By Shannon Flynn
The holiday season puts a massive strain on logistics operations, especially when you consider reverse logistics. With e-commerce holiday sales poised to hit a record $910 billion this year, shipping and returns will likely be even higher than usual. In light of these trends, reverse logistics technology is more crucial than ever.
If retailers and their supply chains capitalize on the latest technology, they can make reverse logistics a far smoother, faster, and less wasteful process. Here are four technologies that enable that.
1. Return Apps
Reverse logistics starts with the customer, and so should reverse logistics technology. If the return process is complicated or unclear, it will frustrate consumers, compounding the issues they already have with your brand. By contrast, an easy-to-use, app-based process can offer relief, improving their perception of your company.
Return apps or return processes within apps should be easy to find and straightforward to use. The more help they offer users, the easier it will be to win them back as a customer. These apps are also useful because they provide real-time data about incoming returns.
2. IoT Tracking Solutions
Internet of Things (IoT) tracking solutions are already standard in regular shipping processes. Businesses should consider using these devices in reverse logistics, too, as their transparency can help make the process more efficient.
Product monitoring in the reverse supply chain can reveal information about a shipment’s state. This can help determine if you can repackage or resell it or if you should recycle or trash it. IoT tracking also will help prepare for incoming shipments, so you’re not overwhelmed during the holiday shipping peak.
3. Data Capture And Analytics Tools
When returned products arrive at a warehouse or store, data capture technologies like RFID scanners and machine vision can help process them. According to USPS, 44% of e-commerce companies use these tools to reduce time opening packages, identifying issues, and deciding what happens next.
The data from these tools can then feed into analytics engines to determine the next steps. Just as data forecasts can identify long-term value for commercial properties, they can reveal which actions would be the most effective for returned goods. Over time, these analytics also will reveal trends that may suggest improvements to reduce future returns.
4. Inventory Management Systems
Some returned items will be in good enough condition to repackage and resell. Traditionally, this can cause difficulties in understanding inventory levels, but reverse logistics technology can remove that obstacle.
Warehouse management systems (WMS) can automatically add scanned returned items back into inventory records and organize them accordingly. Retail inventories are only accurate 63% of the time, largely due to manual errors or misunderstandings. Automating the inventory record-keeping and organization process through WMS can remove these errors and improve visibility despite reverse logistics’ complications.
Reverse Logistics Technology Is Crucial For The Holidays
As online shopping becomes more prominent, retailers can expect more returns. Reverse logistics technology like these four solutions will be the difference between whether or not that trend upends a business’s inventory and shipping operations.
The holiday season, especially this year, can be a challenge for retailers. Smoothing the reverse logistics process through technology can help you make the most of your workforce to handle this peak season more efficiently.
About The Author
Shannon Flynn is a technology blogger who writes about AI and IT trends. She's also the Managing Editor of ReHack.com and freelances for sites like IoT for All, ChatbotNewsDaily, and more. Follow her on Medium or MuckRack to read more tech news.