Ebay ahead of the game as retailers look to conquer the reverse last mile

eBay, ParcelPointEbay Australia last week announced a major partnership with local delivery startup ParcelPoint to improve the domestic return process and give customers a more consistent experience.

Going forward, Ebay customers will be able to select the ParcelPoint return option online, print out a pre-filled label and either drop off their parcel at one of the company’s more than 1,300 pick-up and drop-off locations across Australia, or choose to have a courier pick it up from their door.

Locations include pharmacies, convenience stores and newsagencies, almost all of which are open seven days a week and outside of normal business hours. Rates for a standard 500g parcel are said to be the lowest in the market.

Ebay Australia has spruiked the partnership as a global first for the company and a new benchmark for marketplaces Down Under.

“As a marketplace, we had a lot of different [return] experiences on the site. Customers may have had to send a few messages back and forth [with merchants]. It was a very manual process. What we’ve done is automate that process and make it super simple for the consumer,” Ebay Australia’s chief marketing officer Tim MacKinnon told IRW.

MacKinnon said he expects other marketplaces to follow Ebay’s lead, as easy, and increasingly free, returns become standard practice in e-commerce. But that may be easier said than done.

While retailers have access to a growing number of last-mile delivery startups that bring items to customers – such as UberRUSH – fewer options exist when customers want to return those items.

“The execution of last mile and more importantly, reverse last mile [returns], has been one of the biggest sticking points of a strong customer experience online over last couple of years,” said Trent Duvall, KPMG’s national leader, consumer markets.

But MacKinnon argues that making the return process easier not only improves the customer experience, it also makes good business sense. He cited internal data that shows sellers saw on average a 47 per cent increase in conversions when they offered 60-day, free returns during Q4 2016.

“I’m not shying away from the fact that returns involve a cost for retailers, but the increase in conversions they get from giving customers peace of mind [makes up for it],” he said.

The vast majority of Ebay sellers currently offer a 30-day return window, but MacKinnon said the company is hoping to persuade sellers to extend that.

“We’re funding free returns [through ParcelPoint] for fashion sellers for the month of June. That’s millions of items. We hope to prove to our sellers that free and easy returns and extended return windows just make good business sense.”

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