Edition 79
3 Takeaways From RLA 2017
by Rishon Roberts, Senior Marketing Specialist, Optoro

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Last week, Optoro was in Las Vegas to spend three days immersed in panels, discussions, and presentations about all things reverse logistics. With many of the country’s largest retailers and consumer electronics manufacturers, as well as cutting edge service providers in attendance, RLA 2017 was a notable event for those in the reverse logistics industry. Below are three key takeaways from RLA that Optoro will continue to discuss both internally and externally over the coming year.

More Data from the Source
Not only did the conference kick off with Scott Lofgren, former Director of Strategic Quality Programs at Intel, calling upon retailers to produce more data for use in the retail space, the theme was consistent throughout the three-day show. It’s no secret that good data is the key to every successful businesses, but data is especially important in an ever-changing industry like retail. With the rise of eCommerce, the landscape has dramatically shifted over the last ten years, and aside from a few annual reports, there’s not much being produced in terms of industry-wide statistics.



The Rise of the Circular Economy
The circular economy – an industrial economy that promotes greater resource productivity and reuse by aiming to reduce waste and avoid pollution by designing with the intent for reuse – has for years been an area of focus for only a small handful of forward-thinking companies and brands. As reverse logistics begins to take a bigger share of the retail landscape, the circular economy is becoming more common in parallel. In fact, it was revealed that many well known companies are already taking steps to ensure that reuse is embedded in their product lifecycle.



In an insightful panel led by Carrie Snyder of CSS Consulting, Julie Ryan (Director of Reverse Logistics at HP, Inc.) shared that all HP printer and ink cartridges are made with post-consumer recycled plastics. Similarly, Joyce Cruts (Director of Supply Chain Management at Acer Corporation) noted that all papers and plastics in Acer products are made from post-consumer recycled materials, and that every single product that is returned, but can’t be sold, is broken down so that parts can either be reused or recycled. Lastly, Chuck Johnston, Director of Repair and Returns at The Home Depot made an excellent point that part of bringing the circular economy to the forefront will be shifting the “consumptive nature in which we live.” Part of this reuse planning for retails will require the continued growth of the secondary market, rather than liquidating goods.

Returns Forecasting Could Become Obsolete
As retailers race to solve the puzzle of ballooning returns, complex forecasting has become a key tool in any large brand’s arsenal. Digging into the data on which items or categories are returned most can help retailers learn to anticipate said returns based on timing or seasonality. Doing so helps them prepare for these incoming returns so that there’s little disruption in normal workflows. A panel of four returns leaders at Best Buy, Philips, HP, and The Home Depot spoke at RLA about their current returns forecasting practices, and what the future state might look like. The Home Depot offers a flexible return policy since returns drive traffic to brick-and-mortar locations, while others, especially OEMs, often have to employ more strict policies. However, the group agreed that comparing returns forecasts to actuals helps reveal major cost centers, whether they lie in transportation, labor and warehousing, or technology costs.



Mentioned more than once during the panel was the need for sophisticated technology that could allow retailers and OEMs to manage returns at the first touch, ultimately dispositioning items seamlessly with no lag time between return and refurbishment and/or resale. If retailers are equipped with technology that allows them to do this – like a Reverse Logistics Platform – the need to forecast may become obsolete as the need to plan for returns at a group level would become irrelevant.
RLM
Rishon Rishon is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Optoro – the world’s leading reverse logistics platform for retailers and OEMs. Connect with Optoro on Twitter @optoroinc.

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