Reforming returns
We speak to Happy Returns co-founders Mark and David about how the company is working with retailers to transform the tiresome traditions of the online shopping return system.

Printing labels, taping parcels and standing in line at the Post Office: the time-consuming process of making returns is one of the biggest pain points for online shoppers. In light of this, in 2015 Mark Geller and David Sobie founded Happy Returns, a Santa Monica-based startup that is reforming the overcomplicated system by working with online retailers such as Everlane and Carbon38 to build a network of physical return locations — from malls to small independent stores — across the US. We spoke to the pair to find out more about the business, and what the future has in store. 

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What frustrations does Happy Returns set out to overcome for online shoppers? 

We’re solving several pain points for online shoppers faced with making a return. First is the traditional arts-and-crafts experience of preparing an online return for shipment via mail: printing a label, packing items, boxing, and taping. Second is visiting the shipping carrier that usually has long lines and limited business hours. Last is waiting sometimes up to two weeks until you receive your refund. 

With Happy Returns, customers have a free, in-person option to return their items for an immediate refund. Shoppers overwhelmingly prefer this option, and we’re enabling it for retailers with little or no stores through our Return Bar network. 

How do you work with retailers, and what are the main benefits for them? How are you helping them keep down the costs of returns? 

There are several benefits a retailer experiences when they partner with Happy Returns. They experience increased customer loyalty, reduced shipping costs, and a decrease in inbound customer service contacts inquiring about the status of returns. And when shoppers are presented with an easy return option, they are also much more likely to buy and try more items, knowing the process of sending them back and getting a refund is easier. 

When retailers use Happy Returns, they experience the magic of aggregation instead of paying for individual return shipments. When shoppers bring their items to a Return Bar, they get shipped back to our return hub where we sort, inspect, bag, and ship in bulk ready for resale to the retailers fulfillment centre. They receive an instant confirmation email that their refund is on its way, and this has a significant impact on customer service inquiries — meaning that the “where’s my refund” calls decrease substantially. 

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How do you work with your location partners, and ensure they’re offering a positive in-person experience? 

We work with location partners in several ways. When we first started, we were strictly working with premier malls and shopping centres by partnering with the concierge and guests service departments to facilitate our service. 

Over the past few months we’ve expanded into local independent boutiques and chain store partnerships who are looking for new ways to generate foot traffic. We fully vet each location before becoming an official partner to make sure there is synergy between our retail partners and our location partners.

When a customer has an interaction at a Happy Returns Return Bar location they receive their confirmation email receipt and also an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey, which we use to monitor the quality of their experience. We are incredibly proud to have earned a lifetime NPS score of 90, which suggests we are delivering on the promise of providing Happy Returns.

How will you keep innovating in this space going forward? Are there any new initiatives you’re looking to experiment with? 

We have long term goals to alleviate all the pain that retailer faces with returns. This includes returns by mail, exchanges, and in-store returns. On the location side, we plan to grow our Return Bar network from 50 locations today to over 200 by year end.