How to handle returns more efficiently – eCommerce Magazine

Of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Internet Technologies CCIT drives a more sustainable and efficient handling of returns from online retail with a research project. A feasibility study for a cognitive system that can also independently detect, identify and analyze soft goods such as shoes and clothing will be carried out by the end of the year, and more Sustainability in online retail to implement. Almost half of the 490 million returns from online retail in Germany per year belong to this range.

Sustainability in online retail: new solution for automated returns recording

The Fraunhofer CCIT is working on a cognitive solution that should make it possible to record returns from online trading completely automatically – regardless of the material they are made of. A computer tomograph maps the returned products and sends the data to a neural network that identifies and analyzes the goods. For this purpose, the Fraunhofer CCIT combines the know-how of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in image processing, CT and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and the expertise of the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS Methods of machine learning as well as artificial intelligence.

Starting from one existing demonstrator For hard goods, such as pens, the scientists are developing a feasibility study for the automatic detection, identification and analysis of “difficult-to-deform” objects. Shoes belong in this category and are well suited to advance technologies that can also be used for soft goods such as clothing. “Our goal is to create more sustainability and efficiency in booming e-commerce,” says Christian Banse, head of the Fraunhofer CCIT.

Sustainability in online retail
By the end of 2020, Fraunhofer CCIT wants to develop a cognitive system that can independently identify and analyze soft goods such as shoes. (Photo: Fraunhofer IIS)

Around 490 million items are returned annually

More and more people shop online. In many cases, however, more than they actually need. Because the Returns are usually free of charge. Every sixth parcel is sent back in Germany, for clothing and shoes it is almost half the amount ordered. In total, there were an estimated 490 million item returns in online retail in Germany in 2018. Many retailers throw away the returned goods. The effort is too great to record the returns and add them back to the range. Instead, the loss is factored into the prices.

Need for automated solutions for sustainability in online retail

“This approach is not sustainable. Resources are used to manufacture products that are not used and there are unnecessary costs and emissions when transporting these goods, ”says project manager Laura Anger from Fraunhofer IAIS. “Both sides lose: customers pay higher prices and retailers can misjudge the loss.”

If this practice is prohibited by law or fees for returns are introduced, retailers face major challenges. Because most of them have to manually record their returns, for the most part, at great expense. “In particular for soft goods, there are still no common technical solutions for the automated management of returns,” says Achim Kämmler, project manager at Fraunhofer IIS. The research team plans to present the feasibility study at the end of the year.

Also read: Sustainable packaging: 5 principles of how it works despite booming online trade