- Most online shoppers consider returns to be their "least favorite part" about online shopping, according to a study just released by Forrester Research and Happy Returns, an intermediary that performs reverse logistics solutions for for e-commerce sites. Almost a third of shoppers said they shop less online if returns are likely to be a "hassle."
- Another key finding from the study showed that 51% of online shoppers under the age of 30 actually prefer to return items to a brick-and-mortar store. Furthermore, "56% of shoppers say they are much more likely to shop with a retailer online if that retailer allowed free returns with an immediate refund and didn’t require a return label to be printed."
- Because most consumers (62%) don't have consistent, easy access to a printer to print return labels, they generally find the returns process distasteful and are less likely to shop at a certain site again if the returns process is sticky. Therefore, reverse logistics can have a materical impact on profit margin.
Consumers don't like returns and neither do e-commerce sites or online retailers, but if companies want to keep their customers, then reverse logistics should be a top priority. When conducting the study, Happy Returns Co-Founder and CEO David Sobie said he looked for common goals between consumers and online sellers.
According to Sobie in an interview with Supply Chain Dive, "We wanted to answer the question, what do customers want in returns? And what’s the prize, what’s in it for the retailer if they give the customer what they want?"
Consumers don't just want fast, free shipping for items bought online — they also want fast, free, easy returns and immediate refunds. More than 75% of the 1,800 respondents interviewed this summer said they wanted free returns, and more than a third want to return items without a receipt.
All those stats are the ingredients of a highly agile, swift reverse logistics system, which is something e-tailers must be willing to build out. According to the study, 56% of respondents said knowledge of fast, free, easy returns would incentivize them to shop at a particular e-tailer, and 42% said that knowledge would prompt them to return to a particular site to shop again.
That means e-commerce sites with sleek reverse logistics have a competitive edge. XPO, which specializes in reverse logistics and omnichannel offerings, knows this, which is why it's one of the top and largest reverse logistics providers in the U.S.
In an emailed comment to Supply Chain Dive, XPO Chief Operating Officer Troy Cooper said the company "continually invest[s] in our people and technology to deliver seamless reverse logistics, including warranty processing, refurbishment and other value-added services. Our approach enhances our customer’s brand, the consumer experience and inventory efficiency, all of which are critical to e-tailers."
That's right in line with what Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst from Forrester, thinks one of the biggest takeaways from the study is:
"Retailers are spending a lot of time and money on improving shipping speed, but what this data tells us is that there’s a big opportunity in making returns more frictionless," she told Supply Chain Dive. "There are a lot of people who don’t even bother returning because it’s such a pain, and when they don’t bother returning, they just don’t shop with you again. People are spending all this money on getting new customers but they don't spend a lot of money on the retention side."