Optimize the Returns Management Processes using Application Integration

by Laurie Smith
February 10, 2023

For ecommerce businesses, returns management is both a significant pain point and an opportunity to establish a long-lasting relationship with your customers. Ecommerce leaders can use the returns process to increase conversions, build customer loyalty, and differentiate from competitors. A recent study states that 92% of consumers would buy again from the same company if the product return process was friction-free.

Many companies struggle with their returns management process, though, due to outdated technologies and a heavy reliance on manual processes. Even in 2023, many companies provide slow customer communication and poor overall customer service.

The ecommerce companies that excel at returns management have done so by optimizing the process through application integration. By integrating ecommerce apps, manual tasks are turned into automated workflows, eliminating human errors and allowing your resources to be focused on strategic, revenue-generating initiatives. Integration also gives companies connected, real-time data, and the ability to get valuable insights from their data.

Benefits of Returns Management Integration

Application integration in the returns management process allows ecommerce companies to:

  • Improve the customer experience
  • Turn online returns into conversions
  • Turn returns data into business action
  • Gain a true 360-degree view of customers
  • Hone supply chain and inventory management
  • Scale operations easily

Returns Management Integration: Best Practices

Use your ERP as the central hub

To build a foundation for a seamless returns process, begin by having an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system — such as NetSuite or Acumatica — as a central hub of your ecommerce operations. The ERP will be your single source of truth for all returns business processes, including financials, inventory, storefront, and returns processing.

Connect your tech stack

Unify and integrate your ERP with core ecommerce apps, such as returns apps, inventory and order management, financials, and customer support. Explore return apps that provide a self-service, friction-free returns experience. Then integrate your ERP and online stores with the returns management app (or your POS systems for in-store returns).

Utilize customer support and help desk apps

Returns can be initiated through a help desk, such as Gorgias. With an ERP-to-help desk integration, you can quickly initiate returns within the help desk app. For example, the NetSuite-Zendesk Integration App also allows you to handle a large number of return requests efficiently by creating RMAs within Zendesk and automatically initiating returns processes in NetSuite.

Returns may also be handled by a self-service return management system, ecommerce platform, or a retail POS location. Once integrated, you’ll have a bi-directional flow of data. When a shopper requests a return via the storefront or call center, the request is automatically sent to the different systems to trigger the fulfillment, communication, and return processes.

Offer self-service returns

By offering a self-service return option, you help your customers make their returns more quickly. Several prominent self-service returns apps include Returnly, Loop Returns, and Happy Returns. Customers can create a return shipping label to print at home. Customers can also give a reason for the return, which allows you to solve the root causes of returns and proactively address issues before they become widespread to more customers.

For example, Returnly helps online retailers and brands bring frictionless returns to the modern shopper. You can integrate Returnly with your ERP and finance apps to automate the returns process and refund notifications. Automate return authorization requests and refund status updates with ecommerce apps such as Amazon, Magento, and Shopify. Regarding logistics, you can alert your warehouse of incoming returns and get alerts when received (Amazon FBA, ShipStation, Shipwire).

Integrate help desk with internal communications apps

You can streamline your customer service processes by integrating communications apps to your help desk. For example, integrate Zendesk to Slack or other business applications. Automate your workflows by synchronizing ticket status between Zendesk and Slack.

Other Ways to Optimize Ecommerce Returns

Have a clear returns policy

Create a straightforward returns policy for your shoppers that includes the following:

  • Types of items that can be refunded
  • Recourse your customer will receive (refund, exchange, replacement, or repair)
  • Who covers the cost of delivery or postage for returning the items
  • Shipping and delivery time
  • Who is responsible for the shipping costs, shipping, and delivery time requirements

Give customers a generous window of time to return

Although research shows that 80% of customers will return their items within 14 days, it’s good for your brand to show customers that you care about getting the right product in their hands and reducing the perceived risk of making a purchase decision. And studies indicate that more lenient return policies correlate with increased purchases overall.

Encourage exchanges instead of cash returns

While you should certainly offer a refund, you should first try to satisfy the customer with a different product. Offer shoppers an immediate exchange or an instant merchandise credit at the beginning of the return process. A more creative approach would be to offer the shopper 20% off their entire purchase if they redeem their credit within 12 hours. While the shopper feels like they are receiving something extra, you convert a return into a purchase. This makes it easy for consumers to shop right away while they are on the website without waiting for refunds to hit their accounts.

For example, the ecommerce app Loop Returns offers an easy-to-follow customer interface that encourages customers to exchange a product rather than ask for a refund.

A guide to ecommerce returns management.


The Definitive Guide to Returns Management

Learn how to put the proper systems and automated processes in place, improve customer service, save time, and boost your profits. The Definitive Guide to Returns Management discusses several ways to level up your returns management process by implementing an integrated tech stack and process automation.

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