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How Best Buy is making returns more flexible and innovative

NRF Supply Chain 360 Speaker Spotlight: Becca Meinz

At the NRF Supply Chain 360 conference and expo, you can explore the modes and methods needed to build a stronger, more sustainable supply chain and ensure resiliency in challenging times. Learn more about the conference, held June 20-21, 2022, in Cleveland, here.

Retailers often find themselves walking a tightrope when it comes to returns: They must make the process easy for customers while also being cost-effective for their business. After all, returns are a part of the retail journey, especially as more customers moved to buying and returning online during the pandemic.

Best Buy saw this shift into online returns during the pandemic and quickly opened a second location to process returns and increased staff to handle the demand. As vice president of end-to-end supply chain strategy for Best Buy, Becca Meinz and her team are responsible for developing and delivering the long-range strategy of Best Buy’s supply chain, with specific focus on the movement and disposition of all non-new inventory.

Meinz will be speaking on the topic of returns and reverse logistics at NRF Supply Chain 360, held June 20-21 in Cleveland, in a session on reversing the returns railroad. She spoke with NRF about current trends in reverse logistics and the high cost of returns.

Becca Meinz
Becca Meinz,
VP, end to end supply chain strategy at Best Buy

How did COVID-19 impact product returns and retailers’ reverse logistics processes?

Customer return behavior is a tough area to predict under normal circumstances, and COVID made it much more challenging and dynamic. Throughout the pandemic we have prioritized customer and employee safety, and early on we didn’t know what we were up against. We closed stores to walk-in traffic, and we quarantined returned product. And since customers were buying online and returning online, we saw a shift into our online return center that led us to quickly open a second location and increase staff where we could within our safety limits. 

There was also growing demand for electronics, yet it was a challenging time considering the global labor and transportation constraints, so we were very focused on getting product through our network and back onto shelves where we could. We learned a lot in the process and now we’re more flexible and innovative than ever. I’m so proud of how the team made the best out of a really hard time.

What are some current trends you are seeing in reverse logistics at Best Buy? How do you see reverse logistics growing in the next few years?

Reverse logistics has been a strength for Best Buy for many years. We understand our returns and know how to manage them, which is good for our customers, our business and the planet. Sustainability is a cornerstone of our strategy and our values, and the more that we can refurbish, resell or responsibly recycle products, the more we can keep products out of landfills. One of the ways that we’re doing that is by doubling the number of outlet stores that we operate this year. It’s a great example of how we are continuing to invest in the circular economy, while also giving Best Buy customers new options to find great products at a discount.

Supply Chain 360
Join us at NRF Supply Chain 360 to take a look at the methods needed to build a stronger, more sustainable supply chain.

Retailers have to walk a fine line between making returns cost-effective for their business and not frustrating customers. What are some innovative ways retailers can cut costs and keep shoppers satisfied?

A couple things come to mind here. First, at Best Buy we take a customer-centric approach to sales and returns. We sell complex products, and we know it can take some extra support to get a customer’s product up and running. Unboxing videos, how-to guides and of course our Geek Squad or Total Tech membership support are a few examples of how we take care of our customers long after they make a purchase.  

Second, from a cost perspective, we really work to understand our returns network and create processes and capabilities that move the product as little as possible while adding as much value as possible. Our retail teams, service teams and supply chain teams all have a part to play to make that happen.

How and what technologies can retailers put in place to cut the cost of returns and build a reverse logistics process?

There are so many great examples of supply chain and retail management systems that can further reverse logistics goals, but I always start with the reporting. Visibility to returns reasons, product yield and recoveries are so powerful when making decisions in this space, and those decisions need to be as dynamic as the market. It’s important to be able to articulate the impact that returns have on the business, and then how to manage it. Start with dynamic visibility and build from there.

Want to learn more from supply chain leaders like Best Buy’s Becca Meinz? Join us at NRF Supply Chain 360, June 20-21, 2022 in Cleveland. Learn more.

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