Efficient returns process: How HÄNG managed 5,000% growth with the help of 8returns
For many years, the corporate world at online retailer HÄNG ran along orderly lines. A well-coordinated team, mostly automated processes, and a reliable fulfillment partner. But as we all know, the unexpected often happens. At the beginning of 2020, their numbers exploded; sales shot up by an unbelievable 5,000% within a month, and with them, everything that goes with it: logistics, support requests, and, of course, returns.
HÄNG founder and CEO Tobias Tullius tells us in this interview how this came about and how he and his team managed to get the extra work under control within days. He also reveals the benefits his company has been able to gain from working with 8returns - from tracking the reasons for a return to successful upcycling.
Outdoor, New Work, Sustainability: That's HÄNG
The HÄNG company was created in 2014. Founded as a one-man operation, today 15 permanent employees take care of all concerns related to marketing, product design, and support. Three pillars form the basis of the company's identity:
First, there are the products. Outdoor products such as hammocks and backpacks for camping fans - but above all for all those who have little to do with Mother Nature. HÄNG specifically picks up campers and shows them that it doesn't have to be uncomfortable out there.
Pillar number two is the company's very special work philosophy: HÄNG only works remotely; employees are spread all over Germany and even abroad. Fixed working hours do not exist. As long as the job is done on time and everyone is available at the agreed times, all is well.
Finally, Team HÄNG is committed to environmental protection - in all business areas. This means not only sustainable production and support of green projects, but also upcycling of defective goods and the most efficient returns process.
Extreme growth and lack of scalability
So how did HÄNG come to entrust its returns management to 8returns? After all, for more than half a decade there were other processes in place. Tobias tells the story like this.
...and then came Corona
"For years, we didn't have much work to do with our returns. We simply didn't get a lot of goods back. The few exchanges, primarily from the DACH region, were taken care of by our fulfiller without any problems. Our support staff handled clarification cases by hand until the lockdown came in the spring of 2020, when we ran our first marketing campaign on Facebook.
All of a sudden, the numbers went through the roof, possibly because many people suddenly wanted a hammock for their garden if they weren't allowed to go away. Whatever the reason, we recorded increases of 5,000% and more. Not just in sales, but in every area of the business, such as support requests - and, of course, returns."
Prepared for everything except returns
"I'm a big fan of automation. Before I do something three times, I'd rather look for a tool that does the work for me. That's how we do it at HÄNG. That's why the sudden increase in workload was not a problem for us for the most part. Support, logistics, orders from our manufacturers - everything scaled with us. Only for the returns we had not yet implemented a solution.
To avoid drowning in a flood of emails, we first tried to help ourselves: A Google Sheet was supposed to streamline the processes and relieve our customer support representatives. At first, this worked reasonably well. But as is often the case with Google Sheets, four employees were working in four different places in the tool and the lists were getting longer and longer. We had to admit to ourselves that our solution was neither performant nor particularly employee- or customer-friendly. Our fulfiller was also barely keeping up with the returns. We couldn't go on like this."
Smart solution for returns to the DACH region and beyond: interface 8returns
Before the situation could escalate completely, however, HÄNG then achieved a turnaround: Tobias discovered 8returns. He summarizes the introduction of the platform and what has changed for his company since then as follows:
Fast implementation and excellent responsiveness
"I became aware of 8returns through an email from the team. It was an offer I could not refuse: Easy to use, fair pricing. But I was really impressed by how quickly the system was set up and integrated into our processes, not to mention the fast response time to questions and concerns. Since the introduction of the platform, things have been running absolutely smoothly."
Returns management in just a few mouse clicks, unburdened fulfiller
"Returns are now automatically tracked and assigned via the transaction number and a corresponding label. For our fulfillment partner, this means he can now sort returns directly: What is an exchange, what is a return? Which goods can be put back on sale, and which are unsaleable? For us, too, the work involved in returns has become significantly less.
We used to have to awkwardly ask for a photo of a defect by e-mail, now such steps are now already taken into account internally on the platform. Our support only has to initiate a refund with a few clicks and only intervenes manually in cases that need clarifying"
An efficient returns process prevents unnecessary returns
"Speaking of clarification cases: What I particularly like about 8returns is that we can intervene in an exchange process at any time. It is not at all uncommon for customers to want to return a hammock because it is too tight. This is simply because it is hung up incorrectly.
We'll be happy to explain to them how to do it correctly, so we can specifically prevent unnecessary returns. This saves us and our fulfiller work, the buyers time and nerves, and is above all ecologically sensible - an aspect that is particularly close to the hearts of my team and me."
Meaningful reporting, tracking of reasons for returns
"As a managing director who occasionally has to play the boss, I am also happy about the reports that we can now easily pull from our system. We used to do this without 8returns, but it was quite time-consuming and complicated. Now we can see the reasons for returns in a few seconds at a glance.
On one hand, we can see exactly when a peak is coming and can prepare our fulfillment process accordingly. A few months ago, for example, we had an increase in returns due to the color of an article. It quickly became clear that it was the product images that had received one too many filters. By replacing the photos in our store, we were able to easily prevent a lot of future returns."
Tracking enables more green work: methods for upcycling
"Every return saved is of course a benefit for the environment, but we would like to go one step further. Among other things, we are currently running a project in which we pass on goods that are really unsaleable free of charge to people who want to make more out of them. What used to be a hammock suddenly becomes a down jacket with a few needle stitches, which the guys and gals can then present on their channel.
Simply destroying raw materials is abhorrent to us, upcycling is the future - since we now permanently track the condition of an item via our new system, we can easily implement this idea."
A final tip for efficient returns processes
An unexpected 5,000% increase in sales, with all its joy and sorrow, probably presents a challenge to every company in the world. The HÄNG team was well prepared for this circumstance, but not perfect.
Therefore, the closing statement also belongs to Tobias: "I can only advise every store on the web, no matter how small or large, to automate all processes in time and keep them scalable. Look around for suitable tools such as 8returns - and if there is not yet one that meets your expectations, then it is certainly being developed. This way, even unusual events will never catch you unprepared.
All images courtesy of HÄNG.