both online and offline, are adding these cloud-based services to their existing technology stacks in the hope that they’ll be better positioned to leverage available product inventories through automated return pickups and — ideally — save money in the process.

Here are five return management and pick-up services designed for retail businesses.

5 Return Management Solutions For Retail Brands

1. Pollen

Pollen is an on-demand pick-up service with plug-and-play technology that can be added to any retailer’s existing stack. Retailers use the service to better manage product returns, which saves money and increases the inventory available to sell. The solution works with most logistics platforms to manage “door to warehouse” return pickups. Pollen’s white-label platform can be setup to send SMS return and pickup notifications to customers on the retailer’s behalf. Pollen works with trusted partners in most parts of the country to handle the physical product pickups, so customer interactions happen seamlessly and retailers aren’t left relying on traditional shipping companies. Pollen says brands that use its service have higher purchase conversions and decreased shopping cart abandonment rates.

2. Narvar

Narvar’s post-purchase customer experience platform is one of the biggest names in the market for retailers. Earlier this year, the company launched the Home Pickup add-on for easier e-commerce returns. The service is carrier-agnostic, allowing shoppers to schedule courier pickups to return packages without having to leave home. The service makes it easier for brands to restock returned products. The home pickup service is meant to complement Narvar’s Concierge service, which enables shoppers to pick up and drop off returns at Narvar’s network of 200,000+ participating locations. National retailers using Narvar’s Home Pickup service include DSW, Levi’s, Ann Taylor, and Brooks Brothers.

3. Happy Returns

Happy Returns takes a different approach to processing and managing returns for retailers. The reverse logistics company, which was acquired by Paypal last year, relies on a network of thousands of locations that shoppers can visit to return or exchange items in-person. Before getting to that point, shoppers go through a branded returns and exchanges portal, which is integrated into a retailer’s existing website. Retailers have the ability to write configurable return reasons and set distinct processing fees for different return methods. Happy Returns can also be set up to promote “intelligent exchanges” based on the specific return reason and available inventory. A merchant dashboard provides visibility into the process, so retailers can see the status of each return in real-time. Happy Returns is used by brands like Levi’s, Everlane, and Revolve.

4. Loop

Loop works primarily with brands that sell through Shopify to help optimize return costs and prevent return losses. More than just a returns platform, Loop is an on-demand returns portal that brands can integrate into their existing websites. Through the portal, customers can start their returns and quickly see which items are eligible for exchange. Customers are then encouraged to exchange items first, before being offered a shipping label to return. Throughout this process, Loop is collecting important data that retailers can use to improve product offerings and hopefully minimize return rates in the future.

5. Optoro

The Optoro returns platform is an all-in-one solution that helps retailers cut returns costs and retain more revenue by encouraging exchanges over refunds. The platform itself is broken up into three main parts: returns experience, returns management, and r-commerce, which allows retailers to instantly list returned goods back on their digital channels or sell those items through Optoro’s B2B marketplace. A fully-configurable returns experience includes a self-service returns portal, where customers can initiate returns and exchange items, either online or in-person, on their own. Optoro’s platform is powered by AI to automate the process of receiving products, sorting to vendors, and exchange fulfillment. Optoro is used by retailers like IKEA, Best Buy, and Staples.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.