How to Turn Your Unwanted Returns into a Superior Customer Experience

Mar 8, 2022 1:30 PM2:30 PM EST

Request The Full Recording

Key Discussion Takeaways

How do returns impact the success of your company? Is there a way to elevate the customer experience based on unwanted returns?

According to Christine Bradford, first-time buyers are 90% less likely to buy from you again after a bad purchase experience. So, returns management should be a top priority. By digging into customer returns data, you can adjust your strategy based on customer needs, drive loyalty, and decrease operational expenses.

In this virtual event, Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson sits down with Christine Bradford, VP of Customer Success at Returnalyze, and Ellie Hamrick, Senior Director of Operations at Sarah Flint, to discuss how you can drive visibility in your business and improve the customer experience. Christine and Ellie talk about the importance of analyzing data on unwanted returns, strategies to learn more about the customer, and tips for creating a better multi-channel experience using data.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:


  • Christine Bradford shares examples of acceptable returns versus unwanted returns
  • Ellie Hamrick discusses how data can improve the customer experience
  • What is bracketing, and how can it help you learn more about your products and customers?
  • How returns affect first-time buyers compared to loyal customers
  • Navigating supply chain issues and multi-channel efforts through Returnalyze’s data visibility
  • Should returns management be a top priority in 2022 and beyond?
  • How Returnalyze digs into the details of the data
  • Ellie and Christine’s key takeaways on product strategy and elevating the customer experience
Request The Full Recording

Event Partners


Returnalyze is a returns analytics company on a mission to help retailers take control of their returns. Returnalyze's Intelligent Dashboard provides critical visibility which elevates customer experience, reduces operational overhead and adds significant savings to the bottom line. The dashboard empowers retailers, showing them why their customers are returning items, what product or supplier issues exist, and what actions can be taken to reduce, prevent and predict returns.

Connect with Returnalyze

Guest Speakers

Christine Bradford LinkedIn

VP of Customer Success at Returnalyze

Christine Bradford is the VP of Customer Success at Returnalyze, which helps businesses reduce returns and operational expenses while improving the customer experience and loyalty. As an experienced client services leader and strategist, she helps brands achieve business goals and drives improvement by transforming complex obstacles into tangible and profitable solutions. Before Returnalyze, Christine was the Senior Client Account Director at Epsilon.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson LinkedIn

Senior Digital Strategist at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.

Ellie Hamrick

Senior Director Of Operations at Sarah Flint, Inc.

Ellie Hamrick is the Senior Director of Operations at Sarah Flint, a luxury women’s footwear brand. Ellie has been with the company for nearly eight years, starting out as an Officer Manager before moving up the ranks. Before joining Sarah Flint, she was an Assistant Designer and Production Manager for Donna Distefano Ltd.   

Event Moderator

Christine Bradford LinkedIn

VP of Customer Success at Returnalyze

Christine Bradford is the VP of Customer Success at Returnalyze, which helps businesses reduce returns and operational expenses while improving the customer experience and loyalty. As an experienced client services leader and strategist, she helps brands achieve business goals and drives improvement by transforming complex obstacles into tangible and profitable solutions. Before Returnalyze, Christine was the Senior Client Account Director at Epsilon.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson LinkedIn

Senior Digital Strategist at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.

Ellie Hamrick

Senior Director Of Operations at Sarah Flint, Inc.

Ellie Hamrick is the Senior Director of Operations at Sarah Flint, a luxury women’s footwear brand. Ellie has been with the company for nearly eight years, starting out as an Officer Manager before moving up the ranks. Before joining Sarah Flint, she was an Assistant Designer and Production Manager for Donna Distefano Ltd.   

Request the Full Recording

Please enter your information to request a copy of the post-event written summary or recording!

Need help with something else?

