What Is Return Material Authorisation Software?

Which RMA software is the best for my retail returns?
Jun 11
What Is Return Material Authorisation Software?

Imagine this: You’re running a bustling online store, selling everything from gadgets to gizmos. Orders are flying out the door, and business is booming. But then, the inevitable happens—a customer isn’t thrilled with their shiny new toy and wants to send it back.

Without proper RMA software, this is where chaos begins. Returns pile up at the door, customers grow impatient, and your team is drowning in a sea of spreadsheets and manual forms. It’s like trying to catch a swarm of bees with a butterfly net— frantic and fruitless!

Enter the hero of our story: RMA software!

RMA, or Return Material Authorisation software, is the trusty sidekick that brings order to the madness. It’s a system that helps businesses manage returns with ease and grace.

What is RMA and how does it help companies?

Return Material Authorisation (RMA) is a formal process used by businesses to manage and control the return of products or materials from customers, suppliers, or distributors. It’s a systematic approach to track, evaluate, and resolve issues related to returned goods, involving proper authorisation, documenting return details, and implementing procedures for handling returned items.

ZigZag is a comprehensive solution provider that specialises in streamlining the Return Material Authorisation (RMA) process for companies. With increased visibility of who, what, when, where, and why returns coming back retailers can feel more secure about offering their customers faster refunds. ZigZag also gets goods back on the shelves more quickly, enabling you to refund faster, and make customers happy – making it the leading RMA software.

Here’s how RMA helps companies:

Customer Satisfaction

A clear and efficient RMA process enhances customer satisfaction by providing a transparent and hassle-free return experience, which can strengthen customer loyalty.

Inventory Management

RMA allows businesses to better manage their inventory by tracking returned products, understanding return reasons, and optimising inventory levels accordingly.

Cost Reduction

By assessing the condition of returned items and determining the appropriate action, companies can minimise financial losses associated with returns.

Product Improvement

Analysing RMA data provides insights into product quality issues, leading to improvements that can reduce future returns.

Strengthened Customer Relationships

A well-managed RMA process shows a commitment to customer service and builds trust, which is crucial for long-term business success.

What are the stages of RMA?

ZigZag's Returns Process from consumer processing the return online to it arriving in the retailer's warehouse
  1. Consumer Registration & Labelling: The process starts with the consumer registering the return online. During this stage, they are required to fill in details about the product and the reason for the return. Once registered, they print out a shipping label which will be used to send the product back.
  2. Drop-off or Collection: After getting the label, the consumer has several options for returning the product. They can drop it off at a locked post office, a locker, a Pick-Up Drop-Off (PUDO) location, or arrange for a carrier to collect it directly from their home address.
  3. Warehouse Scanning: Upon arrival at the in-country warehouse, the returned item is scanned. This step is essential for tracking the return and updating the inventory system.
  4. Local Warehouse Inspection: The item undergoes a thorough inspection at the local warehouse to assess its condition and determine the next steps.
  5. Disposition Decision: Based on the inspection, a decision is made regarding the item’s future. It can be resold if it’s in good condition, donated if it’s usable but not sellable, recycled if it’s not usable, or destroyed if it’s not needed.
  6. Sorting by Retailer: The returns are then sorted according to the retailer. This helps in organising the returns efficiently and aids in the restocking process.
  7. Merchant Processing: The merchant receives information about the return and processes the refund to the customer. This stage closes the loop with the customer, ensuring they are reimbursed for the returned item.
  8. In-Transit Tracking: As the returned item is sent back to the retailer, the consumer can track its progress. Updates on the tracking are provided by ZigZag, ensuring transparency throughout the return journey.

What is fast RMA?

Fast RMA, or fast Return Material Authorization/Authorisation, refers to a streamlined process that allows customers to quickly notify a company of problems with their orders or the desire to return an item. This process is designed to be stress-free, fast, and smooth, allowing businesses to monitor and control exchanges and refunds effectively.

The importance of getting goods back on shelves for resale cannot be overlooked. Efficient returns management influences the overall management of warehousing, inventory, and the handling of depreciating goods. It directly impacts a company’s profitability. When returned items are quickly processed, inspected, and deemed suitable for resale, they can be repackaged and put back on the shelves. This not only recovers potential lost revenue but also prevents the items from turning into waste.

On-shelf availability is critical for retail competitiveness. It ensures that customers find what they are looking for, which in turn affects customer satisfaction, loyalty, and sales revenue. A fast RMA process contributes to this by minimising the time products are out of circulation, thereby maintaining a consistent flow of goods that are available for purchase.

ZigZag’s offers the best RMA. Its standout feature revolves around its commitment to offer fast RMA by reducing the cost, waste, and friction associated with returns, benefiting both businesses and their customers on a global scale. The platform’s state-of-the-art technology is designed for seamless integration, and it is backed by the expertise of the ZigZag team. Their mission is to assist loyal shoppers, increase retailer profitability, and nurture a sustainable future for all. This approach has revolutionised the returns landscape and has made ZigZag a leader in the returns solution market.

