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Supply Chain and Returns in uncertain times

Stories of Success Podcast

Release Date: 04/02/2020

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In this week’s podcast I welcome Al Gerrie who is the Founder and CEO of ZigZag Global, a software solution to help e-commerce retailers manage returns domestically and globally. We recorded this at the peak internet time during the first week of national office closures due to the Corona virus, and unfortunately the connection dropped a few time. 
 
We speak about Corona/Covid-19 and how it impacts his business and the supply chain. ZigZag Global is connecting a global network of over 200 warehouses, 100 courier services and multiple international marketplaces. ZigZag whitelabels the solution to 9 international carriers and postal provider. 
 
Success for him is about right business at the right time; a thorough business model to stick to and being laser focused on the end goal. For him it is all about building the best business with the best people; winning awards as part of a marketing strategy, and building the best technology in the world. It sounds simple but it has been a lot of hard work for him.
 
Al has over 20 years retail, logistics and ecommerce experience as a consultant to major brands and is former Head of Multichannel at OFFICE, Mountain Warehouse and WeArePentagon. He was a very early pioneer in the mobile shopping space, launching one of the first PayPal mobile shopping experiences as early as 2007 (pre smartphone). He is an expert in international delivery and returns, technical integrations, as well as building ecommerce fulfilment and warehousing solutions with 3rd Party logistics providers.
 
I found it interesting to learn that more and more people, close to 40%, buy to try things out at home and then return the item. VR (virtual reality), to his account, doesn’t have a huge impact yet, as people still want to touch, feel and try the product in flesh; consumers want choice. Hence the process for returns must be nailed down for both consumers and retailers. Workflow, experience as well as cost. A very complex process, which has to take a lot of factors into consideration.
 
Al explains how local shipping and local drop off becomes more important for buyers; it also reduces costs for the retailer. 
In today’s world, the consumer doesn’t want to pay for delivery. However, the costs of the returns needs to be covered somewhere, and a hidden cost which affects the retailers’ bottom line.
 
I love when Al tells the story how he got into the business, thinking I’d love to have a pound for every return. Listen in, the ideas are there for entrepreneurs to take.
 
ZigZag has four types of clients, e.g. large retailer, warehouse groups, Carriers (Whitelabel), and Marketplaces. Their process takes only 60 seconds, and it makes it super easy for customers to return. I love his holistic approach, e.g. not only does he focus on the process for the consumer and customer, but also the reduction of waste from the label printing to the avoidance of air miles. Also, they are using a lot of data, to for instance identify users that are returning more often, or don’t pay the bill. Those would then be excluded from future ad campaigns for instance or flagged in the system as being problematic. I wonder if there is anything they haven’t thought of yet?
 
At time of recording the Corona virus hasn’t taken a toll yet. However, he anticipates a disruption around ports and goods moving across countries. Long term, he expects that buying habits will be changing for good. People will buy even more online, as we have seen in China a few years ago. Once that habit has been established, it is difficult for people to go back.
 
There are of course challenges with a reduced workforce being in place, but he is confident we are getting through the crisis; yet the consumer behaviour will change.
 
We also talk about his company taking measures for everyone to work from home; ZigZag had planned this for many years and they are quite prepared. Of course other business aren’t or are not able to work from home. Another challenge in this crisis, and it will have an impact on the way we are working moving forward.
 
The impacts he suggests to consider isn’t only work, but the social impact like family. He also gives us his advice on what to do when you work from home, balancing both work and life/family.
 
Unprecedented times indeed. Thank you Al, for being my guest.
If you want to reach out to him, please go to Linkedin or www.zigzag.global
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Volker coaches transformations (career, life & business), and helps individuals and companies through change. He is also a mindfulness trainer and productivity expert. In his podcast Stories of Success he interviews successful people and wrote a book on the back of it.