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson

Senior Digital Strategist at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Senior Digital Strategist Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

Schedule a free consultation call

Discussion Transcription

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  0:18

Happy Tuesday everyone I am Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson, a digital strategist here at BWG Connect. And we are a network and knowledge sharing group. It's what we do, we stay on top of the latest trends, challenges, whatever it is, that is changing in the digital landscape. We're on track to do almost 500 of these virtual events this year to better understand everything digital and we also are on track to do at least 100 in person small format dinners. So if you happen to be in a tier one city, feel free to shoot us an email and we'd be happy to send you an invite. These dinners are typically around a specific digital topic and it's always a good time. Here at BWG Connect, we spend the majority of our time talking to brands to stay on top of the different trends. I'd be happy to have a conversation with you so feel free to drop me a line at Tiffany, and we can set up some time to chat. It's from these conversations that we generate topic ideas, what we understand people want to learn more about and it's also where we gain our resident experts, such as Returnalyze, welcome who is here today, anyone that we asked to teach the collective group has come highly recommended from multiple brands within our network. So if you're ever in need of any recommendations on anything in the digital space, feel free to contact me and we can put some time in the calendar, we have a shortlist of the best of the best, which within the digital space, and we will be happy to share that information with you. Also, we know a lot of people are hiring right now. So do note we do have a talent agency, BWG Talent that I'd be happy to put you in contact with as well. A few housekeeping items, we started about three minutes after the hour. So rest assured, we will wrap up at least three to four minutes before the end of the hour, giving you time to get to your next meeting. And we want this to be as educational and conversational as possible. So please put into the chat into the q&a. If you feel more comfortable, you can email me I put my email into the chat bar, with any questions or comments that you would like covered through the duration of the conversation, and I will be sure we get to them. So with that, let's roll and start to learn about how to turn those unwanted returns into a superior customer experience. The team at Returnalyze have been great friends, partners of the network, Christine and Ellie, I will kick it off to you. If you can give a brief introduction on yourself. That would be awesome. And then we will jump into the information. Thank you,

Christine Bradford  2:46

Sure. I'll dive in. Hi, everyone. Thank you, Tiffany. My name is Christine Bradford, and I'm the VP of Customer Success at Returnalyze. I'm really excited to be here today to be presenting to all of you.

Ellie Hamrick  3:00

And Hi, I'm Ellie Hamrick. I'm the Senior Director of Operations at Sarah Flint. We are luxury woman's, footwear company and we use Returnalyze to analyze our returns. So really excited to have this conversation with you all today.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  3:16

Awesome. Well, Christine, you can kick off the presentation. And again, anybody who just joined, feel free to put any questions or comments into the q&a chat bar, or feel free to email me and let's rock.

Christine Bradford  3:28

Awesome. Thank you again. Welcome, everyone. I appreciate everyone taking the time out of your busy day. I also wanted to take a moment to think BWG Connect, or BWG for hosting the event. And Ellie from Sarah Flint, of course for participating in the conversation. Also, Happy International Women's Day to all the women. Also on behalf of Sarah Flint, which is a woman run organization. So I wanted to make sure I noted that today as well. So thank you again for joining us as we talk to you about how you can turn your unwanted returns into a superior customer experience. So I have a just a couple of slides that we're gonna go through here. And I think we can all agree when I say that returns are at the forefront of everyone's minds. So eCommerce is growing and is projected to continue to grow with no slowdown in sight. As you can see here on the slide by 2025. eCommerce sales are expected to be 25% of total retail sales. And as more shoppers are buying online, the retailer's, of course are reaping the benefits of these online sales growth. But they're also now having to deal with a jump in returns as well. So what do you guys know about your returns? Did you know that not all returns are created equal? So imagine if you had the visibility to learn more About your returns, and then be able to differentiate between the acceptable ones and the unwanted ones. So just to give you guys some examples of acceptable returns are the ones that there's nothing wrong with the item, the customer experience was just as it expected to be. But she simply just didn't like the product. She tried it on just as she wouldn't a store. But she just didn't like it. Or she realized as I often to, that maybe I don't need a third sweater in the same color in my closet. And I could probably do without this blue sweater I don't need. That's an acceptable return. The unwanted returns are the ones that could have been avoided or prevented, and 72% of returns are preventable. So just to give you guys another example, I was on the hunt this past winter for a tall nude boot. And I was looking all over the place finally found one that I liked in the imagery, it looked nude, I got it in the mail, and the boot was pink. So now I'm like, I didn't order pink boot it this is not what it looks like on the website, I have to go to the store and make a return. So now I'm irritated, I've had a bad customer experience. And this return could have simply just been avoided. Or it didn't even need to happen, had the imagery been correct on the brand's website. So these are just a couple of examples for you. But there are obviously many more out there. So once you're able to really differentiate between your returns and have that visibility, what does that do, it really drives a lot more visibility into your business. And because of that visibility, you can now take the appropriate action to correct the problem and prevent the return from reoccurring. They say knowledge is power, right? So acting on that knowledge is even more powerful, you will be able to improve the customer experience and drive more loyalty. Taking control of your returns will also improve your bottom line and operational expenses, which no one can disagree with putting a little bit more money in your pocket, right, and then continuing to perpetually work on your returns will ultimately reduce them. And by reducing the returns, you're also going to help the environment which for everyone ends up being a win win. So you can't disagree with that either.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  7:40

