Handling retail returns — especially e-commerce returns — in a way that keeps unwanted goods out of the waste cycle and able to be repurchased again quickly is a tough problem to solve. So tough that retailers often prefer to dodge the issue altogether, telling shoppers to keep unwanted items even after receiving a refund.
But the process of handling returns — known as “reverse logistics” — also presents a massive opportunity. AlixPartners estimates the value of all the refunds for stuff that actually stayed with consumers will total up to $4.4 billion across the retail industry. And Tony Sciarrota, president of the Reverse Logistics Association, says annual US returned merchandise could be valued as high as $500 billion.
With a problem that large, tech startups are certain to rush in.