Consumers expect easier returns
Demand for flexibility, transparency, convenience and speed
Frictionless returns are not yet a reality for today's consumers, according to a new report published by Narvar, an intelligent customer engagement platform.
The report, "The State of Online Returns in 2019: A Global Study," analyzes the sentiments of 3,519 online shoppers in five markets including the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia. The study found that a substantial portion of online shoppers globally do not find the returns process easy—only 60 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their most recent return.
Friction in the online returns process is hurting retailers, particularly when it comes to retaining customers. Thirteen percent of shoppers said they wouldn't shop with a retailer again after their negative returns experience, and this number was four times higher for first-time shoppers (31 percent) as for returning customers (8 percent). By removing friction, retailers stand to recoup sales via exchanges and encouraging repeat purchases. A third of consumers were open to making an online exchange versus requesting a refund when presented with options ranging from easy swaps for different colors or sizes to free shipping.
Ecommerce returns are on the rise as online sales grow: Returns of online purchases are expected to cost U.S. retailers $550 billion by next year, which is 75 percent more than years prior. Retailers can turn the burden of returns into an opportunity by making the process easier for shoppers. In-store returns are convenient, according to most survey respondents. The study found that 36 percent of shoppers think it's easier to return an item to a store because they receive immediate credit and don't have to worry about their returns getting lost in the mail—yet only 10 percent actually returned their last purchase in-store.
There is an opportunity for retailers to simplify the "buy online, return in-store" experience and to offer more drop-off points such as convenience stores and pharmacies—16 percent of respondents made their last return at such a location, and more than half of those said the designated drop-off location provided a broader range of pick-up times, increasing the convenience to the shopper.
The study found that transparency and speed of refund make the difference between delighted and disappointed returners. The top reason for satisfaction with a recent return was that the process was fast and easy (58 percent). Being informed about the status of the return was the second-highest contributor to a positive experience (34 percent). Shoppers were most likely to rate their returns experience negatively because the refund took too long, or they had to repeatedly check on the status of their refund.
"Returns are unavoidable. As consumers expect more from every element of their shopping experience, retailers are under pressure to perfect this part of the purchase journey," said Amit Sharma, founder and CEO, Narvar. "Every retailer needs a great returns strategy, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Today's shoppers want options that cater to their lifestyle, so understanding their needs and giving them control over the process is key."
More results of the study here.