Love that. Awesome? Well, I'm going to jump into a question right away, because I'm going to assume that a retailer has some sort of process or software in place, and that they have information on those unwanted ones. Could you tell me taking that data? How could you improve the customer experience?

Ellie Hamrick  8:01

Sure, I can speak to that. So one of the things that we did with the Returnalyze team is a bracketing analysis. And we learned a lot of really interesting information about our new customers. And as a rapidly scaling business, you know, our new customers are so important to our ability to meet our goals and to you know, support the, you know, future revenue of the brand. So what we learned in the bracketing analysis is that, understandably, it's taking new customers a bit of time to learn what their size is. And we were also able to really narrow in on which products specifically, customers were having a hard time with fit. So we were able to update our website with recommendations on you know, adjustments to the sizing and etc. And you know, so that's just one example of how we were really able to take the data and improve the customers direct experience. We also saw it with color and materialization as well where, you know, to Christine's point, that was not necessarily one two, by the way. But we did find you know, there are certain instances where, like a certain color was people were returning at saying it was not as expected and so we're improving the product imagery, we're adding video content, you know, we're able to really sort of narrow in on what are those areas that are producing the unwanted returns and then identify what the thing the action is that we need to do in order to prevent them.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  9:54

Super interesting. Um, so I can only assume then taking that data and being able to utilise that with your product development team. And what does that look like?

Ellie Hamrick  10:10

Yeah, our product development team is one of the most involved in the Returnalyze, the work we do with Returnalyze, just because we get so much great information about, you know, what people are buying and keeping and, and returning ultimately. And so, this, as we were heading into designing our fall 23 season, we did an analysis on some past boots that we had sold. And we found right off the bat that there were some really strong performers that just made like, total sense to bring back immediately just based on the fact that their return rates were so low. And you know, those were really driving profitable sales for us, especially at the high price point that boots, you know, command. But what we found is that there were definitely, there was a fit issue with one of our key styles that were key silhouettes that we really wanted to go forward with and believed in, but it was clear that there was a fit issue with the customer. And, you know, the return rate reflected that and it just was causing the product to be, you know, unprofitable for us. And so we were able to take that and use the data of what customers ended up keeping to inform adjustments that we made to the actual structures that the shoes are built on. And, you know, the development for the upcoming seasons. And I know, I touched on it earlier, but we've also been able to make a lot of strategic decisions around colors. With the bracketing analysis, we were able to see, if a customer buys white and sand, they're more likely to keep the white. And so that just really helps us, you know, know, where we should be investing in. And then also, you know, where areas that we can cut or perhaps have to, you know, duplicity for our customers, and we want to make the assortment a little bit more streamlined.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  12:06

Awesome, but let's touch on bracketing. Could you maybe give the audience your what is bracketing? And what is that behavior? And how are you able to use that to learn more about your business and your customers?

Ellie Hamrick  12:23

Sure, bracketing was a analysis that I think everyone in the company was so excited to to do, because, you know, as we all see the orders coming in that sometimes have multiple versions of the same size. So bracketing is when a customer is going to purchase multiples of either the same of the same product and different variations. So for example, the same product in two different colors, or the same product in two different sizes, or the same product in two different heel heights. And what we were able to find is that when customers were bracketing on color, for example, so purchasing, let's say, a black and a red of the pump, they're more likely to keep both pairs then if somebody is bracketing on size, or heel height, which in that case, they were much more likely to make a return and those returns and therefore those orders were much less profitable than people who bracketed on colors. So what we found out of that is that we really want to call it encourage people, you know, to continue to build their basket with more, you know, multiples of colors, and we want to do everything that we can do to avoid customers bracketing on size and heel height. So that means making sure that you know, the PDPs the product displays on the website are very, very clear that our fit and sizing information is is super, you know onpoint just anything we can do to prevent the customer needing to make that purchase with the two products and instead you know, have confidence in that first purchase that in their size.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  14:22

Awesome. Just a reminder, anybody if you have any questions or comments, feel free to put them in the chat and also if you have any experience and like how you're combating your returns or any stories to share, definitely feel free to share and we will definitely talk about it. Okay, so I am definitely guilty of some bracketing in my time I didn't know what it was called but no I know.

