Returns can be a headache for everyone involved: merchants, customers and even the logistic middleman. And eCommerce merchants have the added difficulty of not having accessible storefronts for the customer to drop off returns. Shipbob, which started as a way to help merchants distribute online orders, sought to help retailers tackle this challenge by taking on returns through a partnership with Returnly.
The decision made sense for the company: “Returns is the natural extension of the eCommerce customer journey,” ShipBob co-founder Dhruv Saxena told PYMNTS.com in an interview.
While customers typically have to send an item back to a merchant before receiving a refund, ShipBob worked with Returnly to flip this process around for eCommerce purchases. To start a return, customers of a merchant that has integrated both ShipBob and Returnly enter a store order ID and select the item they want to return. They can then generate a shipping label that they can put on a package and give to the post office or UPS. When customers print these labels, they also receive emails with coupon codes to use for a future purchases at a merchant.
To customize the return experience, the system allows merchants to create rules: They can specify whether a return is routed back to one of ShipBob’s fulfillment centers or back to the merchant, for example. The return codes also provide merchants with valuable data, allowing them to keep track of why items are returned. As a result, the merchant can diagnose the root cause of a return, while directing it to the desired destination.
In all, the solution is designed for eCommerce merchants. And Saxena said merchants can allow consumers to return a variety of goods, from apparel to consumer electronics, through the integration. In addition, Saxena said the solution is scalable: It can serve a merchant with only 200 orders a month all the way up to companies with much higher order volumes.
Distribution Centers and Software Integrations
But such a system does raise a question about forgetful or unscrupulous customers. What if customers print the shipping labels but they don’t give the package to USPS or UPS, and the item never makes it back to the merchant or to one of ShipBob’s distribution centers? Saxena said Returnly has that possibility covered: In those cases, Returnly would offer the merchant a refund.
Beyond returns, ShipBob integrates with platforms that sellers already use, such as Shopify and Squarespace. “These are the platforms where these eCommerce businesses set up their websites,” ShipBob co-founder Divey Gulati has previously told PYMNTS. And, once they have a website that sells merchandise, “the next obvious thing is to ship these goods to the end consumers.”
In order to make this happen, ShipBob has a combination of software and physical infrastructure. It’s able to determine the amount of inventory merchants have in real time, so it can push transit time back to a merchant’s website. The service comes as Amazon has made consumers accustomed to having items arrive at their doorsteps within two days of ordering. “That’s the customer expectation,” Gulati had said.
Going forward, ShipBob is considering working with other companies to bring additional functionality to the platform. “We have a bunch of partnerships in the pipeline,” Saxena said. The idea is to present a solution that is a marriage of both distribution and software, for a shipping solution designed for eCommerce merchants with challenges like returns in mind.