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Analytics based on returns data can be a marketing tool for manufacturers
Don't think of reverse logistics as picking up the left-behind, out-of-date stock, or hustling a product recall back up the supply chain; rather, think of these activities as parts of a "collaborative commerce" service. That's part of the reason that Inmar Inc. (Winston-Salem, NC) says that it has succeeded in winning recall and returns business from all of the Big Three wholesalers; these services extend across more than 22,000 retail pharmacies, and more than 70% of the top pharma companies, according to the company. Inmar has been a major player in handling reverse logistics for pharma for some time now—with both a 3,000-strong field service staff, as well as an online order-processing system—but the company is also a leader in managing consumer coupon programs, and provides invoice reconciliation services for manufacturers and retailers inside and outside health services. These interrelated businesses are starting to give Inmar valuable insights into overall customer hehavior and supply chain activity, and those insights can have value to attentive pharma marketers.
According Jeff Pepperworth, president, supply chain and pharmaceutical services, the company's "humble" beginnings in low-margin grocery store returns led to the development of technology suites that drive efficiency. For pharma returns, the featured technology is branded as One Touch Advantage, an arrangement where the multiple steps in a returns process—gathering the physical product, delivering to the wholesaler, manufacturer or ultimate disposer—are reconciled financially in one system. (Conventional returns management often has reimbursements or credits chasing after the physical product, with redundant credit-processing steps along the way; Inmar has competition in this one-touch reconciliation process.) "We have become a trusted partner to our clients," says Pepperworth, "and now we are applying business intelligence tools to the process to drive more waste out of it." Specifically, he says, analytics of the returns process can reduce overstocking and gain better inventory management; down the road, Pepperworth sees tie-ins with coupon programs or patient-compliance programs to help improve medication adherence and patient care.