Ellie Hamrick  14:46

Now you'll be aware when you go to do it oh I’m a bracketer.

Christine Bradford  14:51

No good, no good. lawyers call it a wardrobing as well. So it's known in the industry is wardrobing. So we've we hear both But I think the the great thing Ellie's point is, is being able to understand. So I think a lot of retailers are like, what's happening with wardrobing? What are my customers even doing? What are they keeping? Is it bad for my business? Is it good for my business? And you heard with Ellie's example that, you know, you're able to differentiate, understand how you wanted to drive the customer behavior to benefit the business, and then what you wanted to work on to go ahead and help curb the return. So, and it's also interesting to see the type of attributes that people bracket on, because I think the industry out there, there's a perceived notion that everyone just brackets on size, where we're finding that that's not the case, people are actually bracketing to try on different colors, and then they keep the different colors, the heel heights, they may try different material types. So any really product attribute that you have, people are wanting to bring stuff home and multiples and and try out the different style variations.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  16:05

Do you see bracketing happening during a sale or promo where people see that deal, and then just bulk up because the price is right.

Ellie Hamrick  16:16

You know, I think that there is some of that, but we have a very limited promotion schedule. Our core products only go on sale really over the, you know, Black Friday period where we do a buy more save more promotion. And as such, I think, you know, there are certainly I think is some risk there of people who do bracket during that promotion, but we really find that that promotion is a time where our returning customers like to stock up on product because it's their only opportunity throughout the year to you know, get that shoe at a discount. So it's you know, that far outstrips any potential unwanted bracketing behavior during that period, those periods and then all of our sales are final sale. So it would be on advisable to the customer to bracket and we work really, really closely with the customers during sale periods to make sure that we have extra customer service support and those kinds of things so that customers can have that, you know, certainty when they make the purchase. But on our I think, you know, to Christine's point on our full price price purchasing throughout the year, we're really able to see, okay, this is the behavior we want to like narrow in and go after more of which is, you know, getting the customer excited about multiple colors or multiple materials or etc. And then you know, deterring them from making the choice between you know, size or heel height, which they're less likely less inclined to keep a pair.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  17:50

So you guys are very disciplined in what you do promote and do sale person on and then having final sale makes obviously a big impact on that. But for brands that do go heavy into promotions, and have some you know, knock down pricing, there's always that okay, that awareness to just be like there's a bracketing threat here, in theory and something to note that I've witnessed working on the home side and the past life before BWG. So going back to returns the experience. So I know personally, when I buy from a new site, I'm already a little apprehensive, it's a new experience. Now I bought for the first time, and it was a bummer of an experience. Now I have to return the item. And it's a pain. And I'm just curious, the data around somebody like that first time buyer that had a bad experience versus a buyer who has bought multiples in the past and is long term and had a bad experience. What does that look like?

Christine Bradford  18:53

Yep, absolutely. Tiffany's. So it obviously is gonna vary by brand and the products on the market and that sort of thing. But typically, what we see overall is that if it's a first time buyer who made a return on a first purchase, their likelihood to repurchase from that brand drops completely, you know, buy an X percentage, the stat that we always like to use is that they're 90% actually less likely to buy from you again. And I have seen certain brands have that number. So after our first purchase, you know, it does drop to where there's only a 10% likelihood that someone will repurchase again after making that return. Sarah Flint's business the brands a little bit stronger. So on a stronger brand that number may not drop so drastic, but there is that fluctuation from you know, the purchase to a repurchase um, so what we like to do with our, you know, when we work with the brands is just understanding what that looks like to be To make sure that you are making the customer experiences as good as possible and making sure that, you know, you're preventing that return from happening. Or if it does, you can reach out subsequently afterwards, perhaps at the marketing promotion, or customer service rep and reach out and say, Hey, we know you had a bad experience. With that return, we'd like you to come back and try us again. And so that's how we like to partner with our clients to be able to go ahead and try to curb some of that.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  20:34

Awesome, and Ellie, do you want to elaborate that in your experience?

