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FedEx Corp. is promising to make it as easy to return consumer products to web retailers and catalogers as it is to return goods to physical stores, Bram Johnson, corporate vice president, says. Its new web-based Consolidated Returns service, which FedEx launched this summer, is designed to help direct merchants better manage their returns process and get real-time returns information to support order management and marketing efforts, he adds.
“This makes it much like bringing a return back to a brick-and-mortar retailer,” Johnson says. “A consumer can just take the product, which doesn’t have to be packed, and a return authorization number to a FedEx facility.”
Direct merchants pay a monthly subscription fee to use the Consolidated Returns system, which FedEx maintains on a web server. Retailers issue a return authorization number; shoppers give that number to FedEx when returning a product. The FedEx clerk then keys that number into the Consolidated Returns system on the web, providing real-time visibility to the retailer.
Some retailers will integrate the Consolidated Returns system into their back-end order management and returns management systems, which will enable them to automatically update customer accounts and delivery records. Retailers can also arrange to have automated e-mail alerts to let them know when returns are being processed.
Not all retailers will have to invest in the latest technology, however, to meet their customers’ needs in returns. But it’s crucial to figure out what’s expected in a particular market, analysts say. “As long as they’re meeting customers’ expectations,” Calvin says, “retailers can be successful with different types of returns policies.”