Helping retailers manage those returns
We all know that consumers love to try before they buy. But recently this behavior has snowballed into the phenomenon known as the ‘serial returner’ – and these consumers are on the rise. In addition, consumers are making full use of the many different return channels available to them and they continue to expect this to be free.
This is becoming a headache for retailers and adds further complications and costs to their returns process.
Back in 2015, GS1 UK identified this growing problem of returns from online shopping and created a working group of leading UK retailers, to find a common solution.
Minimising the number of different channel return labels was key, to reduce labelling costs and confusion for customers. A single tracking code or standard identifier was essential.
GS1 standards provided the solution: the Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC). Already widely used in the retail industry, the SSCC fits the criteria of providing a universal solution, that’s agnostic to channel and works cross-border.
Following a lobby from the UK and Netherlands; the EU mandated CEN (The European committee for standardisation) to develop a technical specification for a European harmonised parcel label to support cross border deliveries in a digital single market.
Let’s get a bit technical
This specification combines the existing (internal) postal standard from the Universal Postal Union with the (open) GS1 Logistics Label. It may contain two barcodes:
- one the proprietary barcode of the carrier or the UPU S10 barcode
- one at the lowest position being the GS1 SSCC, assigned by the shipper and acting as the reference ID for all parties involved in the delivery.
The Harmonised Parcel Label TC 17073 is available in the UK, through the standards organization BIS. The GS1 logistic Label guideline include an example without a proprietary or UPU barcode that is compliant with this specification.
We have started to see parts of the industry try out the new guidelines and implement them within their businesses, for example:
Inner city logistics
Some recipients wanted all of their parcels delivered in one drop, at a certain time. Parcel hubs collect parcels from different carriers, assemble snd ship them to the destination address. Goederenhub/Eco2city, in the Netherlands, was the first parcel hub to implement this way of working and is now helping to roll out this technology among 500 European city logistic networks.
Cross border delivery
The EU is working on a revision of the VAT regulation, in order to collect VAT on low value consignments, which are currently, still out of scope of the customs procedures. Most of these low value consignments, are handled by postal organisations, who are members of the UPU. The EU has mandated CEN to develop a specification for electronic advanced data, to support the custom declaration of these consignment by all carriers enabling more choice for shippers of parcels. The development of these specifications is still a work in progress.