Ellie Hamrick  20:39

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, everything Christine said is absolutely the case, we we certainly do see a dip in repurchase rate, when a first time customer makes a return. So you know, we want to do everything we can to avoid that first time customer making a return. You know, because if they're not repurchasing, then we're missing out on their entire future lifetime value. And for a brand that wants to scale and grow in the manner that we are, you know, that future lifetime value of the customers that you're acquiring today are so, so important, is so, so important in, you know, our ability to grow. So, I think that's really been an area that we've been focusing on a lot with Returnalyze is identifying kind of the areas that are clearly causing the most friction for first time buyers. You know, sizing has certainly been a big discussion and just under, you know, trying to get as clear as we can with like, what is their Sarah Flint, true size? But, you know, I think that it goes across sort of all aspects of the customer experience as to, you know, what can we do to make sure that their first experience is as superior as we possibly can make it so that we are reducing the likelihood that they're going to make that first time return.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  22:01

So yeah, 90%, that is a big number. Wow. So Ellie, have a question for you being a luxury retailer, I'm sure that when you are shipping out something to your customer, you expect it to be an excellent condition, on time, the perfect experience. And we all know, with the challenges of supply chain across all industries and countries, you know, how? How can you take that reality, which we're all dealing with, and then also learn from your returns data to help you improve efficiency and overall customer satisfaction?

Ellie Hamrick  22:44

Yeah, so one of the great features of Returnalyze that we've been utilizing is their visibility into supplier performance. So what we've been able to see for example, is, you know, we had a supplier that we were using for hair accessories, and we found that there was in you know, elevated return rate, and that there was clearly a, a damage issue going on with some of those products, and we were able to, you know, use that information to address the supplier and really give them concrete information on, you know, how their products are performing for us and, and allowed us to kind of make strategic decisions in who our manufacturing would be going forward. So I think, you know, the visibility into sort of not just how the products are performing on a style level, but how the products are performing on a manufacturer level, you know, especially the larger you grow. And if you have potentially one style being produced across multiple factories, you know, it's it becomes really important to track and identify if there's a clear issue in your supplychain somewhere.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  24:05

Oh, it's obvious that your team takes it very seriously. And making sure that it's a good experience and taking that data and really utilizing it to level up that experience. And when you're looking at the data, is it siloed in eCommerce only or could a brand utilize it for their brick and mortar business as well?

Ellie Hamrick  24:33

Yeah, so we've been utilizing it we actually have three channels of business right now we have our online business, our brick and mortar business. And then we also have a channel called brand ambassadors, which basically are we have a lot of micro influencers who promote us and you know, that's a real driver for growth for us. So it's been really great to be able to see our returns performance across those three things. channels, and really, you know, narrow in on, on on what the issue is, are in each particular, you know, cohort of customers. For example, for brand ambassadors, it becomes very easy to see if there's a brand ambassador, that's very unproductive for us on a net basis. So maybe they're making a bunch of sales, but everybody's returning, that's a brand ambassador, we're going to want to turn out of the program. You know, in, in retail, it's being able to see, you know, like, are we seeing elevated returns by door, and you know, what products are being returned in store versus online, etc. So having that visibility by channel really has helped us kind of form strategies around each individual channel, and the returns that you know, are associated with them.

Christine Bradford  25:54

It also lets you see the full picture. So Sarah Flint recently started to launch some brick and mortars and pop up stores. So as they're adding channels, it's easy to be able to, you know, look at the data in real time. And as they've launched those channels to see where things are getting returned and what's going on. Another example I love to use is, you know, it with that visibility online and offline, sometimes you can understate a return, if you're only looking at your online returns, and you haven't considered what's also coming back in stores. So being able to see throughout the channels where items are coming back, lets you actually see the whole picture and, and pinpoint issues much easier than just looking at one channel.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  26:48

Awesome. Again, if anybody has any questions, comments, please put them into the chat. And we will get to them. I want to go back to the reality of doing business of today. And with the challenges of supply chain. And just we know all retailers are Uber busy, and there's so many things to focus on. And bandwidth is limited. So how important is it to make returns management a top priority on your roadmap in 2022 and beyond.

