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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : September 12, 2019

Top tips to help retailers make the most of returns

Consumers want more from their return interactions than a new product or a refund on their money. That is a key takeaway from Narvar's State of Online Returns. Their new report finds that, while consumers want the returns process to be simplified, they're also looking for a better overall experience. And, while many retailers have upped the experience factor for buying products or services, many haven't taken a hard look at what the experience is like for those returning items.

by Kristina Knight

According to the Narvar data one-fourth (24%) of shoppers are 'unhappy" with their return experience, primarily because they had to check multiple times for a refund. And, while most consumers are satisfied with their most recent return (60%), retailers may want to look at just how simplified their returns and refunds processes are because about 10% (global average) of consumers say they won't shop with a retailer after a single bad return experience.

Just how big an issue is the returns process? About one-third (36%) of shoppers say it's easier to return items to a physical store because they don't then have to wait for a refund or worry that their return was lost in the mail. Of those not returning to stores, 16% say they use designated drop-off options. One more reason to allow shoppers to return items in-store, about 16% say they purchase items they didn't plan on when doing a return.

What can merchants do to make returns easier?

First, simplify the process. About one-third (36%) of shoppers say it's simpler to return items to a physical store than to return-mail items.

"Easy exchanges can drive satisfaction with returns, especially with repeat customers. If retailers were not able to meet consumers' original needs, there is still an opportunity to recover sales and drive incremental sales immediately. Incentives like free shipping on exchanges or the ability to easily swap out sizes can translate to loyal customers. On the flip side, a bad experience can prevent that customer from shopping with you again, including performing an exchange," said Sucharita Kodali, Retail Analyst, Forrester Research.

Second, share policies about environmental sustainability. Nearly half (46%) of shoppers say they'll return to a physical store to reduce the environmental costs of return-shipping and about one-quarter (25%) say they 'shop exclusively' with merchants who are transparent about their environmental practices and policies.

"Today's consumers want to reduce environmental costs and will go the extra mile to do so if given the choice," said Kodali. "Although there are operational changes retailers can make with packaging and supply chain overhauls, there are simple messaging initiatives that can help consumers make greener choices, including driving in-store returns and consolidating shipments. These investments will pay dividends in terms of winning over customers and keeping them long term."

Third, create a policy specific to your organization rather than imitating brands like Amazon. About 20% of Amazon shoppers report issues with their experiences because of damaged items, misrepresented products (14%), and nearly half (46%) say even the Amazon returns process isn't seamless because of the need to print shipping labels or repackaging of items (34%).

"For years, retailers have looked to Amazon's returns playbook to inspire their operations. However, Amazon's returns experience is not necessarily superior in all ways. Consumers rely on Amazon for speed, convenience, and transparency, but findings show Amazon has not yet mastered a frictionless returns experience. Competing retailers are finding ways to differentiate -- for instance, by offering more flexible options for pick-up or drop-off, or by designing processes with fewer steps required of shoppers," said Kodali.

Researchers studied the actions of more than 3,500 consumers in five countries to come to their results. Narvar's State of Online Returns report can be accessed here.

Tags: ecommerce, ecommerce returns, ecommerce trends, Forrester Research, Narvar, Narvar State of Online Returns, retail trends

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