Reverse logistics is becoming an increasing concern among logistics leaders, especially with more products being purchased worldwide. If consumers send back those items, require repairs or rely on manufacturers to provide responsible disposals of products at the end of their useful lives, all those processes must happen smoothly. Cloud-based platforms can improve your workflows and increase visibility.

Track Shipment Statuses and Locations

One of the main benefits of cloud platforms is that authorised users can access the information from anywhere. Whether a company has two locations or 200, cloud tools provide up-to-date information about what’s happening where and when.

Those details are beneficial for companies with customer bases in several countries. People can then identify meaningful trends. For example, does the average time to return a winter jacket differ in France versus Ireland? What are the most common reasons people return an item rather than keep it? Combining cloud tools with data analytics solutions allows people to find themes and identify potential improvements.

Having all the data in one place also aids compliance. A European Commission proposal indicates supply chain partners must ship 10% of goods in reusable packaging by 2023. However, the targets increase by 2040, with different requirements depending on packaging use.

Merchants need an adjustment period for doing things that way, but so will customers. Most consumers discard or recycle envelopes and other shipping containers shortly after receiving them. If recipients think they may need to return the goods, they’ll have to hold onto the packaging. However, merchants can reserve non-reusable options for customers returning things from outside Europe.

Cloud tools help logistics professionals track specifics, such as which products are en route to the company versus the percentage shipping partners have yet to pick up. This information can show delays or other issues needing closer attention.

Prioritise Convenience for Customers

Many customers dislike making returns. They’d prefer if whatever they purchased met all their needs instead of falling short in some way. However, cloud-based tools can reduce friction, making the returns process faster and more enjoyable.

A cloud-based interface could allow someone to log in, click a button associated with a recent purchase, and instantly generate a shipping label. Once the goods get sent back or picked up by a courier, customers can track them to see when they arrive back at the company for processing. This feature is especially handy if a return involves an urgent repair or the product is a big-ticket item where customers eagerly await the credit appearing in their bank accounts.

Many people will pay more for things if it’s easy to return them. Self-service, cloud-based platforms minimise potential hassles. Additionally, the returns forms customers fill out should ideally include a reason-based question companies can use to improve their methods. Perhaps someone returned a computer mouse because they didn’t like something about its shape or functionality. However, they may have also sent back the item because it arrived broken.

The latter case suggests a possible failure associated with the shipping process or container. Getting to the bottom of the issue promotes sustainability by avoiding breakage. Customers will also appreciate opportunities to give feedback. Tracking those insights in a cloud-based tool enables continual improvement.

Collaborate With the Cloud

Making reverse logistics processes run smoothly is a team effort that usually requires multiple parties. Communicating with all of them optimises processes and minimises uncertainties. Many logistics professionals use connected sensors to track real-time product movements. Cloud tools provide relevant information to all involved parties.

Someone could log in and see how heavy traffic may result in a customer’s returned product getting picked up approximately an hour late. Adjusting the associated return window accordingly and sending an update to the purchaser sets the right expectations.

Alternatively, companies could use cloud tools to inform couriers about pickups of potentially hazardous goods requiring special handling, such as batteries. Even when a company has supply chain partners in various time zones or countries, the cloud helps everyone communicate effectively.

Cloud-based communication can also promote sustainability by reducing the need for in-person supplier visits. Getting things resolved in a project management tool’s comment thread rather than face-to-face reduces emissions.

Update and Improve Product Descriptions

A study of online shopping in the European Union found three-quarters of respondents aged 16-74 had purchased things through the internet for non-commercial use in 2022. Another takeaway from the research was that clothing and accessories were the most common things bought, purchased by 42% of those polled.

However, as anyone who has purchased wearables online knows, it’s not always straightforward. Since people cannot touch the garments, try them on or even hold them against their bodies before purchasing them, some worry they’re taking a gamble by shopping online for clothes.

However, merchants can use cloud-based tools to update product descriptions, decreasing the chances shoppers will want or need to send items back. In the context of clothing, it might mean specifying a model’s height, giving people useful comparison data. Regardless of what they sell, many websites feature product images from multiple angles or allow people to zoom in for greater detail.

Cloud tools simplify product description updates, whether copywriters need to add more details or marketers change prices to reflect a current promotion. These tools also make it easier to specify that certain products comply with state-based regulations.

Cloud Tools Are Essential for Modern Logistics

Increased purchasing volumes can complicate reverse logistics, but cloud tools simplify them. However, decision-makers will get the best results from their purchased solutions by determining their must-have features and giving employees time to learn to use them.