Christine Bradford  27:20

So I'll start from the first Returnalyze, you know, we would say it is very important, I think, you know, just focusing on the customer's pre purchase. And then during purchase lifecycle stages is a thing of the past, you have to be able to carry through through to the post purchase experience and make sure that it's flawless throughout. So I would say you know, and as we talked about earlier, where online and eCommerce just continues to grow, it's it's ever so more important to be able to prioritize returns from a visibility perspective, but also to elevate that customer experience. And then I think Ellie's provided a lot of examples of where they've been able to take the return data and apply it to their business throughout. So from my perspective, we think it's very important for retailers to prioritize in today's world.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  28:22

growing fast, so you're the perfect person to ask is like, how do you balance that?

Ellie Hamrick  28:27

Yeah, I mean, I think if you ask anybody in operations, or customer service, that returns are, like the biggest headache in the world. And so if you have the biggest headache in the world, that's definitely the thing that you want to address first, in my opinion, and, you know, returns are costly, they're difficult to manage. There's so many reasons why we want to reduce them. And, you know, at the end of the day, it makes a significant difference to our bottom line, you know, to be able to get rid of unwanted returns. And I think, you know, it's, it's attacking it from both ends, too, because not only are we driving, working to drive down our return rate and thus, you know, increase our net revenue. But we're also working on you know, the, the front end of the customer experience on identifying what are the reasons that somebody might make a return and let's go solve for them before the customer gets there. So we can improve our customer experience on on site and you know, etc. So that when they go and ultimately do make that purchase, they're not going to return it and you know, I think that it's just been hugely important to us as a granite brand that's growing very quickly to understand where returns are coming from and understand which ones were okay with and which ones were not okay with. You know, because it does make a big difference in meeting our goals and growing business.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  29:57

Awesome. I was a director of eCommerce for home furnishings company and returns was a big initiative for us. And we really had to get granular into the data and dissected it. And I saw firsthand what an impact it can make on the bottom line. What I wasn't thinking about at the time, but was equally impressive and very exciting was the team morale. And especially when you're dealing with customer service departments, warehouse staff, to see them look at the product differently, because they're in a silo of there, a lot of times dealing with the problems, you know, and you do have some wins here and there and you celebrate them. But for them to watch all that work, that we went into analyse it, to then actually have an outcome that was positive, to see the staff be engaged and excited was very, very exciting to me. And I'm just curious if you've seen that as well.

Ellie Hamrick  30:57

Yeah, I mean, definitely, I think that, you know, so you know, we work with a three PL, so we're not as connected probably on the day to day of the warehouse stuff. But I would say, you know, working cross functionally, internally, it's been, especially as a, as a young growing brand, you know, like, we're always acquiring new skill sets and knowledge centers and that kind of thing. And for each department to really be able to sort of take ownership over returns, because it impacts the entire business. It's not siloed to just, you know, one area and I think that, you know, what you're saying about customer service and warehousing always having to deal with, like the brunt hard reality of returns, you know, like, kind of spreading that ownership around to the broader company, I think has been so valuable and understanding, you know, each departments impact that they can make and in addressing it and and I think it's just really empowered our team for the better.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  32:00

Christine, have you seen success stories on your end as well?

Christine Bradford  32:09

Yes, absolutely. I it's just really invigorating every time we meet with the Sarah Flint team, because we'll get very excited to see ourselves, you know, the impact of the changes that they're making, or be part of the conversations of future product development, or product assortment, and all that. But we do see it across all of our clients where the the multiple stakeholders come together. And it's really exciting for them to see a process improvement or, you know, when the AHA happens, and they're like, Oh, my goodness, this is why we had an issue here or, you know, things were getting packed. We had one client that had multiple distribution centers, and we were able to find a pick pack QA problem in one and he goes, I would have never found it had I not seen this data. And when we went to visit he showed us the new cataloging system and how they were getting organized. And you could tell they were so excited to fix a problem that they had and they knew that from then on, they wouldn't be sending the customer the wrong item or an incorrect item. So we definitely see it on our end as well.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  33:22

That's fantastic. Um, I have a question here from the audience. Are there any insights or case studies on how Returnalyze has helped skincare and beauty brands since returns in this industry are tricky due to usage and benefits? which don't really produce bracketing?

