Here's how retailers and logistics firms can solve the multibillion-dollar returns issue
With e-commerce becoming a lucrative shopping channel, retailers and their logistics partners have been primarily focused on how to quickly move goods through the supply chain and into the hands of consumers - a process commonly referred to as forward logistics. However, the opportunities presented by the growing popularity of e-commerce also come with a challenging, multibillion-dollar downside: returns.
Return rates for e-commerce purchases are between 25% and 30%, compared with just 9% for in-store purchases. Turning reverse logistics - the process of returning goods from end users back to their origins to either recapture value or properly dispose of material - into a costly and high-stakes matter for retailers.
Not only are retailers experiencing more returns as a result of e-commerce growth, but consumer expectations also demand that retailers provide a seamless process. In fact, 92% of consumers agree that they are more likely to shop at a store again if it offers a hassle-free return policy (e.g. free return shipping labels). Some consumers even place large orders with the intention of returning certain items.
And e-commerce sales are only going up from here, exacerbating the issue and making retailers' need for help more dire. However, for logistics firms that can offer cost-effective reverse logistics solutions, this has opened up a significant opportunity to capture a share of rapidly growing e-commerce logistics costs in the US, which hit $117 billion last year, according to Armstrong & Associates, Inc. estimates.
In The Reverse Logistics Report, Business Insider Intelligence examines what makes reverse logistics so much more challenging than forward logistics, explores the trends that have driven retailers to finally improve the way in which returns move through their supply chains, and highlights how logistics firms can act to win over retailers' return dollars.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- E-commerce is now a core shopping channel for retailers, and it's still growing. US e-commerce sales are set to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14% between 2018 and 2023, surpassing $1 trillion in sales, according to Business Insider Intelligence estimates.
- Booming e-commerce sales have driven product returns through the roof. Business Insider Intelligence estimates that US e-commerce returns will increase at a CAGR of 19% between 2018 and 2023, surpassing $300 million dollars.
- Consumers have high expectations about how returns are handled, and retailers are struggling to find cost-effective ways to meet their demands. Sixty-four percent of shoppers stated they would be hesitant to shop at a retailer ever again if they found issues with the returns process. And retailers don't have the expertise to effectively keep up with how demanding consumers are about returns - 44% of retailers said their margins were negatively impacted by handling and packaging returns, for example.
- Logistics firms are well positioned to solve - and profit from - returns. These companies can take advantage of their scale and expertise to solve pain points retailers commonly experience as goods move through the reverse supply chain.
- Reverse logistics solutions themselves present a lucrative opportunity - but they're also appealing in the potential inroads they offer to supply chain management. The global third-party logistics market is estimated to be valued at $865 billion in 2018, according to Bekryl.
In full, the report:
- Explores the difficulties found in the reverse logistics process.
- Highlights the reasons why reverse logistics needs to be a key focus of any retailer's operations.
- Identifies the specific trends that are leading to growth in reverse logistics, including changes in shopping habits, consumer expectations, and regulatory pressures
- Pinpoints where along the reverse supply chain logistics firms have opportunities to attract retail partners by offering unique and helpful solutions.
- Outlines strategies that logistics firms can employ to capture a piece of this growing multibillion-dollar market.