MarTech Interview with Liam Gerada, CEO and Co-founder of Krepling

Discover how alterations in return policies impact e-commerce platforms like Krepling. Gain insights into managing proof of damaged items and adhering to return timeframes.
e-commerce platforms

Liam, could you please provide insight into your journey that led you to assume the role of CEO and co-founder of Krepling?
My brother and I started a consignment marketplace for streetwear and fashion brands called The Kingsfare. I always had an interest in sneakers and it sparked the idea to create this business. After a few years, we were approached to sell it and took the opportunity to do so at just 17 years old.

During our time with The Kingsfare, we noticed a common theme of how platforms like Shopify were unmanageable when we had complex problems and realized most major retailers were facing the same issue. We created Krepling based on our own experience of being merchants to offer more than a basic storefront that includes personalized shopping experiences and enabling to sell across multiple platforms.

How have alterations in return policies impacted e-commerce platforms like Krepling, particularly in terms of managing proof of damaged items and adhering to return timeframes?
Krepling tries to remain 100% agnostic regarding specific merchant policies, including returns. Each merchant on Krepling, or other platforms alike, is solely responsible for setting up their own return policies. These policies can vary widely depending on the product type, business model, and merchant preferences. Based on our merchant data, strict or unclear return policies can significantly impact how merchants manage returns, especially for damaged items. We have seen that merchants who balance the need to accommodate legitimate returns while minimizing abuse (e.g., fraudulent claims of damage) tend to see a higher customer return average after checkout. We have also seen that timeframes for returns are a critical part of a great return policy. The data shows that merchants who communicate these timeframes and adhere to them to maintain customer trust and satisfaction tend to see an uptick in repeat customers, sometimes even after that customer has returned an item. However, managing these timeframes can be challenging, especially during high-volume periods like holidays or BfCM. Krepling tried to provide reminders to help merchants stay on track, but again, it’s up to the merchant to implement effective policies. While maintaining its platform agnosticism, Krepling aims to encourage its merchants to adopt return policies that are simple, straightforward, and customer-friendly. This approach is beneficial for several reasons. The first is a boost in customer trust, as simplified and clear return policies can enhance overall customer trust in the brand, making them more likely to make a purchase. The second is a reduction in the potential for disputes over returns, which can save time and resources for both merchants and the customer. Finally, it is ultimately a reflection on us a platform as a platform known for powering merchants with fair and transparent return policies that can attract more customers and merchants, benefiting the entire ecosystem of commerce.

Addressing incidents where packages are pilfered from customers’ doorsteps can pose significant challenges. How does Krepling ensure its customer service is adequately equipped to navigate these delicate scenarios?
The challenges here are multifaceted, affecting mainly customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and financial performance. We and our merchants face these challenges head-on, employing strategies that aim not only to mitigate the impact of pilferage but also to prevent it.

The immediate aftermath of a customer reporting a stolen package is a critical moment for maintaining trust. Customers expect swift and supportive responses, and failure to meet these expectations can lead to dissatisfaction, negative reviews, and loss of repeat business. Merchants also often bear the financial burden of porch piracy, either by refunding the customer or sending a replacement. This can significantly impact their margins, especially for small businesses or for high-value items. Navigating the legal landscape around liability for stolen packages can also be complex for merchants. Different jurisdictions may have different laws, and merchants must ensure they comply while also protecting their business interests.

Aside from the usual support we give our merchants, we also employ several other strategies to help cover our merchants. Krepling encourages the use of secure delivery options such as DHL or UPS Access Point locations where customers can pick up their packages in a secure environment. We partner with such providers to ensure access to such solutions is seamless. We also encourage merchants who ship directly to use packaging that disguises the contents or appears less appealing to potential thieves. For example, using plain packaging without branding or using boxes that mimic everyday items. Krepling also partners with delivery solutions that offer smart lockboxes for customers’ homes or who leverage technology like GPS trackers in high-value packages to deter theft and aid in recovery. We are also constantly working on a broader scale by engaging with policymakers to address porch piracy legally and operationally when and if we can, advocating for stronger penalties for theft and better support for affected customers and businesses.

In your professional opinion, what strategies can brands employ to cultivate trust and enhance customer satisfaction through transparent return processes?
Brands should be transparent with their customers when it comes to returns by making sure the policy isn’t hard to find on their website. Having detailed information about the return process, including eligibility criteria, timeframes, and associated costs, helps set realistic expectations and fosters customer trust.

Another strategy is to customize return windows based on the time of year, especially during the holiday season. Extending the standard return window will and being flexible will help strengthen customer satisfaction.

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Can you share any notable anecdotes or experiences regarding return scenarios witnessed with Krepling’s merchants? How were these situations resolved?
Incident 1:
A Krepling merchant specializing in personalized merchandise faced a dilemma when a customer wanted to return a custom-engraved watch, claiming it didn’t meet their expectations. Custom products typically cannot be resold, and the merchant’s return policy clearly stated that customized items were non-refundable unless defective. The merchant reached out to the customer to understand the specifics of their dissatisfaction. It turned out the issue was a minor aesthetic dislike rather than a defect. The merchant offered a compromise: a partial refund and a discount on a future purchase. This gesture of goodwill resolved the situation amicably, maintaining customer loyalty while reinforcing the policy on custom orders.

