Accepting in-store returns for an e-Commerce brand has traditionally been seen as a benefit for the brick-and-mortar retailer, which gains additional foot traffic and new sales opportunities. But leveraging a store-based returns network also can serve as a powerful loyalty driver for growing e-Commerce companies. Brazil-based Schutz Shoes operates only six stores across the U.S., but the retailer has harnessed the Narvar Concierge platform to enable shipping to, and returns from, any Nordstrom or Walgreens location.
“Our goal is to make our customers’ lives easier,” said Zahia Ghossaini, Head of E-Commerce at Schutz Shoes parent company Arezzo&Co in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We all know how many Walgreens stores there are around the country. We’re delivering more options by making it easy to get her pickup or return, and if she wants to grab something from the store she’s already killed two birds with one stone.”
The option has proven popular: an average of 19% of the company’s returns are made through the Concierge platform, spiking to 23% during the holiday season, according to Ghossaini. The retailer hasn’t made a major effort to promote the option, but instead chose to let shoppers naturally learn the convenience of visiting a retail store over sending a FedEx package.
Schutz Shoes has praised Concierge’s ease of use, both internally and for its customers. The retailer was able to quickly implement the solution after its adoption in April 2019, and the experience of making pickups and returns at a store has been just as easy for the brand’s shoppers.
“The experience at checkout is seamless,” said Ghossaini. “There is nothing that confuses the consumer, whether they want to ship to a location near them or ship it home. Our customers are living in suburban areas, and it’s nice to not have to worry if their package will get stolen if it gets delivered while they’re not home.”
The in-store returns service also could drive other partnerships in the future, particularly with Nordstrom. The luxury department store is a major Schutz Shoes merchant, creating an opportunity for the brand to generate synergy between its roles as both a merchant and a manufacturer.
“Nordstrom is one of our biggest accounts, and a very big partner for us,” said Ghossaini. “They carry most of our shoes, but we do carry a lot of shoes they don’t carry — we try to be exclusive items for the brand online and in our stores. It will be interesting to see how we can cross our wholesale and retail businesses together.”
Speed And Personalization Matter In The Post-Return Process
While Concierge improves convenience, that’s only half the challenge of a successful returns process — speed and personalization remain important even after an item has been sent off. Schutz Shoes has taken steps to process returns in a timely manner, as well as to turn its post-return messages into a loyalty-building opportunity.
The retailer improves the speed of some returns by offering established customers credit for their return even before they ship their items. Doing this requires a certain level of trust, so it can’t be extended to every shopper, but it makes the return process as simple and seamless as possible for Schutz Shoes’ most valuable customers.
The retailer’s personalization efforts, in contrast, will be open to all shoppers, through a service that enables targeted marketing in return emails. The messages can include information about upcoming collections or promotions, based on information such as the products the customer is returning.
“That communication continues building a great relationship with them and making them feel like we knew their needs and want to meet them,” said Ghossaini. “If we didn’t meet them in this opportunity because of something, we want to offer some recommended products that may do so next time.”
The goal of all these initiatives, from Concierge through greater personalization, is for Schutz Shoes to build relationships with its customers through a combination of choice, convenience and speed. The retailer is trying to prove that returns don’t have to be a negative event for the customer — they can become a loyalty-building exercise in their own right.