Distribution special | E-Commerce


Returns policy returns customers


E-commerce customers want to be able to return items quickly and easily.


The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of online shops further.

In e-commerce, transparency, ease and convenience are key for customers in the DIY segment, too. This applies both to delivery and the returns experience, says Bobbie Ttooulis of GFS.

E-commerce in the DIY and home improvement industry is growing. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated this growth further, as people turned to home improvement and online shopping during lockdown.

As the e-commerce industry grows, the expectations of digital consumers grow too. Delivery and returns have become increasingly important to customers, so much so that a second-rate delivery and returns offering may discourage customers from buying and from returning to the store. DIY retailers must ensure their final-mile strategy is fit for purpose, so they can grow sales and build customer loyalty.

Customers buying home improvement products online are usually on the search for an item for a specific project, which often means they want it for a specific time. Many large retailers feel the need to offer fast and free delivery to stay ahead of the competition. However, the reality for retailers is that there is no such thing as free delivery. The cost of offering this can seriously affect the bottom line, especially when they are shipping large products like home and DIY items. However, instead of getting stuck on offering fast and free, retailers need to offer a wide breadth of choice in their delivery. That can mean offering a free option for those willing to wait and fast delivery for those who want it quickly and are willing to pay for the convenience. Timed and selected day delivery, store pick-up and click and collect locations should also be offered, so customers can choose what fits around their lives. Convenience is important to customers.

Once the sale is secured, delivery remains an important part of the customer experience. To ensure there are no delays or issues, retailers need to have full view of their supply chain.

For customers, transparency is also important, with pre-­delivery notifications considered a vital aspect of a good customer experience. Just giving customers a tracking number doesn't cut it anymore. It's therefore also important to proactively let customers know of any delays before they have to contact you. Accurate and transparent tracking not only helps the customer, but it also cuts down on customer service queries. When it comes to returns, 80 per cent of customers want confirmation that their parcel has been received and want transparency over when they will get their refund or new item.

Returns are often overlooked, but they are a key part of the customer experience. 78 per cent of consumers consider the quality of a returns service when choosing where to shop. They want to be able to return items quickly and easily. This is especially true with home improvement products, where customers will often need to see the item in the home to make a decision.

When assessing the retailer's returns policy, customers want a transparent and clear process. They want to know how long they have to return the item, what options they have, how much it will cost, whether they can exchange the item, how quickly they will get the refund, and how they will know if it's been received by the retailer.

It's not just the policy that needs to be fit for purpose, but the process too. Transparency, ease and convenience are key, and retailers must make sure they have the multi-carrier technology and multi-carrier services to deliver this in a smart way.

Transparency over the reverse supply chain is also important for DIY retailers. Businesses often don't know if a product will be returned, the condition it will be in, when it will arrive, or the cost of delivery until it has already happened. This makes it impossible to plan and manage the process, leaving them playing catch-up and causing delays. These delays mean that resale­able goods take longer to get back into stock and retailers lose an opportunity for sales.

To ensure retailers can offer the delivery and returns experience that their customers expect, they need a relationship with multiple carriers. One carrier can't offer the breadth of services required. Plus, multiple carriers and technology for smart routing ensure that retailers can switch between carriers.

Through its multi-carrier management service and technology, Global Freight Solutions (GFS) helped a home and hardware retailer achieve all this. Before GFS came along, the company was relying on one single carrier.

GFS introduced Enterprise Carrier Management - a solution that combines domestic and international multi-carrier delivery services with integrated despatch technology and logistics support. An easy installation of GFS Checkout on the retailer's website gave it access to hundreds of pre-configured carrier services, the agility to switch services on or off if there were capacity issues, and a rules-based engine that ensures every item in the basket is shipped in the optimum way. GFS also provided a single technology integration for labelling, tracking and reporting. It integrated directly with the warehouse management system and 3PL provider, using order data and routing rules such as product weights, dimensions, customer address and hazardous exclusions.

The brand now offers more than a dozen delivery options ranging from two to three days and next day to click & collect and two-man for heavy goods. All of this gave it a 99 per cent service delivery performance, 50 per cent increase in sales and cost savings of more than GBP 250 000 (EUR 276 000) in the first year alone.

GFS has also just launched a new returns solution to help simplify returns with just one flat monthly fee. It gives retailers a quick snapshot of all returns data as well as an accurate insight into what is being returned, why it's being returned and when it is expected to arrive. This can reduce the time it takes to get goods back in stock by up to 50 per cent. In addition, customers get access to more than 200 global services and 320 000 drop-off points.


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Statistics Home Improvement Europe

Statistics Home Improvement
This brochure provides a competent overview of the situation in the Home Improvement sector in 31 European countries.

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