Reverse logistics can be a huge expense for retailers, especially those in the eCommerce fashion segment.
These merchants regularly see returns rates of around 30 percent, even when they’re doing everything right. It has little to do with the merchant and a lot to do with their customers, namely the “Serial Returner.”
What is a Serial Returner?
Serial Returners are people who return a lot of stuff.
But this isn’t the regular sort of “wrong size, wrong color” return, instead they frequently purchase additional sizes, colors or models of an item so they can choose the best from what they receive and send the rest of the lot back. They’ve become such a problem for the retail industry that many retailers are considering such extreme measures as lifetime bans on customers who purchase items with the intent of returning them.
It’s not that companies want to have customer-unfriendly policies, but all of these returns are having a serious impact on industries from retail to logistics from their sheer volume. According to research by ERP firm Brightpearl 42 percent of U.S. retailers have seen an increase in serial returners in the last 12 months.
Would You Know a Serial Returner?
One of the biggest reasons that retailers continue to lose money to serial returners is because they lack the technology to properly identify them. Almost 60 percent of the retailers that participated in the Brightpearl survey said they lacked the technology to properly identify customers who were abusing the system.
Those that can, though, are taking serious steps to curb the Serial Returners among their customer base. Amazon has famously started closing accounts of Serial Returners without notice, while LL. Bean announced that it was ending its century-old “no questions asked” return policy. A full quarter of those retailers surveyed by Brightpearl said that they believed a lifetime ban for these shoppers was necessary to protect their margins from eroding further.
Even consumers themselves are for banning Serial Returners. According to the same survey, 58 percent of shoppers support bans on troublesome buyers. Only seven percent outright decried the practice.
Protect Your Company From Serial Returners
There’s no way to totally avoid Serial Returners, but you should have some methodology in place to identify customers who are likely Serial Returners, even if you do the full review manually. It’s the very best way to protect your bottom line from unnecessary returns.
“In today’s consumer-led retail environment, intentional returning could spell disaster for retail business owners if they do not have visibility over regularly returning customers,” Brightpearl CEO Derek O’Carroll explained in a statement. “Without this, retailers will struggle with the definition and consistent application of their returns strategies—and could face a resulting backlash from shoppers.”