Ecommerce returns are quite the pickle – a slick and free service attracts shoppers, but a high returns rate can knock profitability.
Graham Best is CEO of ReBOUND, a returns management company. This is a day in his life…
(As always, allow us to point you to Econsultancy Jobs if you’re looking for a new role.)
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Graham Best: In short, my role is to think big for ReBOUND. I’m leading the business to become the industry standard for worldwide returns.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation?
GB: I’m ReBOUND’s CEO and co founder, along with Chief Operating Officer Phil Smith.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
GB: At the top level, I need a good combination of vision and creativity. The ability to see the company’s long term direction and the creative flair to make it happen are essential to driving growth for ReBOUND.
However I’m also a strong believer that business leaders are only as strong as their employees. I take pride in my ability to spot talent from all ages and backgrounds. We hire across a diverse landscape and I’m excited by the idea of getting people from different walks of life with a fresh perspective on logistics into our industry. For instance, those who regularly shop online or engage with the supply chain as a consumer have valuable perspectives on the best routes to innovation. Of course, spotting this talent requires a good sense of empathy as well.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
GB: Before work I try to do some form of exercise every morning. When you’re driving to work and sitting at a desk all day, getting an early endorphin kick has become a valuable part of my regime.
When I arrive at work, however, things are far from routine; leading a disruptive, first-to-market business means that my daily schedule can change at a moment’s notice! I can go from working with the UK leadership team on short and long term strategies, to meeting with customers across the UK to attending and speaking at industry events. I thrive on the variety and dynamic nature of my job.
I am also spending more and more time visiting our global network of suppliers and customers. We now operate in the USA, Canada, Russia, Estonia, Hong Kong, Israel and Portugal through a tailored partner programme. It’s important for me to get to know everyone we work with to keep us focused on delivering the world’s best standard in international returns.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
GB: Working with a young and vibrant team means I’m constantly exposed to fresh ways of thinking that I hadn’t considered previously. The flow of ideas and level of creativity always amazes me; it’s the best part of my job.
But our industry is far from perfect. What frustrates me is those that can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to retail logistics. The sector needs to be collaborative; when supply chain processes fit together into a figurative jigsaw, the entire ecosystem benefits. As such, everybody needs to be prepared to work together to keep everything moving, leading to successful commercial outcomes for all. It can therefore be exasperating when some key players don’t support this cohesive energy.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
GB: One of the best measurements I use is my company’s ability to grow. Since founding ReBOUND five years ago we’ve achieved stellar growth with a relatively low headcount. We’ve seen a revenue increase of at least 400% year-on-year. My team has been absolutely fantastic and I’m immensely proud of this continued achievement.
A softer way of knowing that I’m on the right track is our brand recognition. I want ReBOUND to be known as the global industry standard for retail returns, offering a great customer experience and strong ROI for our customers. The more that we’re known for this, the better.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
GB: I am famously (perhaps infamously) the least technical person in the UK. I’m pretty old-school; I like to talk problems out and plan away from digital tools in order to get the job done. I’m also a believer in continuously learning, so I hoover up audiobooks when I’m travelling. There’s always a nugget or two which I jot down in my notebook.
People are everything at ReBOUND; my team is my biggest asset. ReBOUND has a lot of millennial employees alongside the more seasoned professionals. When we put new projects together having this variety at our disposal helps us succeed much faster.
E: How did you land in this sector, and where might you go from here?
GB: I have a long track record in the supply chain sector, especially in the “dark arts” of reverse logistics. While leading another company I founded, TSB Supply Chain, I saw an opportunity to apply my reverse logistics knowledge and make returns a positive experience worldwide. This was the inspiration behind ReBOUND.
Looking ahead I would love to reduce the waste in our sector and optimise the donation of products to those most in need. There are far better ways of handling products that either have lost their value or are returned and redistributed to discounted retailers in bulk. This is a problem we’re already tackling together with In Kind Direct.
E: Apart from your clients, who is innovating with returns (and preventing them)?
GB: Some retailers are waking up to the value of returns and offering clearer policies that offer far more convenient choices for customers wishing to return items. Adidas and Calvin Klein are fantastic examples of retailers who came up top of the leaderboard in ‘The Great Returns Race’ benchmark which ranks international return policies.
However, when it comes to innovation there are several companies who specialise in selling returned goods, such as iForce, B-Stock and Optura. The secondary market is an interesting proposition for retailers, especially when it comes to processing items shipped back after the initial sale. Conversely, others are creating software to maximise the chance of consumers keeping the items they buy. Rakuten Fits.Me is one example, offering a virtual sizing to ensure customers buy the best fitting clothing.
Innovation is everywhere but it’s fragmented. Again, the entire logistics ecosystem needs to be thought of as a global jigsaw; it’s no use focusing on proprietary technologies, routes or ways of working while ignoring the rest of the sector and how to best work together. We need more joined up thinking; companies that collaborate across the reverse supply chain will surely succeed over those that don’t.
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to get into ecommerce logistics?
GB: Don’t get bogged down in the jargon that surrounds logistics such as 3PL’s, SLA’s, SKU’s…There’s an acronym for everything. While it may seem hard to penetrate there’s so much more to the industry than the challenging terminology that surrounds it.
Instead, try to think differently. More importantly, think customer. What are next generation retailers and the new era of consumers expecting from their shopping experience? How might they want to receive their items, and how can we make the returns process that much easier for them?
If you approach ecommerce logistics in this mindset, I have no doubt you will have a great career in the sector.