Christine Bradford  33:43

Yep, so we don't have a particular case study in the in the skincare industry at this time. But you know, I think the same type of insight that that we've been able to provide to Sarah Flint we could do for the skincare industry guests, people don't bracket but you know, they may get the product at home and realize that oftentimes with skincare if it's a bottle, I don't realize what size bottle I'm buying online versus then getting it and going crap, it's too smaller for the foundation tint wasn't you know, entirely the correct foundation that I needed and now I have to return it because I have to try a different tinted color or the lipstick, I get it and it's it's too red. It's not the right shade. You know, we look at all the different product attributes to be able to understand what's going on and why the products getting returned. So it may not necessarily be due to bracketing. It could be due to the packaging, the product itself, the website and how the website is describing the product. So again, Guess you get stuck on the milliliters of the bottle and the, you know, the shape of it or whatnot, and then you get it in the mail. And you're like, Okay, this wasn't exactly how it was pictured on the website, and maybe the description has to change, that sort of thing. So we can certainly apply the same sort of tactics to derive the same insights and results for skincare.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  35:24

Excellent. And when you're extracting the data, one challenge I had in the past was the data would aggregate to, let's say, a category level or customer level, but I could never get down to the SKU level. And are you guys able to do that?

Christine Bradford  35:38

Yes, absolutely. So we drill down to the SKU level, we also drill down to the customer level. So we're really able to see everything down at the SKU detail and at the customer level to be able to identify specific issues, because it's sometimes it could be just a size problem. So you've got, you know, a style where you don't think there's an issue, but the size five, you know, isn't quite right and last wasn't created correctly. And you can identify that by going down to the SKU level. Again, perhaps there's one color that's that that's wrong in the product assortment. So just being able to drill down at the SKU level, and then also look at the individual customer behavior allows us to really pinpoint the issues.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  36:32

And from the customer or channel level too, I noticed that we could have overall a very low return rate on a certain SKU, but then if you looked at it at a channel specific, one channel was very high, and some were very low, and then the y comes in, and I'm assuming too, with this data, you can really, really drill into the why that channel is higher than the rest.

Christine Bradford  36:55

Yes, absolutely. So kind of going back to Ellie's example earlier with with the channels, right, so being able to understand by channel if a product is being returned higher in one channel or another or maybe just seeing it throughout the channels and understanding that it's, it's always highly returned, regardless of the channel, we can see the at the channel level, and something else, you know, down to the the ship time, and how that might also impact things. You know, we've often found that there's a breaking point with customers where I'm expecting something in three to four days, and then it shows up seven days later. And and now I'm just I forgot why I ordered it, I don't want it anymore. And I'm gonna return it because I'm I'm upset that it's late. So we can absolutely look at channels and ship times and carriers and all those different data points.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  37:51

And so warehousing as well. So if you have a three PL that you're working with versus your own, or multiple partners, and going back to the shipping time may be a pain point.

Christine Bradford  38:03

Yes, absolutely. If one distribution centre having challenges versus another in either getting things out in a timely manner, or the example I gave earlier, in terms of Packer QA problems, we can definitely identify those, or if you change your manufacturer. So you know, we had a client that went ahead and started producing a product and a different, you know, with a different manufacturer, and then all of a sudden returns spiked because of it. So we were able to pinpoint that when that change was made. It was the leading cause of the returns.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  38:40

I had an experience where it was a long term SKU one of our best sellers. And the factory changed the cardboard weight. And it was really drilling into that again granular level data of like, wow, it was the cardboard weight that was causing the influx of damage which that was copied and causing mass returns. So it's like it truly is the devil is in the details. I'm looking at a roadmap and if you're going to embark on this journey, we're going to take return seriously we're really going to dig into the details of the data. Who are the stakeholders that should be in the room at the get go to make sure that this initiative is successful?

