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Minimizing RTO: The checklist for e-com success story

avoiding RTO
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Virtual Shopping Carnival! Great discounts, widest range to select from… and my son, who visited the e-com retailer with much pomp and joy, is catapulted to the Could9. All he needs to continue to stay there is my consent (read credit card CVV). Thereafter, starts the romantic liaison with the e-com site. He avidly checks on the delivery status during online-class breaks and sometimes during the class too. In the offing, though, is a heart-break…an intense emotional outburst akin only to getting bitten by the Snake@99 in the boardgame of ‘Snakes & Ladders’.

The product delivered was not in good condition and not matching expectations. My son’s dalliance is over, but I do not intend to stay quiet. I promptly booked a ‘product return request’ on the platform and eventually got my money back. It would next be the turn of the much-cursed seller to be bitten by the Snake@99, as I revengefully punched in an acrimonious 1-star review peppered with choicest lexicon.

In the above incident we have not just two, but many more disgruntled parties. No, I am not referring to my wife platform and other sites too. Mind you, most shoppers have time and inexpensive data packages to browse many sites for the same product.

  • If you are aware that your price is higher than other sellers, you must magnify the reasons for the customer to buy from you.
  • COD (Cash on Delivery) is a very attractive feature for the shopper…allows a no commitment ease-of-mind state. However, from the seller’s lens, COD is a ‘necessary evil’. Without COD option, a very large section of customers would get excluded. Supplier may offer some discounts, freebie etc. to encourage shopper to convert from COD to pre-payment.
  • Through smart analytics, the platform & seller may cancel orders from select shoppers who have a history of RTO. For select products (fragile, high value), it is important for seller to talk to customers before dispatch to reconfirm her interest.
  • Check the address for reasonable correctness. Incomplete and incorrect address would certainly lead to returns. Ask customer for correct address dispatch. Seller may choose to not service certain upcountry PIN-code customers, if your courier partner is not having a strong network there.
  • Many orders are returned because the customer was not available to take delivery. Ask customer for preferred delivery time and alternative delivery address. Follow-up with the courier company to ensure that the promised number of delivery attempts (three) are made before RTO.
  • Winged delivery (I mean quick, not necessarily drone). Longer the time between order placement and delivery, higher the chances of shopper changing her mind…So, dispatch at the earliest and deploy a reliable & fast courier partner.
  • Product should reach in good condition. Smart packaging (mono-cartons) not only provide safety but also a premium feel. This is necessarily important for fragile and perishable items.
  • Timely updates to the shopper on the delivery status. This reinstates confidence, and thus reduces RTO.
  • Customer service. Platform and supplier should provide an easy access window (phone, e-mail) to shopper for any queries pre-purchase, while waiting for delivery and post purchase too.

All the stakeholders here have high stakes, and therefore must do their part well, on-time every time. Every customer & each shipment is important!


This article by Shammi Dua, Lead – Supply Chain CSL, Distribution at Unilever originally appeared in the SCM Spotlight segment for the October 2021 of Logistics Insider magazine. All views expressed in the article are his own and do not represent those of any entity he was, is or will be associated with.

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