The Impact of the Return Experience

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 19 Jan, 2013

A new study sheds some light on the reasons why consumers return their online or by-phone purchases and how their experiences with the return process influences their future purchasing habits with online merchants.

The study, which collected responses from 600 consumers and was conducted by voice solutions provider Voxware, reveals that 64 percent of respondents make returns because their purchased items are the incorrect size or color. While that stat isn't that surprising, this one could be - 84 percent of respondents claim that the return process is extremely or very important to their future intentions of shopping with a retailer. That being said, 57 percent of respondents find the return process moderately easy, yet annoying, while 16 percent find it difficult.

Another surprising statistic, however, reveals that many times the cause of return is the fault of the merchant and not the consumer. In fact, 65 percent of respondents claim that more often, they return items due to retailer error. Furthermore, one-third of respondents claim that they have received an incorrect item for a second time after making a return.

It is important to note that the respondents also said that they tend to experience return issues with specific retailers - with 31 percent stating that they have more issues with large retailers compared to small. Moreover, these types of experiences result in 25 percent of the respondents shopping limitedly with the retailer both online and offline, while 15 percent stop shopping with the retailer altogether. Additionally, after returning an incorrect item to a retailer, almost 20 percent of respondents said that they expect the correct item to be shipped back to them within one to two days, while 43 percent expect the correct item in three to four days.

"This research proves that the clear majority of product returns are due to retailer error," said Keith Philips, president and CEO, Voxware. "Mistakes are happening too frequently, both in the initial delivery and in the return process. This not only increases supply chain costs, but it also severely impacts customer satisfaction. As online shopping increases, the time to optimize supply chains for omni-channel delivery is now. Most errors occur in distribution centers at the moment orders are picked off of the shelves. Hands-free voice software can dramatically decrease these picking errors, so retailers can get it right the first time, cut returns and boost shopper loyalty."