Companies worldwide are feeling the continued labor shortage and its effect on global supply chains, leaving many retailers struggling to stay afloat while determining the next steps. The lack of workers is having a significant impact on e-commerce supply chain operations. But while employment slows down, consumer buying habits continue to ramp up, especially with the upcoming holiday season.
Retailers, 3PLs, manufacturers, and facility operators are especially feeling the impact of the staffing crunch. According to CNN, the jobs major American chains are struggling to fill aren't in-store; instead, they're warehouse jobs, where employees select, pack, and load items onto trucks. Between warehouse disruptions, truck driver shortages, and shortages in goods and services, retailers around the globe are feeling the pressure from all angles, which ultimately affects the end-user – the consumer. To make the best of a challenging situation, many companies across the supply chain are embracing digital transformation by enlisting the support of advanced technologies.
As purchases increase, retailers will see an inevitable uptick in product returns. So, how can retailers be prepared? The textbook answer would be to hire the right employees and train those who may need more upskilling or reskilling for their position. As is often the case, textbook solutions and reality often clash. According to MHI’s 2020 Annual Industry Report, nearly three-quarters of companies take more than 30 days to fill an open job position. Greater focus must be given to other more viable alternatives, like ensuring they are equipped with advanced technology to streamline and automate their returns process.
The right technology solutions – cost-efficient and bottom-line effective – can immediately soothe the stress of too few workers. Specifically, an effective returns management system (RMS) can be up and running in six weeks or less. It's easy to use, saves money, and allows organizations to reduce monotonous manual work and increase efficiency across their operations.
Utilizing an RMS helps retailers and supply chain leaders find success amid the labor shortage and unprecedented disruptions in several key ways, including:
End-To-End Visibility for Better Efficiency
Once a customer has initiated a return, an RMS platform provides both the consumer and the retailer with end-to-end visibility to make the "post-purchase" experience as seamless as possible. Customers receive updates on the status of their return, allowing customer service teams to spend less time troubleshooting over the phone and more time providing a positive customer experience. Additionally, the platform provides the retailer with critical visibility to gain valuable insight into why the product was returned, which helps eliminate fraudulent return activity.
Configuration and Automation for Faster Workflows
With an RMS, teams can configure workflows across each supply chain sector, including warehouses and shipping locations, build policies to ensure each product is accepted and inspected consistently, and manage refurbishment, warranties, and repairs efficiently. Additionally, highly configurable workflows help employees work more efficiently by guiding them through each detailed step and standardizing reverse logistics processes. This leaves staff more time to automate customer communication and identify work areas where variations are slowing down operations.
Inspect, Grade and Rotate More Accurately
Inspecting and grading a returned product are the most time-consuming and costly tasks surrounding the returns process. An RMS platform enables staff to receive, inspect, grade, and put away returns without the need for the tedious manual work of logging items in the system. Another labor-intensive process is stock rotation but, through an RMS stock rotation management capability, leaders can add rules for stock rotations, schedule SR initiations, and rotate locations.
By investing in a robust RMS platform, e-retailers can gain control of their returns processes, increase profit margins, and enhance brand loyalty. Implementing a holistic approach to improving current returns processes through advanced tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning can increase net profits when retailers have to do more with fewer resources. With businesses struggling to remain viable while providing customers with a positive experience, an RMS solution can help break these barriers by allowing retailers to offer an accessible and convenient returns process that can be felt throughout the supply chain.