From July 2019, customers will be able to return unwanted packages from Amazon to all of Kohl’s physical stores for free. Products can be returned whether or not the item is in its original packaging and whether or not the customer has the packaging label.

As mentioned in Econsultancy’s Amazon: Lessons and Success Stories report, customers are currently able to return Amazon items to 100 Kohl’s stores, but this expansion proves the power and initial success of this project.

Crucially, this partnership works out to be a win-win situation for both parties. Amazon, which prides itself on being ‘customer obsessed’, is able to stand out from other retailers and entice customers who may be hesitant to shop with them online. With 96% of customers saying they would shop with a retailer again if the return experience is easy, it is no surprise Amazon wants to improve this process.

The online giant has already tried to make returns as easy as possible with pre-printed labels at no cost to the customer, but this initiative takes it to the next level. It offers customers convenience in the form of a physical store that customers may already frequent. Rather than carrying the burden, the responsibilities and the cost of managing physical stores, Amazon can make use of the brick-and-mortar spaces run by Kohl’s.

For the department store, the reward is increased footfall. In the last couple of years, Kohl’s has placed a lot of emphasis on finding new ways to innovate their traditional retail model.

Image courtesy of Kohl’s.

This is not the only partnership Kohl’s has established. It has also dipped its toes into grocery, collaborating with Aldi on combo stores.

Kohl’s is also trialling a partnership with Planet Fitness, bringing gyms to 10 of its locations. This is all part of the company’s plan to ‘right-size’, making efforts to sublet unused space in ways that can bring in more consumers. So far, the plan is working with Kohl’s experiencing improved profitability and sales growth.

“Amazon and Kohl’s have a shared passion in providing outstanding customer service, and this unique partnership combines Kohl’s strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon’s reach and customer loyalty. This new service is another example of how Kohl’s is delivering innovation to drive traffic to our stores and bring more relevance to our customers,” says Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass.

Evidently, retailers need to evolve in order to keep up with the likes of Amazon. To survive the boom of online retail and the demise of the high street, creativity is key for traditional retailers – even if creativity means working with ‘the enemy’ in a mutually beneficial partnership. ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ certainly rings true when it comes to today’s competitive retail landscape.

Fashion ecommerce heavyweight Zalando offers partner services including digitizing stock and providing order fulfilment. Last week, Zalando partnered with Germany’s biggest department store chain, Karstadt Kaufhof, to sell its stock, with the traditional retailer shipping from store.

Across the Atlantic we are seeing similar trends. Sainsbury’s, since its takeover of Argos, has allowed customers of the catalogue retailer to collect packages in 100 supermarket stores across the UK, while Asda introduced its toyou service, which enables customers to return or collect packages from online retailers including ASOS, Decathlon and Sports Direct. Doddle has built its business on this click-and-collect model, partnering with the likes of Debenhams and Morrisons.

Time will tell whether these partnerships change the game for traditional retailers in the long run, but for now, they have certainly shown their value improving the customer experience and harmonising online and offline worlds for the customer.

Amazon: Lessons and Success Stories