Ecommerce and 3PL Product
Returns Management

With the growth in Ecommerce, FMCG and Fast Fashion over the last decade through multiple online channels comes a huge growth in returned items that need processing.  Returns management has become a specific market sector in 3PL in its own right as well as an essential part of your business process to ensure your customer is happy, leaving you those 5-star reviews. It is essential you have a strong partner and processes to ensure you can manage all returns correctly.

As a third-party logistics provider, we have a dedicated building and team to help you take all shipments back in whatever packaging they arrive in, assess each case individually and help give you the intelligent dynamic information you need to operate your business.

We know that all clients' returns processing is different and requires a unique set of processes to assess, log and reprocess to make shelf-ready for picking, quarantining or destroying.

Returns processes,
Step by Step

Our online tools are here to help.  With the couriers and Royal Mail shipping goods back to us multiple times per day, we are processing information all day every day.  We also work in reverse. Your team may know of products being returned to us that need checking before issuing refunds or swapping for equivalent items, so you can book a return order onto our system, we will then wait for it to be returned, assess the items and give a status on the product's condition so your team can instruct us to send our a different size, a different model or a different product altogether.

Giving you exposure to each returned product and the assessment so you or your team can act accordingly to each case if needed.  We can also take goods in, assess them, rebox, rebag or package them according to your brand standards without having to communicate at every turn leaving you to concentrate on customer contact and selling more products.

Our team can assess, outer packaging damage, product quality controls and give you live inventory information all through one online portal that can integrate into your sales channels.

We are all aware of the difference between cosmetic and functional damage.  Train us on how you would like us to manage your returned products and what SKU names we can place them into inventory for calling off via your staff and sales channels or place them into quarantine to be dealt with at a later date.

Our clients all deal with different demographics, nationalities, time zones and types of products.  So there is no set formula.  The understanding that the client has committed their hard-earned money to buy a product is the first common denominator. Respecting this and that the customer is in control of their final review of your business experience ensures that we need to be as efficient as possible in processing your returned items.

Our Returns
Best Practices

We work to set SLA agreements to manage the timelines you would like us to process returned items. Usually, 48-72 hours is an acceptable level for all sizes of businesses, this gives you the right speed to show the efficiency and the ability to react to a customer query in a timely manner.

Quarantined goods

We have seen it all. From posters to clothing, shoes to cosmetics and wine to e-bikes. No matter the items being returned to us, couriers and customers can return items for a multitude of reasons. Sadly damage happens in transit and we are more than happy to help assess the items for resale according to your standards and pack them ready for either destroying, reworking, reselling or collection.

Talk to us about how you would like us to manage your quarantined returned items and we will work with you to store them correctly.

We represent most market sectors. But some require more attention to manage the returns processing.  For example, we know that returned glass is for destruction but can be documented for insurance claims processes.  We know that clothing and shoes need assessing before placing into quarantine or reboxing/bagging and placing them on picking shelves.  We check cosmetics and perfumes for usage, we ensure I.T equipment is assessed correctly for security tamper damage or cosmetic wear before reporting. We also check medical equipment for sterile tamper checking and case counts.

Market sectors

Do you resell your ‘B-Grade’ items? We can discard outer torn, dented or water-damaged packaging and rebox or book-graded stock into alternative SKUs so you can manage your sales channels correctly even if they are at a discount.

Whatever your products or sector we can turn our returns team to most tasks. They love getting stuck in.

How do our online tools
help your returns processes?

Managing your inventory is business critical to your cash flow and your business efficiency.  We fully respect that speed to process is key to satisfying your customer, so you have the tools to create returned orders, communicate directly to the operations team and ensure a swift resolution to the customer's returned items.

You and your staff can see real-time information about each returned order and stock level to make informed decisions so you can maintain a good rapport with the consumer.

You get to choose what to do with each order, by working with status markers, you can steer the warehouse as to how to treat the order and what to do with the returned stock items.