Does RMA differ from country to country?

The Return Material Authorisation (RMA) process varies across countries due to differing legal frameworks, cultural norms, and business practices. While some countries may have a more lenient approach, allowing for extended return periods and fewer questions asked, others might enforce stricter rules, requiring detailed reasons for returns and original packaging.

Europe’s Standard Rules for Returns

In Europe, the RMA process is relatively standardised, thanks to EU consumer protection laws that provide a harmonised framework. These rules ensure that consumers have a minimum of 14 days to signal their intention to return a product to the retailer and another 14 days to send the goods back, and they are entitled to receive a full refund, repair, or replacement for faulty goods.

USA’s Rules for Return

In the United States, consumer protection laws and regulations are established at both the federal and state levels. There are no federal laws mandating stores to accept returns, so return and refund policies can vary significantly from state to state. However, consumers generally expect a flexible return policy, and many retailers offer generous return terms to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.

India’s Rules for Return

In India, the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 provides a robust framework for consumer rights, including the return of defective goods and services. Sellers are required to accept returns of defective items and issue refunds within a stipulated time frame. E-commerce platforms must display clear information about returns, refunds, and warranties. Consumers in India expect transparent and fair treatment when it comes to returns, and the law supports this expectation by mandating clear display and adherence to return policies.

Different Markets, Different Demands

It's not just the rules that can change, but retailers also need to be wary of the various needs and expectations of consumers in each market. It is rare in today's global world that a retailer can have the same, unflinching returns policy in each country they operate in. Some consumers are resolute in their demand for free returns (like in Germany and France) whereas markets put more onus on a digital portal that doesn't require them to print off a returns label. Most notably, country's differ most in their demands for certain types of returns methods and carriers. US consumers want the personal touch that returning to the retailer's store provides, French consumers like to primarily return to a convenience store nearby, whereas German and UK consumers still prefer the trusted Post Office (although the former has a stronger affiliation to the national service).

Which return options do consumers typically use in the German, UK, US, and French markets

Where do returns go?

When products are returned, they embark on various journeys depending on their condition and the retailer’s policies.

Returned to Retailer’s Warehouse:

Many returns find their way back to the retailer’s warehouse where they are assessed, processed, and often restocked. Warehouses are primarily used for storage and goods that are nearing the end of season or are low value / high value products may head here.

Back to Distribution Centres:

Some items are sent to distribution centres to be sorted and redistributed appropriately. Goods that typically sell in high volume or that need to be sold quickly, for example fast fashion items, will often be sent to Distribution Centres (DCs) to give them the best chance of being resold.

Storage or In-Country Consolidation:

ZigZag consolidates returns in-country, storing them until they can be resold, reducing the need for cross-border shipments. Consolidation can drastically reduce the CO2 emissions of retailers being utilising more space in lorries before they make their journey back to the retailer. ZigZag has a German warehouse that holds European returns for its retailers before they head back the UK.


Items in good condition that cannot be resold can be donated to charity, giving them a second life. 55% of UK consumers donated clothes to charities in 2023. Charity shops are still a staple of UK high-streets and consumers appreciate brands that supply them.


Returns can also be sold on secondary marketplaces, often at discounted prices. Around half of French consumers between the ages of 18 and 25 bought or sold pre-loved clothes on marketplaces in 2023. The second-hand market is growing continuously, particularly with younger consumers eager to help the planet and find a bargain.


Finally, items that are not fit for use can be recycled, ensuring materials are reused and waste is minimised. Around 40% of German consumers sent clothes to be recycled in 2023.

Each of these destinations plays a role in the lifecycle of returned goods, aiming to minimise losses and environmental impact while maximising value recovery.

What to know about the return policy?

A general returns policy in e-commerce outlines the terms under which customers can return products they’ve purchased online. Typically, it specifies which items are eligible for return, the reasons acceptable for a return, and the timeframe within which returns must be made. The most common timeframe for returns is 30 days, but this can vary among retailers.

Many e-commerce businesses offer returns by including pre-paid labels in the box or providing them through online portals.

We, at ZigZag, are popular for managing such returns, offering a streamlined process for both customers and retailers.

The debate between free or paid returns is ongoing. Free returns have been a standard to attract customers, with many consumers expecting this service.

However, the cost of handling returns has led some retailers to reconsider and charge for returns to mitigate these expenses. This shift is partly driven by the desire to encourage more thoughtful purchasing and reduce the environmental impact of returns.

E-commerce retailers often offer various carrier types and return methods to enhance customer convenience. These can include popular carriers like Royal Mail, DPD, FedEx, and others.

Customers may have the option to return items via home collection, drop-off at lockers, or at a local post office, providing flexibility and catering to different preferences.