Shoemaker is aiming to remove all physical paperwork by the end of this year

Global footwear retailer Clarks has announced a tie-up with circular economy start-up OtailO that aims to slash the waste produced in the online product returns process.

An update from the 200-year-old shoe maker on Friday claims the partnership with the Israeli company would result in Clarks customers being able to return their purchases in a more sustainable way.

OtailO’s system enables online shoppers to return purchases through a web application that eliminates the need for pre-printed labels, it explained. Meanwhile, an in-built inspection mechanism uses machine learning to assess the condition of the product being returned, while it is still in the customers hands, enabling Clarks to take more efficient business decisions and returns routing, it said.

Victor Bayata, director of customer experience of retail and digital at Clarks, said OtailO was helping the shoe maker shrink its carbon emissions and reduce paper wastage, while also cutting costs.

“Using OtailO’s customer-friendly technology we’re simplifying our supply chain, and the inspection functionality has reduced ineligible returns, eliminating unnecessary reverse logistics, meaning there is less of a carbon footprint,” he said. “We’re already seeing shopper satisfaction increase and look forward to working more closely with OtailO to embed their technology into more parts of our business, as the pandemic eases. In the not-too-distant future, we can see the solution delivering further benefits for both the high street and our sustainability goals, by allowing customers to drop off more returns at local stores.”

Already in operation in the UK, Clarks said it now intends to expand the sustainable online product returns solution to the US as it works to remove all paperwork by the end of the year.

Ronit Mayer, chief executive of OtailO, said the start-up was delighted to be working with Clarks.

“Given the pressures our climate and natural resources are under, it’s vital that we do everything we can to reduce the carbon footprint of our logistics supply chains and ensure goods are reused, rather than end up in landfill,” he said. “We created OtailO to tackle these critical issues that online retailers face, creating a returns management ecosystem that not only reduces carbon emissions and wastage but also helps re-invigorate local high street businesses.”

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