What’s your best reverse logistics tip?

According to the National Retail Federation, the total rate of returns was 16.6% in 2021, up from 10.6% in 2020. The best way to reduce returns is to understand the total cost of your returns and to make sure your reverse supply chain is optimized along with the rest of your supply chain.

Invest in painless return solutions. Retailers and brands should implement solutions like physical drop-off locations that make returns more convenient for customers, helping them to compete with major players like Amazon and Walmart. Brands should keep a pulse on challenges in their returns processes and correct them in order to acquire and retain customers.

—Tierney Wilson
SVP, Consulting and Client Services
January Digital

Share the cost with commercial counterparts and invest in online merchandising. Measure the reduction in returns that comes from better product descriptions and photos, customer reviews and ratings, and demo videos.

—Dustin Burke
Global Co-Leader,
Manufacturing and Supply Chain,
Boston Consulting Group

Identify IoT and technology to collect essential data. Reverse logistics is essential to customer experience and to business success, involving repair, replacement, coordination between locations, information from service management and inventory systems.

—Sarah Nicastro
VP, Customer Advocacy, IFS
Creator, Future of Field Service

Provide labeling and packaging that make it easy for the consumer. If goods can be quickly received and routed, then half the battle is over.

—John Wirthlin
Industry Principal, Manufacturing,
Transportation and Logistics,

Rather than dismissing returns as a cost additive, investigate how you can reduce costs while getting the items that can be re-sold back into stock sooner for resale. Are there ways to increase throughput, while reducing touches, like managing staff based on throughput goals and incentive-based pay?

—Harold Baro
SVP and General Manager
SIMOS Solutions – A TrueBlue Company

Document your return process and make it easy to find on your website. Include a return label and make durable packaging that’s easy to reuse. On the back end, use a strong forward/backward product tracking mechanism and processes to handle the repair, replacement, or recycling of the item being returned.

—Scott Hebert

Define the appropriate strategy for your products, processes, and customers. Reverse logistics is defined differently based on the industry-specific lens you view it through. Solutions are diverse across the products and services developing customer-centric processes.

—Andrew Moul
Director of Warehouse and Distribution Solutions
A. Duie Pyle

Ensure return shipments comply with all hazmat regulations. Simplify returns processes for customers, and ensure safe, compliant shipping, by giving them next-generation shipping boxes designed for shipping regulated materials (such as electronics containing lithium batteries) that arrive pre-assembled and pre-labeled with simple closure instructions.

—Brian Beetz
Director, Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Responsibility

Find a workflow that encourages exchanges to keep the customer happy and also keeps their revenue in your business.

—Donny Salazar
Founder and CEO,

Seek solutions that automatically refresh inventory and financials to keep systems from accidentally selling inventory they don’t have in stock. Consumers today are buying products they can’t see or touch, so they order multiple versions of a product online and ultimately return all but one.

—Samuel Parker
Product Evangelist,

View and optimize the entire reverse logistics process and not just single components. Allow technology to drive the optimal routing when the customer initiates a return.

—Steve Rop
Chief Operating Officer,

Keep stock in good shape and get returned parts back into inventory. Sometimes returned parts may become a “hot” item and need to be picked again quickly. Getting them back into inventory as quickly as possible becomes key.

—Tony Oakes
Continuous Improvement Engineer
TA Services

Loop product data back to the original source. The way many companies currently manage their product data only allows for the one-directional flow of information from suppliers to buyers.

—Thomas Kasemir
Chief Product Officer,

Avoid reverse logistics in the first place by having better upstream control. Ensure the right product and process quality control throughout the inbound flow, and you will take away key reasons for returning products.

—Elger Postma
Asia Commercial Head,
APL Logistics

Avoid it, at least where you can. Work to ensure that your customers are truly receiving what they want and that it will work for them. Whether it’s clothing that has a detailed size chart or technology that answers customers’ questions, make sure they are equipped with enough information so they’re certain they’re getting the right product.

—Nancy Korayim
Founder and CEO,
MetroSpeedy CX Strong Point

Don’t skimp on the customer experience for returns. It’s a unique opportunity to delight a customer under a non-ideal experience (no one likes returns), which generates super-fans for your brand.

—Chris Deck
CEO and Founder,
Deck Commerce

Make it easy for the customer. Provide simple access to labels and shipping, immediate credit for the returned product, and incentive to shop again. These simple steps build brand loyalty and positive customer sentiment, resulting in more purchases and product recommendations that offset any investment required to deliver this seamless experience.

—Laura Ritchey

Start with the goal of a great customer experience. A value-added returns process is aligned across all stages—beginning with clear instructions, expectations, and returns systemization for the customer; then creating seamless flow of product and information between returns fulfillment center, customer service, and outbound re-delivery functions, with meaningful visibility along the way.

—Brandon Feeler
Director of Client Solutions
Legacy Supply Chain

Have a great answer to a good question?

Be sure to participate next month. We want to know:

What’s the difference between traceability and transparency in the supply chain?

We’ll publish some answers. Tell us at [email protected] or tweet us @ILMagazine #ILgoodquestion.


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