Skip to content
Returns Management Featured
Back to Blog

May 6, 2022

How To Manage Ecommerce Returns as an Apparel Merchant

This is Flexport's mark (alternative). It's the Flexport mark with white.

This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.

In 2021, 16.6% of all retail sales were returned, a significant rise from the 10.6% just a year prior. Among popular categories, apparel merchants saw the highest number of returns:

  • Clothing had a return rate of 26%
  • Shoes had a return rate of 18%

It’s obvious that returns can cost your business time, money, and unnecessary stress. Despite the common nature of returns, very few ecommerce businesses are making returns management a priority due to its complex processes. From operational challenges to confusing reverse logistics, data limitations, and process ownership, managing returns on your own often feels overwhelming if you’re not an expert.

Why Managing Apparel Returns Is So Difficult

According to a 2021 study from McKinsey, 25% of retailers don’t manage returns efficiently and effectively. But what makes managing returns so difficult? Here are the top reasons why apparel returns are a complicated issue:

Many Retailers Believe They Have To Accept High Levels of Returns and Free Returns

That same study from McKinsey found that 86% of retailers believe a lenient returns policy increases revenue. Many online shoppers prioritize an easy returns experience, with 84% saying they wouldn’t shop at an ecommerce store again if it had a challenging returns process. If you want to offer an easy returns experience (especially if it’s free), you need a partner that can process or handle a high level of returns.

However, it’s not fair to assume that just because you offer a lenient returns experience that you’ll see an increase in revenue. If you’re offering free returns, a poorly managed returns process can cost you more money than it makes you—total returns account for over $400 billion in lost sales for U.S. retailers according to the National Retail Federation.

Offering an easy experience and free returns can be beneficial, but don’t take on more than you can handle.

It’s Difficult To Make Reverse Logistics Efficient

Reverse logistics is the process of managing, receiving, evaluating, and recovering (or recycling) returned merchandise. Finding the time to handle each return is challenging and the costs associated with processing returns might lower the resale value of the products.

There’s no doubt that doing returns management properly could save you lots of time, money, and effort—that's why you need to take measures. Making your reverse logistics more efficient is essential but extremely difficult to achieve due to the fragmentation of operations.

The Absence of a Powerful Digital Infrastructure

Many apparel retailers are already automating much of the returns management process, including printing and sharing labels and the logistical backend of initiating a return. If your process is not yet digital, then you’re quickly falling behind your competitors.

You need to be able to process your returns quickly and efficiently so that you can continue meeting your customers’ expectations. Ask yourself: Are there processes that are too manual? Are they redundant? Is there an opportunity to eliminate steps or connect other systems?

Developing the proper digital infrastructure and using the right tools can help you manage your returns process in a more efficient and effective way.

The Solution: Flexport’s Returns Management Tool (RMT)

Flexport’s Returns Management Tool (RMT) was built to simplify the complexities of the returns process for apparel merchants. With our RMT integration, you’re able to:

Provide an Exceptional Customer Experience

No need to make your customers wait in line at the post office or UPS store to purchase a return label. Flexport’s RMT enables customers to request a return label directly from your Support team. All your company has to do is send the prepaid label directly to the customer’s email inbox for them to print and attach to a box. It’s that simple.

The Returns Management Tool is accessible in your Seller Portal account to make the process as seamless as possible for your company:

  • Easily purchase return labels for your customers and track their status
  • Get access to detailed reporting about your returns
  • Choose any address to send returns to (your fulfillment center, the Flexport network, or even your house!).

Offering a return label is the first step to simplifying reverse logistics and providing an exceptional customer experience.

Pay Fair Fees

Returns can be costly. Unlike other returns management tools, Flexport’s RMT has access to competitive carrier rates to lower the shipping costs of your returns by 20%, on average.

Initiate Returns Across All Sales Channels

One step to simplifying the returns process is having a system in place to initiate returns on a variety of ecommerce platforms.

Using Flexport’s RMT, you’ll be able to initiate a return for a product that was purchased on any channel connected to your Seller Portal account. Initiate returns for products purchased on Amazon, Walmart, Shopify, and more.

Please note: Returns can be created manually or via a Returns Management System (RMS) supported by Flexport. If an RMS is integrated, then information about returns will automatically be sent to Flexport in order to be processed. A return can also be manually created in the your account. As of August 2022, Flexport’s Returns Management Tool only supports the tracking of refunds for returns from Returnly only. This means that when a refund has been issued for a return either from Flexport or Returnly, the status of refunds will be synced to the return orders section in your Flexport account.

Start Offering Return Labels and More With the Returns Management Tool

infrastructure and the right tools in place, the process can be simplified. Rather than developing your own proper digital infrastructure so that returns management becomes effective, turn to pre-built tools that can help streamline the process for you.

Want to learn more about our Returns Management Tool? Check out our Help Center article with answers to FAQs, or talk to our team to get started today.

The contents of this blog are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. We do not guarantee, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the contents of this blog because they are based on Flexport’s current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This blog has been prepared to the best of Flexport’s knowledge and research; however, the information presented in this blog herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this blog.

About the Author

This is Flexport's mark (alternative). It's the Flexport mark with white.

Talk to a Fulfillment Expert

About this author