Christine Bradford  39:21

I take all of them no. Company the whole company go well, no, no, no, no no. I'm so the stakeholders that we love to have in the room. eCommerce, you know someone who owns eCommerce and is responsible for the products on the site, how the products are displayed on the site. We love having, you know, brand or product present. As you saw with Ellie's examples. It really allows you to then drive change in terms of product development product assortment. And if you're a business that has is a marketplace for multiple brands, and you have buyers, right and allows the buyers to understand what they should be buying in the future or not buying. And really, you know, negotiate. We sometimes have finance, that represents operations that'll be in the room, you know it from a supply chain perspective, fulfillment, that sort of thing. So it varies, obviously, by organization, because sometimes the organizations are structured differently. But certainly we like operations, present product, present eCommerce to be present. And then marketing is my nice to have, if we could get marketing involved, too. That's great, because a lot of the, you know, what we talked about earlier in terms of outreach to the customers post purchase, to being able to segment on the customer data and say, Okay, we want to reach back out to these folks with a win back campaign, or, you know, it, we want to go after them because they got damaged product, and we want to make it right, or, or what not. Having marketing involved is also nice.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  41:17

Ellie, anything to add to that?

Ellie Hamrick  41:19

No, I mean, I think, you know, I think I agree with Christine's point of just, you know, as many eyes as you can get on it as possible is probably good, because, you know, as we touched on earlier really does impact all areas of the business. And so I think it's identifying who owns what, and you know, what impact each department can make, and then making sure that those people are clear on the, on the expectations. But yeah, I think, you know, we've, we've certainly been using it very heavily towards product development, and you know, materialization design, as well as you know, changes to our website, and just overall customer and post purchase experience. So I think you know, how to be calm head of ops, Head of Customer Experience, head of product, like those are the ones that definitely need to be in the room.

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  42:10

Yeah, my experience is, well, marketing was a key player, iPhone, and our business is a little different, we had a lot of different channels that we were selling to. And those channels like proprietary imagery because of Google search, and I'm sure maybe some people on the call have the same challenges. And so they'll make their own imagery, but they're not the brand or the product experts. And so then you suddenly have an image online, that isn't true to the item, but may be true to the brand, for the site that it's on, or that site may be doing AB testing and moving imagery around or taking imagery off. Amazon has been infamous for this, and then trying to watch that, and then you know, putting that in conjunction with getting your marketing team engaged and watching your return rate very closely. I was, it was definitely a takeaway for anybody who works with Amazon. That's bring marketing and when you can. Awesome, but I'm gonna hear give some key takeaways here. And feel free to interject that not all returns are created equal, there are acceptable returns, which I did not know this, I thought all returns were not good. But that it's the unwanted ones that you really want to focus on. Because those are the ones that prevent the customer from coming back and have the first time customer not have a great experience. And then we all know that the acquisition of a new customer is very expensive. So you have to look at how does that affect their repurchase rates, and what can be done to increase the retention of those first time buyers utilizing this type of data. That is a definite key takeaway. And having multiple stakeholders in the room at the beginning of your journey to understand where you want to be, what you're doing, and to ensure success is also very top of mind. Anything else to add?

Ellie Hamrick  44:13

I would just say I mean, it's been hugely important for us in determining product strategy, you know, in terms of what colors people are more likely to keep or return and what heel heights are gravitating to and etc. So, you know, in in I would say just product strategy has been a really, you know, impactful area that we've been working with Returnalyze on

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  44:40

Christine. Any closing comments?

Christine Bradford  44:42

Yeah, I would just say you know, returns are kind of that, that portal of visibility, another area to allow you to focus on your business and improve your business. So by focusing on your returns, as we talked about before, you're able to help Elevate your customer experience, increase efficiency and bottom line. So just wanted

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  45:08

all three big positives. Awesome. But thank you so much Christine and Ellie, I appreciate your time, the content was fantastic. Thank you so much for Returnalyze for being awesome partners within the network. We appreciate everything you do and the information that was provided today. And we suggest anybody on the call to have a follow up conversation with Returnalyze. We'll definitely be making the intros with that POST call. And I'd love to have a conversation with you as well. That's how we get the topics for our future events, whether they be virtual or in person, and we are ready to chat about anything within the digital space. Drop Shipping international expansion SMS. If it's in the digital space, we have BWG. Want to chat about it. So with that, I'm going to wrap it up. Thank you, everyone. Have a fantastic week. Take care. Stay safe. I'll see you on the next events and Ellie and Christine again. Thank you so much.

Ellie Hamrick  46:03

Thank you, Tiffany.

Read More
Read Less

What is BWG Connect?

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.
envelopephone-handsetcrossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram