Have you ever ordered something online only to find that it wasn’t the true size or shape for you?
If so, you might have had to go through a lengthy process of contacting the retailer you purchased from and organizing a return of the item. Even more likely, the hassle of doing so might have meant that the item of clothing just ended up in the back of a closet or you gave it to a family member or friend (it’s how I got my last pair of high-end running shoes, so I’m not complaining!).
In recent years though, consumers have become much more aware of the returns policies of brands and businesses. They are now much more careful about understanding exactly how they can return it if it isn't right for them when it arrives. Even more so, consumers are turning to retailers that offer convenient returns, at no extra cost!
This part of the delivery process or supply chain is what's referred to as ‘reverse logistics’.
Where the delivery process was once considered complete for businesses once the agreed goods were delivered, there is now an expectancy on the consumers' side that the businesses offer free returns as well.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the top reverse logistics companies around the world and how they are making the process as simple and frictionless as possible for everyone involved.
We’ll cover a few different companies that play their part in various parts of the process including; logistics companies, technology providers, retailers and even national postal providers.
So, let’s get stuck in!
1) XPO Logistics
As one of the largest logistics corporations in the world, and the second biggest in North America, XPO knows a thing or two about reverse logistics.
In fact, they can be credited with seeing the opportunity in eCommerce returns while other businesses were still viewing it as an unsolvable problem.
In 2021, XPO created a sister company named GXO, with the sole intention of capturing the eCommerce returns market.
The truth is, however, that warehouses in the last mile industry are not designed to have volumes of packages returning undelivered as it impacts on available space, makes volumetric planning difficult and presents endless problems that disrupt the supply chain.
So, how exactly did XPO do it ‘right’?
Well, the truth is they just made planning the return process more efficient and ensured that there were dedicated areas to clean up and repackage reversed goods and invested in suitable packaging solutions in conjunction with their ECommerce clients.
A 16% compound annual growth in returns revenue in its first 3 years of operation.
Given the scale of XPO, that’s a lot of money secured through a solid reverse logistics process!
The retail industry has undergone a digital transformation unlike any other industry over the past decade. In fact, recently the Netherlands confirmed that there were now more online stores registered in the country than there were physical stores;
- 84,100 online stores
- 82,100 physical stores
Such a shift is pretty significant when you consider that eCommerce was relatively unknown until about a decade ago, but its rise has been made all the more accessible to all businesses through eCommerce solutions like Shopify and WooCommerce.
Shipbob has capitalized on this shift to eCommerce solutions and offers integrated shipping solutions for businesses with an online presence. Their solution allows businesses to store goods at their depot and once it is purchased through the business's website, they pick, pack and send the order on behalf of the retailer.
You read that right, the retailer never actually touches the product they’ve sold.
It makes sense then, that Shipbob has seen the opportunity to complete the circular delivery process and offer hassle-free returns to their customers.
Deserving of its place on this list for making returns a viable option for the smaller retailers with limited resources at their disposal!
3) An Post
An Post is Ireland’s national postal service and is regularly lauded as being one of the leading innovators in the public sector in the country.
No surprise then, that they were quick to become the first reverse logistics company in Ireland when they rolled out their ‘An Post Click & Post’ to Irish residents in 2019.
The service offered retailers that service the Irish market the opportunity to partner with them and have any unwanted items that people ordered returned directly to them.
What makes this service special compared to others on this list?
Well, An Post is unique in that its post offices are located throughout Ireland and are sometimes even operated by other small independent businesses in areas that are far from urban centers. In fact, there is a sketch by a famous Glasgow comedian that even references an old lady exiting a post office in Ireland, annoyed and asking; “what kind of post office doesn’t sell rashers?” - a reference to the famous utility that post offices in the country have.
Of course, there is also the well-documented fact that Irish post workers are among the best customer service providers in the world, delivering letters with even the most obscure descriptions of people they’re intended for (no address needed here!)
So, ordered a pair of shoes and they don’t fit?
Just put them back in the packaging, print a return label, wait for the postman to come to you and they’ll have it returned for you (although it isn’t specified in the terms of service, Irish postal workers are typically happy to drop it off for you at the post office when they get back from their delivery round).
Does a reverse logistics company get much better than that?
4) Spätis - German Convenience Stores
If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting Berlin in Germany, you may have noticed that there are small convenience stores that sell household essentials like bread, milk and beer (this is Germany, and beer is very much an essential!) on almost every side street.
These little convenience stores are called Spätis, which literally translates to ‘Late-ies’, referring to their late night/early morning opening hours.
While their inclusion on a list of top reverse logistics companies might seem a little strange, let us explain;
Pick Up and Drop Off (PUDO for short) lockers that allow consumers to bring their parcels to a central location, pop it in a locker and the delivery company then picks up several parcels together.
