Almost $761 billion worth of merchandise is returned to online retailers annually, according to the National Retail Federation.
Milwaukee-based startup Returns on Demand
(RoD) wants to make returning those millions of packages as easy as possible for consumers.
Founded by local entrepreneurs Dustin Conrad
and Scott Allen,
RoD offers consumers an on-demand service that picks up, processes and delivers online shopping returns to UPS, FedEx and USPS locations.
The RoD app allows online shoppers to schedule a return pickup date and time. Each package is then picked up by a driver and the app notifies the user. The app also allows shoppers to keep track of online orders and lets them know of expiring return windows. Users can sync RoD with their email and their previous purchases appear in the app.
“We want consumers to enjoy the returns process so they can feel free to buy more online,” said Conrad.
He has been in the business world for almost 30 years, with most of that time being spent in health care and consulting. However, Conrad does have some past startup experience. At SmithRX in Silicon Valley, he helped run their go-to-market strategy and raise a Series A funding round. He also worked at Salt Lake City, Utah-based Vrx Pharmacy and helped the company raise money and go to market, as well as scale.
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“I really kind of cut my teeth on working with venture capitalists, working with advisors and really understanding how to raise money, build a company and launch new products,” said Conrad.
Allen began his career in the world of startups and specializes in the areas of logistics and technology. He helped found a company called Barcode Resources in Milwaukee in 1990. It was one of the first companies to use barcodes to track products through distribution centers, according to Allen.
“We did many, many, many systems for companies you’d recognize today,” said Allen.
Both men grew up together and lived about five houses away from each other as children.
In February of 2020, Allen – whose family is big on online shopping -- needed to return a snowboard. This turned out to be an arduous process as he had to drive 15 miles in -10 degree weather to stand in a line at a local FedEx store for an hour. And he spent part of that wait time outside.
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“I had had it. I called Dustin and said the world is becoming an on-demand world,” said Allen. “Why can’t we have an on-demand service that will solve this problem?”
Two weeks later, Conrad found himself in a very similar scenario when his wife gave him several packages to return. He needed to stop at multiple businesses and figure out the labeling process for each package, which proved to be challenging.
“I called Scott and said, ‘You know what, we have something here,’” said Conrad.
Development of the RoD app took about a year and a half. Allen and Conrad initially tested their app via friends and family in the Milwaukee area to garner initial feedback. They then decided the app was mature enough for a national launch.
So far, the RoD app has hundreds of downloads. Conrad said the download number is growing by double-digit percentages each week.
RoD is partnering with Atlanta-based Roadie,
a company that can be likened to the Uber of delivery drivers, for the pickup of packages. Roadie was acquired by UPS
"The partnership (with Roadie) gave us the opportunity to scale nationally very quickly," said Conrad.
The RoD app is currently available for download in the Apple App Store or via Google Play.
RoD has raised already raised a pre-seed funding round worth over $500,000 that had participation from local investors.