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Retailers speak to mobile fulfillment and returns strategy

May 17, 2010

shopping1Does the growth of mobile commerce present a need for a whole new fulfillment and returns strategy?

Companies such as Bergdorf Goodman,, Shabby Apple, Gilt and Dace have all launched their own mobile storefronts – whether in the form of an application or mobile site. All agree that the fulfillment and returns process is the same as online.

“We’re not really seeing any different behavior for returns for products ordered via mobile than we are through the Internet,” said Andy Moss, cofounder/vice president and general manager of ShopStyle, San Francisco.

“The process works the same even though the order is placed via a mobile device and typically retailers’ shipping and returns polices are the same as from their Web site,” he said. “And when items are delivered they usually have return slips and clear instructions. Obviously some retailers do this better than others.

“We have not seen a higher return rate from mobile than what we see from online orders in general.”

On-the-go shoe splurges
Retail giant Bergdorf Goodman introduced its exclusive shopping application in February, which gives fashionable consumers 24-hour access to the season’s must-have shoes.

Consumers can buy the shoe of the day via their handset, share finds with friends, enjoy expedited delivery and receive complimentary returns.

When shoppers access the application they can view the featured shoe of the day, as well as the name of the designer, name of the shoe, description, size, price and the amount of time left to buy it.

“The return process is exactly the same as with anything purchased on any of our Web sites,” said Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications at Neiman Marcus Group, Dallas. “I have not heard anything to suggest a higher return rate from purchases made via the shoe app.

“With regard to the shoe app, if we do not have it in stock in the direct warehouse, then Bergdorf Goodman fulfills it,” she said.

A tee for thought
ShopStyle, an apparel and accessories search engine that features brands such as Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Taylor and Vince follows the same returns process.

The company has an application that lets consumers browse fashion apparel by brand or category.

When consumers click on a specific item, they are redirected to the retailer’s checkout page but remain within the application.

“We are definitely seeing a lot more shopping happening from mobile devices,” Mr. Moss said. “We are already seeing about 4 percent of our clicks to retailers now coming from our ShopStyle Mobile iPhone app.

“I think mobile is going through the same stages that Web sites did back in the ‘90s,” he said. “Initially sites were mainly marketing focused and then early adopters launched transactional sites, followed by every retailer having to have an online channel.

“Mobile feels very similar and the only complexity this time is whether to invest in a mobile optimized site, app or both – plus which devices to support – iPhone, Android, other.”

Returns to the big apple
Shabby Apple recently expanded its mobile Web commerce platform for on-the-go consumers.

The company has a mobile site, which can be viewed on all devices and is using the platform to send alerts for sales, catalog updates and other relevant information for its consumers.

“For us, to return a product, the customer just needs the receipt that is shipped with the product – it doesn’t matter if the item is purchased on a mobile site,” said Athelia Woolley, owner of Shabby Apple, New York. “Our return process is the same as with our normal Web site.

“Companies are thinking of more unique ways to get consumers to their sites on their phones,” she said. “They are also making their sites and products quickly seen and understandable – product descriptions are shorter, for example.

“More and more consumers are shopping via their mobile device – we still get more traffic on the Web, but the proportion on our mobile site increases every month.”

A dace of style
Additionally, fashion brand dace follows its online Web site policy for when it needs to do mobile returns.

In April, the company launched a shopping application for Apple’s iPad and iPhone.

Consumers can find the closest boutiques that sell dace clothing and share their finds via Facebook and Twitter.

“When people return items we ask them to fill out an exchange form and send the merchandise back,” said Adele Tetangco, marketing and accounts manager at dace, Vancouver, BC. “When we receive their return – we give them a credit or send them the exchange they’ve requested; they pay for shipping.

The company saw a rise in mobile sales last month after a publicized promotion.

“I would have to say that it’s all dependent on how many people are purchasing in a given month,” Ms. Tetangco said. “For the month of April we had a promotion that was featured in a large publication – because of this, we shipped out more than double what we usually do.

“With that said, we are now receiving – more than normal – requests for exchanges,” she said. “I think that it’s a given. The more that people buy, the higher the chance that they will want to exchange items for different sizes or styles.

“It’s understandable – given that people cannot physically try on the items.”

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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