PostNL and Returnless launch a webshop pilot

1200 PostNL Webwinkelvakdagen 016[81]

Putting the return process to the test

“Is there a clear return policy on your website?” That’s how Nelis van der Wiel, Head of Sales & Partnerships at Returnless, opened his first lecture at the Webwinkel Vakdagen trade show in Utrecht. Only one person raised his hand. “That is a missed opportunity,” says Feyo van der Goes, Senior Service Designer at PostNL, “because research shows that a smooth return process is incredibly important to the vast majority of consumers.” 69% of consumers check the return policy before filling their shopping cart, and 75% to 100% will return to a webshop after a good return experience. But for plenty of e-commerce entrepreneurs, it’s still a massive headache. That’s why the two companies are joining forces by starting a pilot that will make structuring and reducing returns a piece of cake for a webshop.

More convenience for consumers and business owners

E-commerce entrepreneurs know better than anyone: a sale is only a sale once the return period has expired. Between 10 and 40% of products are returned across the board, from electronics to fashion. And processing all those returns is a time-consuming job. Not to mention the costs that webshops invest in optimizing their return process. “Every webshop is creating their own return process,” Nelis says. The guys at Returnless were convinced it didn’t have to be that way. No matter what tool or CMS a webshop uses, Returnless plug-ins and APIs allow business owners to automatically link the return process to their platform – whether they have their own webshop or operate through a marketplace like That makes returns much easier and more convenient for consumers, so they’re less likely to pick up the phone to call customer service. And business owners can handle returns up to 45% faster.

Freepost is so 1960s

“For many business owners, the return process is still a black box,” says Feyo of PostNL. “They may still be using freepost, a return method that has been around since 1968. That means customers still have to print out a return label and stick it on the box. Meanwhile, the webshop owners have no idea that their product is on its way back,” Feyo says. “You can have a day job as an e-commerce entrepreneur to process all those returns, update them in your systems, and keep your customers informed. They don’t have time to analyse return data at all, while that is so important if you want to reduce returns. It is a top priority because of our sustainable goals.” That is why PostNL decided to join forces with Returnless. They launched a pilot to market test PostNL’s latest return products in tandem with the Returnless smart return system. The goal? A better customer experience for consumers and better insight into returns for business owners to help reduce costs and CO2 emissions per order.

Tracking returns from the very first second

The new customer journey that Returnless offers starts with a digital return form. “Consumers register their returns on their own, which gives them a sense of control. They can then scan their digital return label directly from their phone at a PostNL point. At the same time, the form collects return data that provides business owners with insights into their return portal. It allows them to see immediately what’s coming and why, and make smarter choices about their range,” Nelis explains. “Travelbags, for instance, found that 17% of their returns came from just 1% of their products. With a few minor adjustments, they managed to reduce those returns.” Returnless also offers what they call a gatekeeper. “So many webshops lack a kind of gatekeeper, who first checks whether a product may be returned,” Nelis explains. “Webshops can set the strictness level of the gatekeeper, as well as what solutions they want to offer. Returns aren’t always economically viable, so keep that in mind when planning your return policy. Suppose your customer wants to return a new microwave for another one because it has a scratch on it, then you can offer a discount code through Returnless. This is often a good solution for the customer, and saves you unnecessary returns. And that, in turn, is better for the environment.”

You can never completely prevent returns

Will Returnless then make all your returns disappear? “Not really,” Nelis laughs. “The returns portal does, however, offer you a great deal of insight, convenience and control over your returns. That data gives you the opportunity to improve your process and optimise your product range. You can never completely prevent returns, but you can significantly reduce them. The name says it all, return less! And that means more customers who are satisfied with their purchase the first time around and are therefore more likely to make a repeat purchase.”

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