Insight / Blog

The 5 things retailers need from carrier returns solutions

Posted on 29th September 2021

Parcel carriers around the world are beginning to recognise the opportunity they have to solve the returns challenge their retailer customers are struggling with. Something like 22% of ecommerce orders are returned – with the proportion even higher in some categories. That leads to huge costs for retailers, who have to find ways to manage and process returns without compromising on customer experience, or face losing their customers to the competition.

With that in mind, parcel carriers are looking to win more business and retain more retailer clients by offering a solution to their returns woes through a digital returns platform. Doing so successfully makes the carrier a more valuable partner, reduces customer churn and helps to move sales conversations away from a pure price-comparison approach. So, what do carriers need to know in order to create and sell a digital returns proposition to retailers?

Frictionless CX to preserve customer loyalty

As far as the end customer is concerned, the experience of dealing with a return is often the most emotive part of their shopping experience, which makes it doubly important for the retailer that it’s dealt with quickly and effectively – 87% of shoppers agree that a positive returns experience makes them want to shop again with a retailer. Nobel prize-winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman showed that the way we remember experiences is affected by the “peak-end rule”. That is, our memory of an experience is heavily weighted towards two key points: the most intense moment, and the last moment. The returns process often represents both for a shopper.

That means hassle and inconvenience at this stage will not be forgotten, and so the emphasis has to be on an intuitive and straightforward user experience. We asked American shoppers in a YouGov poll to rate the importance of delivery and returns to their overall shopping experience – 88% said delivery was important or very important, but 87% said the same of returns: the returns experience is just as important as the delivery experience.

In practical terms, what that requires is a tested user journey moving from the retailer site to the returns portal, where exchange options and other revenue recovery opportunities are presented. The customer has a clear step-by-step path to booking their return, ultimately resulting in a label or QR code for posting or dropping off their return.

Consistent branding

Shoppers like to know who they’re dealing with, and as far as most of us are concerned, when we buy something and it’s not what we expected, the business we’re dealing with is the retailer who sold it.

That means the returns process should have consistent retailer branding – from selecting the items to return on the retailer site, to the experience in the portal itself. From the carrier perspective, that means providing retail clients with the toolset to customise the portal and email communications with their key brand elements.

Communication and visibility

Speaking of emails, a 2020 YouGov study commissioned by Doddle found that 51% of shoppers want retailers to provide better communications and visibility during the return and refund process. To enable that, a carrier’s returns platform needs to include a system to trigger automatic email updates with high deliverability and clear information to keep customers updated on their return and refund status.

That communication element isn’t just for the customer’s benefit. Merchants also appreciate knowing in advance their inbound returns volume, and which SKUs are coming back – this allows them to manage capacity and get high-value items back in stock faster.

Insight and improvement

One of the single biggest barriers to retailers addressing the issue of ecommerce returns is a lack of visibility. Manual processes, based on paper return labels, make it hard for them to build a clear picture of who is returning which products, and why? When is a return eligible for free returns, and when should they really be charging a shipping or restocking fee?

They need insight. Digitising the returns journey and giving them access to the data generated by customer returns opens up huge opportunities for merchants to track and fix issues, reduce their return rate and increase their profitability. A carrier returns platform needs to have reporting and analytics capability to enable those improvements.

Onboarding seamlessly – through multiple channels

The biggest retailers are likely to already have a digital returns solution in place, so the audience for carrier returns is typically those retailers without their own massive tech capabilities. That means that ease of integration and onboarding is paramount. Flexibility to integrate into different platforms (from marketplaces to webstore providers) can massively increase the potential audience too. Offering a mix of integration types can also give retailers the opportunity to pick their own best fit – whether that’s an API integration or a Shopify app.

Ultimately, getting returns right for retailers is a tricky balancing act. Postal operators and parcel carriers looking to provide a digital solution to their merchants can avoid expensive development projects and ongoing maintenance costs by partnering with Doddle. Our returns platform has been developed over years of experience in the world’s most advanced ecommerce markets, with millions of returns processed. Find out more about our digital returns solutions for carriers.



Chief Commercial Officer

Mike joined Doddle in 2014. Mike heads up the carrier team and is responsible for the global carrier go-to-market strategy.

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