May 17, 2020

Delivering the full circle customer experience through product returns

UK logistics
4 min
Written by Niklas Hedin, CEO of Centiro
Follow @SamJermy and @SupplyChainD on Twitter.Online returns continue to be a major pain point for many retailers; in fact in some locations they are as...

Follow @SamJermy and @SupplyChainD on Twitter.


Online returns continue to be a major pain point for many retailers; in fact in some locations they are as high as 60 percent.

To date many have simply managed the return of goods as a cost recovery exercise, rather than adapting their processes to take into account customers’ ever-changing buying habits. In the same way that today’s omnichannel environment is allowing consumers to buy items where and when they want, it is clear they would like the same flexibility when it comes to returns. For many retailers, product returns are a missed opportunity to enhance the customer experience and differentiate them from the competition.

The customer is always right

Online retail has changed the way people shop. Consumers are now buying multiple items rather than one or two, with the intention of sending some back; especially in fashion retail where multiple sizes are often bought. These customers still expect a high level of service in the returns and, if they are dealt with in an effective and customer-friendly manner, they are more likely to spend again with that retailer.

Failing to deliver on expectations

In today’s omnichannel environment, customers are making more demands on how they return products. This means returning a wider variety of goods from any number of locations determined by the customer, including but not limited to: the home, the office, the post office, drop off point, or local retail store.

In order to meet this challenge and deliver the full circle brand experience, intelligent coordination between retailers and multiple carriers is needed. For example, a customer running late to meet a courier collecting a return from their home might decide to change the collection window to the following day using their mobile phone. They might also decide that they only want to return one item rather than all three that they originally purchased.

Through greater visibility of their carrier networks retailers can put customers at the heart of the returns process, allowing them to return goods in a way that best suits them. Furthermore, capturing this information can also allow retailers to improve the returns experience.

Ticking the boxes

Through linking delivery management to Customer Relationship Management data, retailers can begin to offer a more personalised returns experience to their customers to foster brand loyalty.  This could take the form of a certain number of free deliveries throughout the year, or more precise pick up windows. Retailers can also engage with customers by giving more free returns to customers that spend more. Being flexible over return options can be a good way to demonstrate value and reward loyalty over the upcoming Christmas period, when customers will purchase gifts weeks before they give them to the intended recipients.


Product returns can also form a valuable part of the customer journey. They provide a way for the retailer to re-engage with dissatisfied customers, by offering discounts and targeted offers to show the customer how valuable they are. Ensuring a consistent user experience can help meet the returns requirements of all customers locally and internationally, irrespective of geography or carriers used.

Looking into our crystal ball, Big Data and the Internet of Things mean we will inevitably see the delivery and returns process become more closely linked with purchasing history and determined by data from channels such as social media.

In future, mobile and wearable devices may even help retailers deliver location-based services informed by a customer’s individual habits and preferences. Regardless of the type of technology used, a customer-centric approach will be key.

The final leg

Every touch point between a customer and a brand is now an opportunity for the retailer to champion its brand, and product returns are no different. Offering a greater range of options in returns targeted at the individual customer can allow retailers to maximise the opportunities of returns and apply this success to new international markets. If retailers embrace this opportunity they can ensure it is the customer that returns, time and time again.

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Jun 21, 2021

Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity

Elise Leise
3 min
The SolarWinds and Codecov cyberattacks reminded companies that software security poses a critical risk. How do we mitigate it?

As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas. 


High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks 

According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’. 


Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months: 


  • SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack. 
  • Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors. 
  • Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration. 


As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework


What Are Their Recommendations? 

Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security. 


Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version: 


  • NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
  • Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state. 


If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed. 


How Do The Proposals Differ? 

As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’. 


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