Many Happy Returns

It's no secret that the volume of returned items goes up dramatically during the holidays, and providing a streamlined returns mechanism that effectively guards against fraud is a big and often overlooked part of the in-store holiday experience. Here are two solutions that take a slightly different approach to helping retailers deliver a returns process that rewards good customers, while detecting those with less savory motives.

The Retail Equation offers SaaS-based technology that tracks returns based on the individual shopper and their purchase behavior, rather than based on an item's receipt. Personal data, such as loyalty card and credit card information, as well as identification shown at the point of return, is all used to help determine which shoppers should be offered a speedy process and which should be flagged for closer scrutiny. Retailers can set thresholds, such as making a certain number of returns in a given time period or returning more than a certain number of purchases at once for automatic flagging.

The solution has been shown to reduce the dollar amount of returns by as much as 8% and reduce shrink by as much as 13%. Retailers can also help control staffing of return personnel as a result of more efficient returns management.

Meanwhile, the OmniTrace and ReturnFlex returns management solutions from Siras also steer away from receipts to track and validate returns. However, rather than focus on customers, Siras technology focuses on validation at the product UID (unique identifier) based on centrally maintained terms and conditions from the retailer and manufacturer. Siras hosts the centralized attribute management made available via Web services. As a result, the product itself is managed and traced across all channels to ensure it is being properly returned, reducing unwarranted returns anywhere from 10% to 50%.

— Dan Berthiaume

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