Incident 2:
Another Krepling merchant selling eco-friendly apparel faced an issue when an international customer reported a package as never arrived. International shipping often complicates returns and refunds due to longer transit times, higher shipping costs, and customs issues. The merchant had to determine whether the package was lost, stolen, or stuck in customs without incurring prohibitive costs in reshipping or refunding the order, which could erase the profit margin on many orders. After verifying the package’s status with the shipping carrier and confirming it was lost in transit, the merchant decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to showcase their commitment to customer service and sustainability. They offered the customer a refund and a discount on a future purchase. Additionally, they initiated a policy where for every lost package, they would contribute a percentage of sales to a reforestation charity. This policy not only resolved the immediate issue but also strengthened the brand’s eco-conscious image and customer loyalty.

Both incidents demonstrate the need for upholding strong return policies while being flexible enough to accommodate exceptional situations, maintaining customer satisfaction without undermining the business.

In my own experience from being a merchant, I have also found that turning a potentially negative experience into opportunities for reinforcing brand values and enhancing customer loyalty, engaging directly with customers to understand their concerns fully and offering solutions that address their specific issues, and finding creative and value-aligned ways to resolve disputes. Such as making charitable donations, can differentiate a brand in a crowded e-commerce landscape and build stringer customer relations going forward.

Effectively managing complex return situations requires adept strategies. What measures has Krepling implemented to streamline the process and minimize inconvenience for both merchants and customers?
We always encourage our merchants to craft clear, comprehensive return policies that are easily accessible to customers. This transparency helps set customer expectations from the outset, reducing confusion and disputes. Policies typically cover conditions for returns and exchanges, timelines, process instructions, and who bears the cost of return shipping. By standardizing this aspect, customers can make informed decisions before purchasing, potentially reducing the volume of returns due to unmet expectations.

Krepling also offers and integrates with automated return management systems that allow customers to initiate returns through a simple, self-service portal. This streamlines the return process, reducing the administrative burden on merchants and speeding up the resolution for customers. Features might include automated generation of return shipping labels, real-time status updates, and easy-to-use dashboards for tracking and managing returns.

We also provide merchants with analytics tools to track and analyze return patterns. This data can be invaluable for identifying trends, such as specific products that are returned more frequently, which can signal issues with product quality, descriptions, or customer expectations. Armed with this information, merchants can make informed decisions to reduce future returns, such as improving product descriptions, adjusting quality control measures, or revising shipping practices.

Balancing the imperative of customer satisfaction with the necessity to mitigate return fraud presents a considerable challenge. How does Krepling approach this delicate equilibrium?
Krepling, through Krepling Pay, employs advanced fraud detection and prevention technologies that analyze return patterns and behaviors to identify potential fraud from a payment side. This includes machine learning algorithms that flag unusual activity in payments, such as high volume of returns by a single customer or patterns that match known fraudulent behaviors. By automating the detection process, Krepling Pay helps merchants minimize the risk of fraud without adding undue friction for legitimate customers.

To further protect against fraud, Krepling supports the implementation of customer verification processes during the return phase. This might involve confirming the customer’s identity and purchase history or requiring proof of purchase and condition of the item being returned. Such measures are designed to be unobtrusive but effective in verifying the legitimacy of each return, safeguarding against opportunistic fraud.

What advice would you offer to other e-commerce platforms or entrepreneurs seeking to refine their approach to managing returns and mitigating associated risks?
I recommend using data analytics technology to help predict and prevent returns challenges. It will help brands identify patterns and trends related to returns and proactively address common issues, improve product descriptions, etc. The preventative analytics will support inventory planning, ensuring popular items are adequately stocked and minimizing the need for excessive returns due to unavailability.

Concluding our discussion, what are your final reflections on the continually evolving landscape of return fraud? Furthermore, how can brands enhance their strategies to adapt to these changes effectively?
There are more and more creative ways people are getting away with return fraud like lying about the product being damaged or sending back counterfeit items, which significantly impacts the brand. To avoid revenue loss while maintaining customer loyalty, brands should leverage technology like predictive analytics to help predict return fraud trends or chatbots to ensure customer service is available 24/7. Every retailer is different in how they build customer trust but implementing a variety of strategies will help efficiency and satisfaction with the customer’s experience.

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Liam Gerada, CEO and Co-founder of Krepling

Liam Gerada is the CEO and co-founder of Krepling, an e-commerce channel management platform he launched with his brother Travis in 2020. Their shared vision was to transform how merchants manage and scale their e-commerce operations efficiently. Recognizing online merchants' challenges, they created Krepling to provide intuitive solutions and seamless integrations, empowering businesses to thrive in the digital marketplace. LinkedIn.
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