In recent years, last mile carriers in Germany, like DHL, have begun a partnership with these little convenience stores to install PUDOs. Because of their presence on most streets in cities, they make it convenient for both the consumer to drop off their return items and it makes the collection process more efficient for the last mile carrier as well.
But here’s what we love most about it.
In a recent interview with an owner of one of these convenience stores, he noted that footfall in his store had increased by a whopping 90% since the installation of PUDO’s with 1 in 5 of these people purchasing something.
However, he also noted that these were usually new customers and are in demographics that usually buy more than a usual customer would buy!
But, in true German-innovation style, they are adding even more layers to it. Some of the larger postal carriers Germany are also offering vouchers within their mobile apps that can be used in these convenience stores, increasing the chances of the newfound footfall making a purchase within the store.
The real beauty of this?
It is bringing people back to the high streets and to the center of communities which have long been worried about the threat of eCommerce. In a positive twist of fate, it looks like eCommerce is breathing life back into cities.
Savior of the humble corner shop and bringing life back to urban centers?
We’re entirely onboard with that!
Yes, that’s us!
But we’re satisfied that we deserve our place on the list.
SmartRoutes is a delivery and route management system that helps businesses to streamline their delivery processes through technology that automates everything from route planning to proof of delivery.
The way we approach the reverse logistics problem is through a holistic analysis of the entire delivery process, and then developing technological solutions that can make each separate part more seamless and transitional than it was before.
SmartRoutes helps to automate your reverse logistis
Save time and money in delivery management. Cut carbon emissions. Get oversight on your fleet. Impress your customers with superb communication tools.
Our SAAS solution helps businesses to undertake returns through features such as:
Our proof of delivery solution allows delivery drivers to take photos of deliveries and collections, which in turn leads to fewer disputes with customers.
For clients that deliver their own high-ticket items, this can create massive savings in lost revenue through disputes about the condition of items at the point of return.
Vehicle Capacity Maximization
Our route management system has the ability to identify when a vehicle is scheduled on a route that has a return that needs to be collected.
Less-than-load multi-stop delivery routes can therefore be allocated a collection along the way to ensure that you are maximizing your business key resource: your vehicles.
Reducing delivery costs for logistics businesses is key to the success and scalability of any courier business, so any help you can get in maximizing resources is welcome.
Making out-of-home collections easy
Our solution to the last mile problem combines both a desktop management dashboard, and mobile driver app that helps drivers with every aspect of delivery and collection.
With the delivery driver app, drivers are able to view all the details that they need to help them collect returns from customers. Access to customer notes about the pick up such as where it is, how to gain access to it and even what it looks like can be invaluable to drivers in finding the items for return.
Should drivers have any issues, customer phone numbers are also available for the individual collection in the app so they can make contact with them at the touch of a button.
Thinking about offering reverse logistics? It’s a no-brainer!
As we’ve outlined in this blog, there are now more businesses seeing the opportunity that offering the return of items affords.
And while some of the businesses on this list might seem like industry leaders in the space, it can be even easier for companies with less baggage and more flexibility to implement a reverse logistics process that customers will appreciate and love.
The uptick it promises in sales from consumers who are skeptical about purchasing online should be enough to get business owners excited.
It’s really as simple as this:
If you are already delivering goods, you’ve scaled a much greater challenge than simply implementing a reverse delivery operation.
Seize that opportunity.
Use the right technology for your reverse logistics offering
If you’re still not sure about implementing a reverse logistics process in your business, our team of experts will be happy to discuss how you can approach it and how to take the first steps towards planning it.
We have experience in helping hundreds of clients from eCommerce businesses with their own delivery service, to large courier and logistics businesses to establish processes with supporting technology that makes it quick, easy, and cost-effective
Frequently asked questions
1. What is reverse logistics, and how does it differ from traditional logistics?
Reverse logistics involves the process of managing the return and disposal of products from customers to the manufacturer or retailer. It differs from traditional logistics, which primarily focuses on the flow of products from the manufacturer to the customer. In reverse logistics, the flow is in the opposite direction, dealing with returns, recycling, or repurposing products.
2. How do reverse logistics companies handle returns and product recalls?
Reverse logistics companies manage returns and product recalls by providing efficient and cost-effective solutions. They have specialized processes for inspecting, refurbishing, recycling, or disposing of returned products. In the case of recalls, they help in identifying and retrieving affected products swiftly to minimize risks to consumers and businesses.
3. What are some key benefits of using a reverse logistics company for businesses?
Businesses benefit from reverse logistics companies in several ways. These companies help reduce return-related costs, improve customer satisfaction, manage excess inventory, enhance environmental sustainability through recycling, and ensure compliance with regulations. They also offer expertise in managing complex reverse supply chains.
4. How can I choose the right reverse logistics company for my business needs?
When selecting a reverse logistics partner, consider factors such as the company's industry experience, technological capabilities, geographic coverage, and the ability to provide customized solutions that align with your specific business needs. Additionally, assess their track record in delivering reliable and cost-effective reverse logistics services.
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