When it comes to e-commerce, one thing is certain: it brings incredibly high return rates. As billions of dollars of apparel purchases shift from physical stores to the internet, there is an imminent need for e-retailers to figure out how to handle the spike in returned merchandise.

To put it in perspective: online apparel purchases have one of the highest return rates — around 30 percent of items are returned — and last year alone web sales of apparel grew 20 percent (versus just a 1 percent increase for physical stores). The expectation of free returns, in addition to buyer’s remorse stemming from the consumer not being able to touch or try on the product plays a large role, as does the tendency for a customer to order two or three pairs of something (shoes, pants, you name it) and send back the ones that don’t work. No matter the reason for return, this trend, and the growing cost associated with it, creates a new urgency for e-retailers to put an efficient reverse logistics process in place.

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