This Columbus Startup is Boosting Small Retailers by Improving Return Processes

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Loop Returns wants to level the playing field for independent online shops

In 2021, people are buying online from independent retailers more than ever. Platforms like Shopify give a broader range of businesses the ability to sell across the world, and allow consumers to support smaller businesses and find more unique items. But unlike major retailers or traditional stores, managing returns and exchanges can be challenging at some of these shops. The purchase process is streamlined, but many companies don’t have a great way to send items the opposite direction if something is wrong or needs to be changed. Columbus startup Loop Returns wants to change that paradigm, and give shoppers another reason to support small businesses.

“Loop Returns operates in what’s called the post-purchase arena; our wheelhouse is return automation,” said Chris Long, vice president of engineering. “When you buy something from a brand, you want to be able to have an easy, smooth return experience. If you don’t want the product for any reason, it should be simple to get it back to the person you purchased it from and get your money back or make an exchange. And that’s where Loop comes in. For brands that use the Shopify platform, we’re the best solution for automating the whole process.”

Loop adds value by improving the experience for both consumers and the businesses themselves, and investors are responding to their goals. Sellers can boast an easy way to ensure you get the product you want, while consumers can be sure they’re covered if an item isn’t right or they change their minds.

“We make it so that you can go online and say, ‘Hey, I want to get my money back,’ or ‘I want to exchange it for this product,’ drop it in the mail and get your money back or get your exchange order processed the next day,” Long said. “It’s all automated so that nobody has to touch it. That’s a great consumer experience that’s on par with what consumers expect out of their experience. And for merchants who are trying to grow and save money, it’s a huge time savings and cost savings. You don’t have to go in and manually process these transactions and keep track of it via email or phone. It’s a huge win all around.”

Large retailers and online shops still dominate sales, and Loop wants to help smaller companies grow in the same way that they want to grow their own startup. By breaking down barriers for customers — like a challenging return process — Long said Loop can work toward building confidence and willingness to buy through e-commerce platforms. And if the companies can do that, they may be able to start chipping away at the market share of the big players.

“It’s about an overall growth perspective,” he said. “I love the startup community and the entrepreneurial spirit — that desire to move and build fast and try something new. The impetus for Shopify existing is to enable the small players to grow into big players, and as a result of being in that environment, Loop has a very similar spirit. We want to help entrepreneurs succeed and grow and build their business. We also provide upsell capabilities through the platform in the exchange process, giving them yet another avenue to grow. We’re really leaning into helping those entrepreneurs thrive, and I think it’s a big part of the impact we want to have.

With an eye on that major cultural impact, Long said Loop’s Columbus headquarters gives them the perfect perspective. Not only does the startup value the Ohio work ethic and vibrant atmosphere around their Short North offices, Long said they’ve found the best value for their money while pulling from an impressive supply of qualified workers.

“Columbus has been shining as a bit of a sleeper tech hub, but now it’s obviously becoming much more well-known,” he said. “There’s a great culture that comes out of the Midwest — it’s a pretty pragmatic, solution-oriented culture that really wants to move things forward. A lot of the people we’ve found are interested in delivering value, working hard and building a strong community. Columbus also has this huge portfolio of large national companies headquartered here that bring a ton of IT and software engineering support. So the candidate pool here is large and diverse. It’s a great mix of people who are ready to step in and get going. Combined with how competitive and challenging things are on the coasts, it’s clear that there’s a huge opportunity here. Cost of living is lower, your salary dollars go further and there’s already a strong pool of candidates.”

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