Returns management and processing

We get asked the same set of questions from all returns prospective customers. Here are some of them to help you to make more informed choices about your 3PL Returns chosen partner.

How many returns should I expect back / Is there an industry standard ecommerce returns rate?

Some of our clients see less than 5% returns.  This is down to the types of packaging the goods are shipped in, the carriage service they are shipped on and the types of products i.e. alcohol, supplements, vitamins and subscriptions of all types.

There are some sectors however that have notoriously higher returns rates like clothes, shoes and cosmetics. We see some clients that see up to 35% return rates due to poor sizing guides and quality issues.

Is the era of the ‘Free Return’ over?

Interesting question. Fast fashion has been well-publicised as a huge contributor to waste because of its free returns processes. But because of the advent of the current economic times and fuel increases across the globe, product margins are being squeezed at all angles.

If you do however have enough margin to have your client send their goods back for free, convert them into a successful sale and still be profitable, why not? But be warned that 80% of all our order overheads are carriage fees and this doesn’t look to change.

As a final throw of the dice. Why not split the cost with your customer?  They should understand the costs of transport and processing. It’s worth a try.

How much are you going to charge to process my returned orders?

Returns processing generally costs more than other activities of the fulfilment process. That’s because processing returns is more labour-intensive than receiving new products. The time involved in assessing products and reboxing or repackaging to ensure they are resalable and then having to document each order as you will appreciate can be infinite. So we look to work to an average time taken to process the reverse logistics workflow and try to fix your costs so you are scalable.

Some of our clients have 1-2 returned orders per day but others see over 2000 items returned per month.  We will manage the labour and the processing time for you so that you are completely modular in peak and off-peak seasons.

What order return rate can I expect for my business?

There are no ways to predict or forecast other than looking at similar business models and their reporting. That said you will see more returns at obvious times like peak season.  We can help staff and plan together to manage the additional workloads

Looking to save money on the processing of your returns?

As you know, labour costs are the main bulk of the returns process. In order to save on each item processed we must work together to see how we can assess your orders and ensure swift judgement without wasting time. Ultimately the more time taken to process each returned order, the more your profitability is being chipped away.

Have you looked at your return shipping costs? Offering free return shipping is not essential, although it a nice to have consumers will appreciate that the costs will get loaded onto the sale somehow.  Why not look to compromise and instead of offering a collection from the delivery address, why not get the customer to drop the parcel at their nearest depot with a shipping label applied that you have provided, this will usually reduce the shipping costs.

How do you improve on all 3PL returns processing?

Each client has a different set of rules or guidelines to follow. We appreciate that your goods, when returned to us could be in any state of repair. So we look to work on great feedback to help you understand why specific items are coming back damaged or simply not wanted by the consumer each time. This helps our customers to build trends and manage their packaging/manufacturing for future order processing.

Returning goods is a business-critical part of your sales process. We are crucially aware that the returns process is revenue losing and refunds will affect your cash flow, so we look to work with the products to ensure you can maximise as much revenue from the returned stock as possible.

Getting these returns processes and guidelines in place will not only keep the customer happy and assured of your professionalism but it will also help us to process the goods in the right way to report back and have you make informed decisions swiftly keeping your sales channels moving in the right direction.

Is there a perfect Returns policy?

No, sadly not. But you need to make sure your customer has the ability to get in touch with you at all stages of their return and purchasing journey.  You can easily turn an unhappy customer into a happy one, you just need to make sure you can offer support and the right outcome for them and they will come back even after an initial returned order.

How can I reduce my return rate?

If you are processing ecommerce returns at present and need help assessing your requirements, give us some scenarios and we can help with planning your costs accordingly.

We do hear a lot of repetition from some of our client’s consumers returning goods for the same reason.  This feedback is given to our clients to hopefully help improve customer service and product feedback.

Always ensure your customer communication is easy to follow and that all marketing of your products includes easy-to-follow sizing guides, good photography and descriptions that cannot be misunderstood. Don’t forget to add the dimensions and types of materials the goods are made in and the packaging in to complete your customer's queries before purchasing.

