More than 11 million views accumulated on Safiya Nygaard's YouTube video of her buying and unboxing Amazon liquidations.

Life is like a box of Amazon returns, no one ever really knows what they’re going to get. Technically, the manifest, or product list, of a retailer’s liquidation haul will disclose every individual product category and, if fortunate, a brand name. But nevertheless, much mystery remains about returns processing, pricing and “re-commerce” channels.

In today’s lightning-quick e-commerce environment, retailers need agility in returns processing, and increasingly so if they peddle fast fashion. And if the returns cannot be restocked on the selling floor in pace with current trends, well — it might just be purchased again by some other, highly suspecting consumer.

Transparency-Thirsty Generations Binge-Watching Returns

Some 11 millions viewers to date have watched as Safiya Nygaard, former-BuzzFeed employee and YouTube star, empties pallets of Amazon returns she purchased for $1,500. Regardless as to who purchases the bulk liquidation mystery boxes, one certainty is that the consumer cares about a brand’s stance on product returns and excess inventory, part of a greater thread of sustainability desires. And this consumer cohort may just represent Gen Zers or Millennials if YouTube is any indication.

Compression leg massager, a single 15-pound weight, bulk coconut lotion; this is just a sampling of misfit treasure awaiting the buyer of a bulk pallet of Amazon liquidations.  

According to Tobin Moore, founder and chief executive officer of Optoro, a tech company focusing on returns logistics, $94 billion goods are expected to be returned this holiday season with some 25 percent of retail goods ending up in landfills.  

By processing returns and distributing pricing channels, Optoro champions a sustainable mission, which serves to benefit the retailer in three areas: operational, environmental and financial.  

Previously, returns were guided by “institutional knowledge,” wherein initial product uploads are detailed by hand with item condition, however, Optoro uses data analytics to streamline the returns and automate the process. Optoro reroutes returns across its distribution channels for fashion and consumer goods.

Gauging a growing interest, if fashion retailers were not still hesitant about how and where their returns travel, then the young consumer would likely be interested in a full-on live-streaming of this logistics process.

Siphoning societal pushes and regulation, Moore believes sustainability isn’t a fleeting trend; “it will be part of business” and more and more mainstreamed.   

Using artificial intelligence and machine learning by way of predictive analysis, Optoro compares prices across channels and lists retailer returns automatically. Machine-learning makes for adjustments in price or swapping of channels when a listing grows stale. Through this service, retailers can see recovery of 25 percent to 45 percent as a percentage of the costs of goods sold. On the other side, “best-in-class processors” means liquidated goods can see 23 percent to 68 percent recovery through Optoro.

Making It Mainstream: Re-commerce Channels

Tight-lipped and eager to defend, countless high-fashion luxury brands have landed headlines, as recently as Burberry burning millions of unsold stock to counteract counterfeits. But to reiterate today’s consumer-centric, transparent environment — consumers squawk in protest to unsustainable practice. Unsurprisingly, a company statement may emerge and policy changed.

Depending on price point, the route of returned goods may follow one of many channels. In Optoro’s chain of command, goods sold on Blinq.com can also be listed simultaneously on Amazon, eBay and Jet.

On the lower-end, sister web site, Bulq.com liquidates wares for wholesale peers. On the site, a thumbnail image, mostly of cardboard, depicts an ambiguous lot where buyers, usually thrift or discounters can obtain brand new, like new, uninspected returns, scratch and dent or salvage items.

The condition isn’t wholly revealed by the condition of its packaging, mildly prodded goods can still function just as precisely as a new item, and consumer sentiment shows no aversion to used goods, however.

Perhaps representing an internal dilemma, an outward reaching accountability, 18- to 24-year-olds are most likely to discard an item after one to five wears, with 49 percent of them being impulsive shoppers. Yet 77 percent of Millennials prefer to buy from environmentally conscious brands, as indicated in ThredUp’s 2018 fashion resale report,

Designing for Full Life Cycle

New product lines are increasingly designed with full life cycles in mind. This means less resources inputted, reused materials in design and, in the case of returns, the ability to return anywhere will be monumental.

Nothing new, reused and recycled materials are filling the sketches of designers from high-fashion to mass market. Plastic bottles are materials of choice, such as in the innovation labs of Adidas or in the fleece of Patagonia jackets. Many are paying attention to the product development process to inflict further value at the end stage.

Full-circle transparency in the returns process may put brands ahead of the curve and foster a culture of innovation as well as a mission of sustainability. Either way, the consumer will be watching, be it YouTube or the latest headlines.

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