Do you ask for public reviews?  Customers will give feedback if incentives are offered or if a bad experience is had, then you surely would like to manage the customer journey to a positive outcome rather than a negative review. We are all after those 5-star reviews.

Does it matter what platform I get my orders from?

In most cases no.  We work with ecommerce businesses and online retailers using sales platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento among others through to medical clients that integrate into our online tools via SAP.  We can work with all sizes of business and in most cases, the API integration communicates both ways triggering processes for us to manage your returned items as well as telling you that an order has been returned and has been processed so you can move onto the next customer stage.

Testimonial: alya skin. - Cosmetics & Beauty

"We assigned CBF Fulfilment as our third party logistics company for UK orders 2 years ago.

They have been nothing short of amazing to work with, they are extremely quick to despatch orders and have a team that are always so willing to help when needed.

As an ecommerce business owner that has worked with multiple 3PL companies and can safely say that CBF Fulfilment has been the best we have ever worked with in all the years."


alya skin.

Testimonial: Climbingvan - Books and Publication

"We run Climbingvan, a resource for helping people with self-build van conversions. Last year we wrote our book, The Van Conversion Bible, which explains exactly how to convert a campervan.
As we live full-time in our own van and work remotely from the road, it's not possible for us to manage our own fulfilment. CBF help us to get our book into the hands of our customers all across the country, as well as fulfilling our wholesale orders to larger suppliers. We appreciate their flexibility and the bespoke service they are able to offer us. The world of ecommerce was new to us, and the team at CBF have been really helpful in making everything possible for us, and are always friendly and quick to respond."


Charlie & Dale

Testimonial: Lola + Blake - Clothing & Accessories

"I’ve been really pleased with the service I have received from CBF. Each business is unique, and mine certainly has a lot of personalisation options and additions that customers request. CBF worked to implement these and find solutions to ensure that my brand remained as personal as when I individually wrapped and sent each order myself from my dining room table! Recent reviews from customers have remained positive with special mentions to the quality of the luxury gift wrap and the nice touch of personal notes."


Kat Paterson-Browne
Lola + Blake

Testimonial: Bodyhero - Health and Fitness

"CBF have been great in facilitating all aspects of our direct to consumer and business to business order fulfilment as our chosen 3PL company.

The team are always really helpful and resolve any questions or issues in a timely fashion."


Andy Birch

Testimonial: Hyde & Hare - Luxury Cowhide Accessories

"CBF has been brilliant from start to finish in managing our fulfilment and distribution. What stands out is their ability to take initiative when processing orders and their support has been fundamental to our growth."


Piers Dickinson
Hyde & Hare

Testimonial: Dodo Pad - Books & Publication

"Moving to CBF has enabled us to improve our service to our own eCommerce customers – next day delivery and orders always despatched on time with full tracking – as well as navigate increasingly complex international shipping.
We are a small business with a peak at Christmas. CBF has given us the flexibility we needed, which was not possible when we were managing fulfilment in house."


Mafalda McCarthy
Dodo Pad

Testimonial: Lateral Line / Artemi Rum - Spirits Alcohol

"CBF has enabled us to establish our E-commerce platform initially through sales through Amazon. The service was very easy to set up, streamlined and efficient. Whenever any queries arise, they are very quickly dealt with by the CBF staff. We are very pleased to be working with CBF."


Arun Mahtani
Lateral Line

Testimonial: iNKSHIP. - Posters & Prints

"CBF have handled my orders for almost five years now, which single-handedly allowed me to grow from a bedroom business to a scale I could never have handled myself. I’m really grateful to the hard-working warehouse team who always fulfil my orders to a very high standard, and never seem to miss a beat."


Sam Hipwell

Your 3PL Ecommerce Fulfilment, Distribution Centre and Contract Packing partner. Planned, Integrated, Packed and Delivered.

T: 01242 802140


CBF Fulfilment
1-11 Alvin Street

We would love to hear from you. Let's get started.

Main Fulfilment Enquiry Form